Black and White Bioscope (Book)

Making Movies in Africa 1899 to 1925

Black and White Bioscope recovers a neglected chapter in the histories of world cinema and Africa. It tells the story of movie production in Africa that long predated francophone African films and Nollywood that are the focus of most histories of this industry.   At the same time as Hollywood was starting, a film industry in Southern Africa was surging ahead in integrating production, distribution and exhibition. African Film Productions Limited made silent movies using technical and acting talent from Britain, the United States and Australia, as well as from Africa. These included not only the original 'long trek movie' and the prototype for the movies Zulu and Zulu Dawn but also the first King Solomon's Mines and the original Blue Lagoon, featuring African actors such as Goba, Tom Zulu and Msoga Mwana, who starred as the black revolutionary in Prester John.   In this lavishly illustrated book, fifty movies are reconstructed with graphic photographs and plot synopses – plus quotations from reviews – so that readers can rediscover this long-lost treasure trove of silent cinema.


Neil Parsons was professor of history at the University of Botswana between 1995 and 2009. He previously held positions at the Universities of Zambia and Swaziland, and at Botswana's National Institute of Research and its National Museum. He is the author of King Khama, Emperor Joe, and the Great White Queen and Clicko the Wild Dancing Bushman, both published by the University of Chicago Press.

This is a history which has long needed to be told. It throws new light on developments in film production during the Great War period and immediately after. Can we hope that one day it will be made into a documentary so that we don’t make the mistake of thinking that outstanding films were produced only in Europe and America? Neil Parsons has produced an important and valuable book—it is worth its cost for its historical backgrounds alone.' 

Kevin Brownlow, Oscar winner and author of Hollywood: The Pioneers

Neil Parsons’s reputation as a sharp-eyed analyst of central and southern Africa is based on his enviable knack of finding neglected topics and then fashioning them into works that simply light-up cultural history everywhere. Black and White Bioscope offers us a remarkable illustration of how pioneering films not only helped shape our self-image, but influenced the way in which Europeans— locked into fading imperial notions—sought to understand what they considered to be ‘Africa’.' 

Charles van Onselen, University of Pretoria
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