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The term

The acronym I.D.B. (IDB) can refer to many corporations and activities, but in South Africa it has had a particular meaning from the heyday of the Diamond rush in the late 19th century till deep into the 20th century, being a reference to the widely distributed crime of Illicit Diamond Buying, a common occurrence and heavily policed by the state and mines, but a lucrative and quick route to riches.

Dramatic works called I.D.B.

There are two dramatic works from 1912 called I.D.B.: a stage play by Stephen Black and a short silent film by the African Cinema Company.

I.D.B. the play

I.D.B. is a full length, four act stage play by Stephen Black (1879-1931), set on the Kimberley diamond fields of 1879 and first performed by Black and his company in 1912.

Original text

A manuscript and typescript copy of the play is included in the Black collection in the Africana section of the South African Library in Cape Town. A typescript copy of the play and screenplay adaptation is held in the Strange Collection at the Johannesburg Public Library.


1912: Staged at the Standard Theatre in Johannesburg by Stephen Black and his company, opening on 10 September 1912 with a cast that included A.B. Imeson, Charles Warrenton, Naomi Rutherford, Ruth Massina, Rhoda Johnstone, May Congdon, Charles Lawson, Frederick Foster, Keith Fraser, George Devine, E. Rayson-Cousens, Claud Agnew, Cyril Rawdon.


Rand Daily Mail, 11 September 1912

Go to ESAT Bibliography

I.D.B. the film

This is a short black-and-white silent film that was originally screened without a name, but was later named I.D.B..

Screening Details

Running Time: 15 min. (1340 ft.) (black and white) / Copyright Date: unknown / Release Date: 12 November 1912 (invitational preview) / Language: Silent (English intertitles) / Genre: Adventure / Alternative Title: none.


Cooper, an unscrupulous illegal diamond buyer, has his eye on the attractive daughter of a Cape settler and in order to marry her, lends money to her father and traps him into buying a diamond from an African man. The girl is in love with a policeman, but in order to save her father she agrees to the marriage. However, when the policeman discovers Cooper’s nefarious scheme, he set out to hunt him down, with predictable results. The last sequence, during which the policeman’s horse gallops back to the settler’s shanty and leads the heroine to where her unconscious boyfriend is lying on the ground, was heartily applauded by the preview audience.


On 12 November 1912, a film without a title was screened at the Grand Theatre in Johannesburg. Those present were there at the invitation of Madame Fillis (Vicenta Fillis), the mother of Adele Fillis and Frank Fillis Jr., both of whom acted in the film. Before the show Fillis Jr. announced that originally the film had been made as an experiment to test the light and to see if a company could not be formed to produce “picture plays”. However, as the results had been better than expected, it had been decided to show it to the general public. The sum of £5 would be paid to the person who came up with a suitable title while the film was on circuit.

According to the Rand Daily Mail, it was primarily shot in Sachsenwald (Saxonwold) and the boulder-strewn kopjes around Johannesburg. It ran for 20 to 25 minutes and was the first and probably only film produced by the African Cinema Company. Since three members of the Fillis family were involved one can assume that the idea originated with them. Even the hero, played by Harry Vine, was by that time engaged to Adele Fillis. The only professional actor involved was Charles Willoughby. When, some 50 years later, cinematographer Edgar Lilienfeld was interviewed by the Rand Daily Mail, he said that eventually the film was called I.D.B. A month before it was screened, Stephen Black’s play with that name had been staged at the Standard Theatre and the film’s title was probably chosen to cash in on its success.

Cast and crew

The cast consisted of Frank Fillis Jr. (Cooper), Charles Willoughby (The Settler), Adele Fillis (His Daughter) and Harry Vine (The Policeman), while the production crew consisted of: Production Company: African Cinema Company; Director: unknown, but possibly Frank Fillis Jr.; Photography: unknown, but probably by Edgar Lilienfeld.


Rand Daily Mail, 13 November 1912

Rand Daily Mail, 16 January 1963

The Bioscope, 27 March 1913

Go to ESAT Bibliography

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