Silent Africa

Authored by: Giannalberto Bendazzi

Animation: A World History

Print publication date:  November  2015
Online publication date:  October  2015

Print ISBN: 9781138854529
eBook ISBN: 9781315721057
Adobe ISBN:


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The Artist’s Dream/The Artist’s Inspiration (1915) is considered the first animated film made in South Africa and was produced by African Film Productions. Directed by the American Harold Shaw,3 it tells the story of an artist’s animated drawings and includes cartoons and live action. The protagonist was Dennis Sentry (a cartoonist for the Rand Daily Mail and the Sunday Times), along with star actress Mabel May. Sarienne Kersh describes it as ‘a sophisticated drawtoon about an artist who draws a beautiful woman in a park. He then dreams a subsequent series of events in which his drawings come to life’.4 It is a self-reflexive work that challenges viewers’ perceptions of reality and illusion and invites them to question the notion of authorship. This sophisticated ‘drawtoon’ (or lightning sketch/chalk talk) strongly echoed the modes of production and style used by many of the early American animators, such as Winsor McCay and James Stuart Blackton. The film was produced by Isidore W. Schlesinger (1871–1949), Mabel May’s husband and the father of the cinema production and industry in South Africa.5 He is credited with the establishment of the earliest documented native film production house, which was founded in 1915, called African Film Productions, and was created from the fusion of the African Theatres Trust (theatre management and administration) and the African Film Trust (import and distribution).

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