Every European power in Africa made motion pictures for its subjects, but no state invested as heavily in these films, and expected as much from them, as the British colony of Southern Rhodesia. Flickering Shadows is the first book to explore this little-known world of colonial cinema.
J. M. Burns pieces together the history of the cinema in Rhodesia, examining film production, audience reception, and state censorship, to reconstruct the story of how Africans in one nation became consumers of motion pictures. Movies were a valued “tool of empire” designed to assimilate Africans into a new colonial order. Inspired by an inflated confidence in the medium, Rhodesian government offcials created an African Film industry that was unprecedented in its size and scope.
Transforming the lives of their subjects through cinema proved more complicated than white officials had anticipated. Although Africans embraced the medium with enthusiasm, they expressed critical opinions and demonstrated decided tastes that left colonial officials puzzled and alarmed.
Flickering Shadows tells the fascinating story of how motion pictures were introduced and negotiated in a colonial setting. In doing so, it casts light on the history of the globalization of the cinema. This work is based on interviews with white and black filmmakers and African audience members, extensive archival research in Africa and England, and viewings of scores of colonial films.