On Location, Zululand - The Making Of Siliva the Zulu
By Peter Davis ; photos by Lidio Cipriani, Giuseppe Paolo Vitrotti, Carlo Franzeri. 60 pages : illustrations, maps (some color) ; 22 x 29 cm.
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In 1927, an Italian film crew landed in South Africa intending to make a film about a white woman abducted by Zulus. When this was forbidden by the white authorities, director Attilio Gatti decided instead to make a film about Zulu life. He designed a melodrama that had little to do with Zulu culture, but which contained the first authentic scenes of Zulu life to be recorded at that time.
Having none of the racist sentiments of South African whites, the crew were able to live with and work on close terms with the Zulus, and managed to create the first full-length fiction film with an all-African cast to be made in South Africa, and possible in all of Africa. This film was Siliva the Zulu.
Coming as it did at the moment of impact of talkies, the film received minimal distribution in Italy, having no more than a half-dozen screenings, after which it disappeared until being pulled out of an archive by Villon Films, which added a soundtrack of traditional Zulu music, and offered the film for distribution.
The book On Location, Zululand tells the story, through photos taken by the film crew at the time, of how the film came to be made, and of its unique place in the history of cinema.