In last month's second part of this history series, In Focus covered up until the advent of World War II. In this third part, we cover the period from World War II until the late 1970's and the

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Animals are Beautiful People
advent of television. Once again, we are indebted to well-known director, producer and writer Cedric Sundstrom who, being captivated by the movie industry, has for the past nine years been documenting the history of local cinema. Sundstrom's intention is to complete his project this year to coincide with the 100th anniversary of cinema in South Africa.

"It was an unusual period," says Sundstrom. "German propaganda was shown by a German woman who had access to films, William Boxer founded South Africa's first cinema advertising company, and They Built a Nation - produced by Joseph Albrecht -celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Great Trek."

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Cry the Beloved Country
In 1939, the African Mirror, previously silent, was given sound and in the same year war broke out when Germany invaded Poland. This was also the decade when Afrikaans Nationalism grew and found expression in a number of Afrikaans language movies. In 1948, a South African actor, Cecil Kellaway, was nominated for an Academy Award as best supporting actor in Luck of the Irish - unfortunately he was not successful.

"Around this time Killarney started making musicals and comedies," adds Sundstrom. "These were in Afrikaans, and Pierre de Wet's Kom Saam Vanaand, starring Al Debbo, was a huge box office success. Black musicals were also produced, one being Zonk where Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika was first performed by a choir."

Schlesinger sold his entire empire to 20th Century Fox, and they came to South Africa to make Hollywood-style movies, including titles such as Cry the Beloved Country. South Africa's first colour film, Jamie Uys' Daar Doer in die Bosveld, was shot. In 1954, the South African Society of Cinematographers (SASC) was formed and shortly after this, the first film laboratory - to be known as Irene Film Laboratories due to its location in Irene near Pretoria - was built.

"Drive-in cinemas began in the late 1950's," comments Sundstrom. "The best known was probably the Top Star on top of a mine dump in downtown Johannesburg. In 1961, the first State President of South Africa, C.R. Swart, was voted in. He himself had been an ex stuntman and Hollywood actor, and this era saw a new breed of film makers including David Millin who made Majuba. Jamie Uys, who made it big as well with movies like Zulu and Tokolosh starring Sidney James, became probably the most prolific film maker of the 60's. Other well-known names of this period were Emil Nofal and Jans Rautenbach (Katrina).

In the 1970's, the industry, already fragmented, became more so when the Bantu film industry was created. The films produced were poor quality and made in ethnic languages, and were screened in schools, beer halls and churches. Audiences were segregated. Simon Sabela's U'Deliwe was the first local movie directed by a black person. Gibson Kente also directed How Long. It is reported, however, that he was arrested on the final day of shooting, and the film was never released.

Beautiful People by Jamie Uys won a Golden Globe for best Documentary Feature and was the first local movie to win an international award. Andre Pieterse's e'Lolipop directed by Ashley Lazarus, was released overseas, and it won the Rapport Oscar for the best South African Film in 1975. The Metro Group of cinemas was also established in this year.

In 1976, television commenced in South Africa thereby creating a whole new industry. The film industry embraced this realising that here was a brand new market. A great many documentaries and dramas were produced, some of which have repeats even to this day.

While the advent of television had a major impact on the film industry, there is still one further chapter, and a very interesting one at that. Who will forget the subsidy scheme introduced in 1979, and the proliferation of anti-apartheid films including Place of Weeping and Mapantsula - but that's another story!

To read the previous two parts of the history series:
Part 1
Part 2