African Jim

South Africa’s first feature film aimed largely at a black audience, starring township musicians, and introducing the incomparable Dolly Rathebe.

directed by: Donald Swanson
produced by: Eric Rutherford
(1949) 58 minutes
52 min

With Daniel Adnewmah, Dolly Rathebe, The African Inkspots, Sam Maile, Dan Twala.

A simple story of a country lad who comes to the city to look for work, takes some knocks while adjusting to city life, but comes out on top when his singing talent is discovered.

In 1949, two expatriate Britishers, producer Eric Rutherford and director Donald Swanson, made African Jim. It is a simple story of a country lad who comes to the city to look for work, takes some knocks while adjusting to city life, but comes out on top when his singing talent is discovered.

Using musicians from the townships (it discovered South Africa’s great singing star Dolly Rathebe), the film was a sensation for black audiences, who had never before seen their own heroes on screen. Its value as a historical document cannot be overstated; these images from the past reflect a vibrant township culture that was soon to be destroyed by apartheid.