Killarney Film Studios

Killarney Film Studios

Killarney Film Studios was established in Johannesburg in 1915 as "the first motion picture studio in Africa". [http://www.sahistory.org.za/pages/chronology/special-chrono/society/film.htm "South African History Timelines"] Film in South Africa. Retrieved online 6 January 2008.]

History

The studio was founded and funded in the Johannesburg suburb of Killarney by US citizen Isidore W. Schlesinger (d. 1949).

Two years earlier Schlesinger had bought up Australian Rupert Theodore (Rufus) Naylor's Africa's Amalgamated Theatres (est. 1911) and Edgar Hyman's Empire Theatres Company (est. 1912) to form the African Theatres and Films Trusts on April 10, 1913. In this way Schlesinger obtained a monopoly over film importation and distribution throughout Southern Africa. [http://www.gautengfilm.co.za/live/content.php?Item_ID=232 Worsdale, Andrew.] Jozi And The Movies – A history. Gauteng Film Commission. Retrieved online 6 January 2008.] [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa4092/is_200704/ai_n19432700/print Sandon, Emma] . 2007. Canadian Journal of Film Studies, Vol. 16 No. 1, Spring/Printemps. Retrieved online 6 January 2008.] [http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A100648b.htm O'Hara, John.] 1986. Naylor, Rupert Theodore (Rufus) (1882 - 1939), Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, Melbourne University Press, pp 668-669. Retrieved online 6 January 2008.]

Schlesinger set up African Film Productions (AFP), which on May 5, 1913 screened the first of its weekly newsreels, African Mirror. AFP continued to produce African Mirror, which included features on African countries such as Tanzania, and interviews with notables such as Chris Barnard for South African consumption until 1984 [http://www.kinema.uwaterloo.ca/botha061.htm Botha, Martin P. 2006.] 110 Years of South African Cinema (Part 1). "Kinema: a Journal for Film and Audiovisual Media". Retrieved online 6 January 2008.] [http://www.joburg.org.za/content/view/808/188/ Davie, Lucille] 2005. Italo Bernicchi : a life in film. City of Johannesburg website. Retrieved online 6 January 2008.] . Schlesinger imported Joseph Albrecht from Britain to run the African Mirror .

In 1915 the Killarney Film Studios produced South Africa's first animated film, "Artist's Dream". The artist was portrayed by Dennis Santry and the director was Harold Shaw. Schlesinger's wife, Mabel May, starred as the artist's dream girl. [http://www.saswa.org.za/archive/news_animation_ken.htm Simmonds, Ken.] Animation. South African Scriptwriters' Association. Retrieved online 6 January 2008.] Whether this production was inspired by Thomas Edison's 1900 film of the same title is unclear, as no copies remain of the South African version. [http://www.dailymotion.com/group/45940/video/x1h1d5_edison-1900-an-artists-dream_shortfilms] An artist's dream. Edison, 1900. dailymotion.com. Retrieved online 6 January 2008. (opens video file)] Five more animated short films followed, and film titles were also often animated.

African Film Productions made 43 films between 1916 and 1922 . The scarcity of international films during the First World War boosted the development of Schlesinger's company. As befits the political context of a newly unified state (the Union of South Africa, 1910) the earlier films aimed at the white market featured co-operation between Boer and Briton as a common theme. Once apartheid started in earnest after 1948, some films took up the theme of whites standing together against black Africans. Apart from feature films, AFP produced "documentaries" for the state, as well as industrial safety films. During the 1920s to 1940s the distribution of AFP films to the black African market was aided by missionaries such as Reverend Ray Phillips, who from about 1920 wanted to use the medium to impart (Western) morals to black Africans. Phillips showed films to mine workers (most notably, during the 1922 white miners' strike), as well as to the middle class black elite who attended his Bantu Men's Social Centre (established by Phillips in Johannesburg). Most of these films came from Schlesinger's company. [http://books.google.com/books?id=EaNdUd21hUEC&pg=PT16&lpg=PT16&dq=the+politics+of+leisure+during+the+early+days+of+south+african+cinema&source=web&ots=ZOfuvLtclw&sig=KOeUDudjEQjwlVxAWAVuhGx5sDQ#PPT46,M1 Peterson, Bekhisizwe, 2003.] The Politics of Leisure during the Early Days of South African Cinema. In "To Change Reels: Film and Film Culture in South Africa" by Balseiro, Isabel and Ntongela Masilele (eds.). Wayne State University Press. Retrieved online on 6 January 2008.]

AFP produced "the first sound advertisement films in in South Africa for Joko Tea and Pegasus products" in 1930 . The first films to stimulate internal tourism were produced by AFP in serial magazine form, entitled "Our Land" .

In the 1940s a special effects department was set up at Killarney. Reflecting the rise of Afrikaner nationalism, African Film Productions produced a plethora of popular light-hearted Afrikaans fare, such as "Kom Saam Vanaand" [Afrikaans, Come Along Tonight] [http://www.chico.mweb.co.za/art/film/9912/991223-century.html Worsdale, Andrew. 1999.] From silence to subterfuge. ZA@play. Retrieved online on 6 January 2008.] The first South African and Afrikaans musical, this film was produced by Pierre de Wet in 1949.

The studio also printed copies of international films, such as J. Arthur Rank's "The Sea Shall Not Have Them" (1954). [http://www.ascmag.com/magazine_dynamic/April2007/ASCClose-Up/page1.php ASC Close-Up] Vincent Cox, ASC. Retrieved online 6 January 2008.]

20th Century Fox bought AFP in 1959 (or 1956 ) and renamed it South African Screen Productions .

Killarney Film Studios' original buildings were demolished in 1961 by John Schlesinger (Isidore W.'s son), who build Johannesburg's first mall, Killarney Mall. [http://www.killarneymall.co.za/news/archive_00.html Thomas, Harvey. 2000.] The man who re-invented Killarney. Retrieved online 6 January 2008.] (An alternate account dates the building of the Mall to 1972 ).

Notable staff

* Directors: Pierre de Wet (1940s-70s)
* Cameras: Joseph Albrecht, African Mirror ; Italo Bernicchi, African Mirror, during the 1950s ; Vincent Cox (ASC) ; David Millin, African Mirror (ASC) [http://www.media-imdb.com/name/nm0589745/bio The Internet Movie Database.] Biography for David Millin. Retrieved online 6 January 2008.]
* Art director: Gordon Vorster (1950-63) [http://www.hughlendrum.com/gv/Index.html Gordon Vorster] . The Man of Africa. Retrieved online 6 January 2008.]

Notable Films

* 1915: "The Artist's Dream": first South African animated film
* 1916: "De Voortrekkers" ().
* 1930: "In the Land of the Zulus", "the first sound film of Black traditional life" .
* 1949: "Kom Saam Vanaand" [Afrikaans, Come Along Tonight), the first South African and Afrikaans musical.
* 1974: "Gold", starring Roger Moore and Susannah York, nominated in 1975 for an Oscar (Best Music, Original Song) and for a BAFTA (Best Sound Track). [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0071566/ The Internet Movie Database.] "Gold". Retrieved online 6 January 2008.]

See also

* Matieland!

References


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