Cinema of South Africa

The cinema of South Africa refers to the films and film industry of the nation of South Africa. Many foreign films have been produced about South Africa (usually involving race relations).

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%)

One South African film to achieve international acclaim was The Gods Must Be Crazy in 1980, set in the Kalahari. This is about how life in a traditional community of Bushmen is changed when a Coke bottle, thrown out of an aeroplane, suddenly lands from the sky. 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 hugely popular among South Africans.

Another high-profile film portraying South Africa in recent years was District 9. Directed by Neill Blomkamp, a native South African, and produced by 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 Best Picture at the 82nd Academy Awards.

Other notable films are Tsotsi, which won the Academy Award for Foreign Language Film at the 78th Academy Awards in 2006 as well as U-Carmen eKhayelitsha, which won the Golden Bear at the 2005 Berlin International Film Festival.

Silent Era

The first film studio in South Africa, Killarney Film Studios, was established in 1915 in Johannesburg.[5]

During the 1910s and 1920s, many 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 appropriate 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.

Sound Era

Sarie Marais, the first Afrikaans-language sound film, was released in 1931. 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.

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), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), The Dark Tower (2017), Tomb Raider (2018), The Kissing Booth (2018) and Maze Runner: The Death Cure (2018) reflect a growing trend by large international houses to use Cape Town and other locations in South Africa for movie production.

The 3 major South African film distributors

Listed alongside each distributor are the studios they represent:

See also


  1. "Table 8: Cinema Infrastructure – Capacity". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  2. "Box Office Report: South Africa (January – December 2013)" (PDF). National Film and Video Foundation South Africa. Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  3. "South African Box Office 2016" (PDF). National Film and Video Foundation. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  4. "Table 11: Exhibition – Admissions & Gross Box Office (GBO)". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. 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.
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