Cinema of South Africa
No. of screens857 (2010)[1]
 • Per capita1.9 per 100,000 (2010)[1]
Main distributorsSter-Kinekor 38.8%
Nu-Metro 35.7%
Uip 21.7%[2]
Produced feature films (2016)[3]
Number of admissions (2011)[4]
Gross box office (2016)[3]
TotalR1.14 billion
National filmsR69 million (6%)

The cinema of South Africa refers to the films and film industry of South Africa. Films have been made in English and Afrikaans (List of Afrikaans-language films). Many foreign films have been produced about South Africa, including many involving race relations.

The first South African film to achieve international acclaim and recognition was the 1980 comedy The Gods Must Be Crazy, written, produced and directed by Jamie Uys. Set in the Kalahari, it told the story about how life in the community of Bushmen is changed when a Coke bottle, thrown out of an airplane, suddenly lands from the sky. Despite the fact that the film presented an incorrect perspective of the Khoisan san people, by framing them as a primitive society enlightened by the modernity of a falling Coke bottle. The late Jamie Uys, who wrote and directed The Gods Must Be Crazy, also had success overseas in the 1970s with his films Funny People and Funny People II, similar to the TV series Candid Camera in the United States. Leon Schuster's You Must Be Joking! films are in the same genre, and were popular among the white population of South Africa during apartheid.

Another high-profile film portraying South Africa was District 9 in 2009. Directed by Neill Blomkamp, a native South African, and produced by The Lord of the Rings trilogy director Peter Jackson, the action/science-fiction film depicts a sub-class of alien refugees forced to live in the slums of Johannesburg in what many saw as a creative allegory for apartheid. The film was a critical and commercial success worldwide, and was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, at the 82nd Academy Awards.

Silent Era

Dick Cruikshanks as Piet Retief in the 1916 silent film, "The Voortrekkers" (or "Winning a Continent" in the USA).

The first film studio in South Africa, Killarney Film Studios, was established in 1915 in Johannesburg by American business tycoon Isidore W. Schlesinger when he traveled to South Africa against his family's wishes after he read about the discovery of gold in Witwatersrand and was interested in exploring what he could find.[5]

During the 1910s and 1920s, a significant amount of South African films were made in or around Durban. These films often made use of the dramatic scenery available in rural KwaZulu-Natal, particularly the Drakensberg region. KwaZulu-Natal also served as the location for historical films such as De Voortrekkers (1916) and The Symbol of Sacrifice (1918). American filmmaker Lorimer Johnston directed several films in the area in the late 1910s which starred American actresses Edna Flugrath and Caroline Frances Cooke. Despite the participation of Johnson, Flugrath and Cooke, these were South African productions featuring local actors and stories.

A notable theme in early South African cinema was the ethic confrontation between Boer and British South Africans stemming from the Second Boer War.[6]

Sound Era

Sarie Marais, directed by Joseph Albrecht, the first South African sound film and Afrikaans-language sound film, was released in 1931.[7] Subsequent sound releases such as Die Wildsboudjie (1948), a 1949 Sarie Marais remake, and Daar doer in die bosveld (1950) continued to cater primarily to white, Afrikaans-speaking audiences.

African Film Productions produced four musical films from 1949-1951: African Jim, The Magic Garden, Song of Africa and Zonk!

The 1950s saw an increased use of South African locations and talent by international filmmakers. British co-productions like Coast of Skeletons (1956) and American co-productions like The Cape Town Affair (1967) reflected a growing trend of shooting in real locations, rather than using backlots.

International Productions

From 2009, there was an increased use of South African locations and talent by international film studios. US productions like District 9 (2009), Chronicle (2012), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), The Dark Tower (2017), Tomb Raider (2018), The Kissing Booth (2018), Maze Runner: The Death Cure (2018), Escape Room (2019) and Bloodshot (2020) reflect a growing trend by large international houses to use Cape Town, Johannesburg and other South African locations for their film productions.[8][9]


Jacqueline Maingard at the University of Bristol has written about the history of film in South Africa.

Film distributors

Open-Air-Cinema in Johannesburg.

Listed alongside each distributor are the studios they represent:

Notable South African Filmmakers

Here are several notable South African filmmaker's that have added to South Africa's cinema history:

See also


  1. ^ a b "Table 8: Cinema Infrastructure – Capacity". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Archived from the original on 24 December 2018. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  2. ^ "Box Office Report: South Africa (January – December 2013)". National Film and Video Foundation South Africa. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 October 2020. Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  3. ^ a b "South African Box Office 2016" (PDF). National Film and Video Foundation. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 September 2017. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  4. ^ "Table 11: Exhibition – Admissions & Gross Box Office (GBO)". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Archived from the original on 24 December 2018. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  5. ^ Anonymous (21 March 2011). "A History of the South African Film Industry timeline 1895-2003". South African History Online. Retrieved 4 November 2017.
  6. ^ "Almost 100 years old and still rolling! The history of SA cinema Part 2". February 2010. Archived from the original on 17 October 2020.
  7. ^ a b c "Joseph Albrecht - ESAT". Retrieved 2 April 2023.
  8. ^ "20 Films shot in South Africa - TravelGround Blog". Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  9. ^ "Did you know that these Hollywood movies were shot in SA?". Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  10. ^ "Lost Continent: Cinema of South Africa - Movie list". MUBI. Retrieved 2 April 2023.
  11. ^ "Who's Who at FESPACO: Zola Maseko". British Broadcasting Corporation. BBC World Service. Archived from the original on 23 August 2007. Retrieved 9 October 2008.
  12. ^ Sweet, Matthew (14 November 1999). "The rebirth of the Hottentot Venus". The Independent. Archived from the original on 7 May 2022. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  13. ^ Knight, James; Manson, Katrina (5 March 2005). "South African Wins Africa's Top Film Prize". The Washington Post. Reuters. Archived from the original on 19 October 2019. Retrieved 9 October 2008.
  14. ^ Gilstrap, Peter; Fleming, Michael (19 July 2007). "Fox says Hood good for 'Wolverine'". Variety

Further reading

This film-related list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (October 2021)