"Tomaselli's bold, well researched expose of the history of an art form struggling in chains under apartheid [is] a fascinating and invaluable book for anyone interested in film, anywhere." (Nadine Gordimer).
How a nation looks at itself and shows itself to others is often revealed in its movies. But alongside this more flattering self-image, its movies may also reveal realities which it would rather conceal. This ambiguity is particularly true of South African films, which reflect the daily life and values of a society governed by extreme theories of racial separation.
In The Cinema of Apartheid, Keyan Tomaselli analyzes the historical development and present state of South African cinema. Assuming no special knowledge on the part of the reader, the author provides fascinating descriptions of the movies, with penetrating comments on how they reflect South African realities.
Tomaselli addresses all aspects of the film industry. While focusing on domestic productions, Tomaselli also discusses the many international filmmakers who use South Africa as a location. He begins with an account of how the government uses subsidies and censorship to determine which films are made. He explores the tensions between English-language and Afrikaans-language films, and between films made for whites and films made for blacks. Considerable attention is given to the media and the distribution system which shape the nature of film discourse in South Africa.
Tomaselli takes his readers behind the scenes to examine the industry in is financial infrastructure, its marketing strategies and its work habits. He concludes with an appraisal of the independent cinema created on the margins of society and the obstacles facing South Africans who wish to create films with artistic and political integrity. He shows how social polarization has produced a great gap between what is and what might be, but holds out some hope for progress.
The documentary section of The Cinema of Apartheid is the most comprehensive research on South African film ever to appear in print. A filmography lists all feature films made in South Africa between 1910 and 1985, together with numerous documentaries about South Africa, including films by exiles and non-South Africans. The bibliography cites outstanding writing from three continents.
Tomaselli's approach, combining historical, political and aesthetic analysis, offers a unique view of a country in turmoil. The Cinema of Apartheid may prove to be not only the definitive book on South African cinema, but also a model study of an entertainment industry.
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