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PMB on film
26 Nov 2009

Since the early decades of the twentieth century filmmakers have been shooting feature films in South Africa, some of them South African productions others overseas features, both British and American. These are the films known to have been shot in Pietermaritzburg or its close surrounds.


THE VOICE OF THE WATERS (dir Joseph Albrecht, 1918). Stars Mabel May, Edward Vincent and Martha Rowson. The script was by the then Natal Witness editor F. Horace Rose. According to film historian Thelma Gutsche in her book The History and Social Significance of Motion Pictures in South Africa 1895 -- 1940, "this drama was set among the scenery surrounding the Howick Falls ... Most of the action took place in a room overlooking the falls, the scenes being so set that the falls themselves were constantly seen through a window." No print of the film has survived.



KING SOLOMON'S MINES (dir Robert Stevenson 1937). First sound version of the H. Rider Haggard classic. Stars Paul Robeson Cedric Hardwicke, Roland Young, John Loder and Anna Lee. However none of them travelled beyond the London studios where their scenes were shot. Stand-ins were used on location in KwaZulu-Natal where footage was shot in the Drakenserg and at Otto's Bluff just outside Pietermaritzburg.


THEY BUILT A NATION (aka DIE BOU VAN ’N NASIE) (dir Joseph Albrecht, 1938). The story of white settlement in southern Africa. Scenes involving the Voortrekkers and the Zulus were shot on the farm Saxony near Otto's Bluff.


CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY (dir Zoltan Korda, 1951). Adaptation of Alan Paton's novel. Stars Canada Lee, Charles Carson and Sidney Poitier. The opening sequences were shot in the Ixopo area.

UNTAMED (dir Henry King, 1952). An attempt at an African Gone with the Wind incorporating the Great Trek, based on the novel by Helga Moray. Stars Tyrone Power, Susan Hayward and Richard Egan, none of whom came to this country. Much of the location material was shot around Cato Ridge and Inchanga between Durban and Pietermaritzburg.


ZULU DAWN (dir Douglas Hickox, 1978) Prequel to Zulu features the battle of Isandlwana where a British force was annihilated by a Zulu army in 1879. Stars Burt Lancaster, Peter O'Toole, Simon Ward and Denholm Elliott. Babanango area and locations in and around Pietermaritzburg including Baynesfield, Sans Souci in Pentridge, the Maritzburg Oval in Alexandra Park and the Natal lion Park and Zoological Gardens, Ashburton. The earlier ZULU (dir Cy Endfield, 1964), a recreation of the battle of Rorke's Drift in the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 starring Stanley Baker, Michael Caine and Jack Hawkins was shot in the Royal Natal National Park in the Drakensberg.


IM DSCHUNGEL IST DER TEUFEL LOS aka Crazy Jungle Adventure. (dir Harald Reinl, 1982). Comedy adventure. Stars Jim Mitchum (son of Robert Mitchum) and Zoli Marki. Locations included the Natal Lion Park and Zoological Gardens, Ashburton, just outside Pietermaritzburg.


MY DAUGHTER'S KEEPER (dir Heinrich Dahms, 1991). American writer living in England comes to South Africa with his family when his journalist wife is sent here on assignment. He subsequently has affair with the children's nanny who later kidnaps them in an act of revenge. Nicholas Guest, Ana Padrão and Jocelyn Broderick. Loop Street. Old Model Boys' School in Pietermaritzburg. The city also doubled as London.


THE MAKING OF THE MAHATMA (dir Shyam Benegal, 1996). Early life of Mahatma Gandhi. Scripted by Fatima Meer. Stars Rajit Kapoor, Pallavi Joshi and Paul Slabolepszy. A sequence was filmed at Pietermaritzburg station featuring Gandhi being ejected from a train in 1893 because a white man objected to his presence in a first-class carriage.


CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY (dir Darrell Roodt, 1995). Stars Richard Harris, James Earl Jones. Hilton station doubled as Carisbrooke Station outside Ixopo. Other scenes were shot in Cathedral Peak area of the Drakensberg.


RACING STRIPES (dir Francois DuChau, 2004). Zebra thinks he's a racehorse. Stars Bruce Greenwood, Hayden Panettiere and M. Emmet Walsh. Locations included Scottsville Racecourse in Pietermaritzburg and the Nottingham Road area.


RUNNING RIOT (dir Koos Roets, 2006). Comedy centred around the Comrades Marathon. Stars Bill Flynn and Paul. Shot along the Comrades route.

Witness articles on Zulu Dawn, Zulu, Untamed, King Solomon’s Mines, Siliva the Zulu, Voice of the Waters, can also link to KZN filmography


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