Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

SA Silverscreen

In 1995, cinema in South Africa was exactly 100 years old. Early projection devices were frequented around the Johannesburg goldfields from 1895 on. The first cinema newsreels ever were filmed at the front during the Anglo-Boer War (1989-1902). The world's longest running weekly newsreel, African Mirror (1913-1984), was in the mid-1990s broadcast as history on national TV. The first narrative film was The Kimberley Diamond Robbery, made in 1910. Between 1916 and 1922, when IW Schlesinger produced 43 big budget high quality features, themes were rooted in the ideological outlook of the period, with Boer and Briton standing together under the flame of unity and civilization against barbaric hordes (eg. De Voortrekkers / Winning a Continent - 1916 and Symbol of Sacrifice - 1918). The magnitude of Symbol, with its 25 000 Zulu warrior extras, is an even more astonishing accomplishment.