Sven Persson

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(b. Arbra, Sweden, 22/06/1924 - d. 18/01/2002). Director, Producer, Cinematographer, Editor. Sven Ake Pontus Persson was born in the small town of Arbra in the Swedish province of Halsingland and started his film career as an assistant cameraman on a number of Swedish features. He came to South Africa to shoot a short called Zulu (1947), directed by Torsten Lilliecrona for Svensk Filmindustri, loved the country and decided to stay. Initially he worked as a cameraman, shooting features, documentaries and newsreel footage for African Film Productions. In addition he worked for both Alpha Film Studios and for Unifilms. In 1959 he took over from Harold C. Weaver as in-house film producer for the South African Tourist Corporation, which is where he first made a name for himself with wildlife documentaries such as To Catch a Rhino (1962) and Lake Wilderness (1963).

His experience in this field led to him co-ordinating local shoots for visiting international directors such as Cornel Wilde (The Naked Prey/1965) and Ivan Tors, first for Rhino! (1964) and then for the popular television series Daktari (1966-1969). This was followed by various sponsored documentaries as well as some unusual projects such as a film version of the ballet Raka (1968), based on the epic poem by N.P. van Wyk Louw. His film Land Apart (1974), written by Allister Sparks, was the first locally produced documentary that attempted to debate the racial issue and specifically the National Party’s apartheid policy. It was promptly banned by the Publications Control Board. After various appeals a shortened version of the film, now titled The South Africans, was eventually released in 1976. He made one feature film as director, namely Rogue Lion (1972). Persson married Pat Girsham in 1956 and sound engineer Lorens Persson is their son.


1949 - Sarie Marais (Photography with Arthur L. Bennett) (Director: C. Francis Coley) / 1952 - Meet the Malans / Aangename kennis (Photography with Ken Sara & Frank Dixon) (Director: Kurt Baum) / 1955 - Geld Soos Bossies (Photography with Elmo de Witt) (Director: Jamie Uys) / 1956 - Dark Venture (Cinematography) (Director: John Trevlac/John Calvert) / 1958 - Voyage to the Sun (Director of Photography & Editor) (Director: Harold C. Weaver) / 1959 - Safari South / Vakansieverskeidenheid (Photography & Direction) / 1959 - Flight to Fortune (probably by Persson) / 1959 - Big Game Country (probably by Persson) / 1960 - Introducing South Africa (Director) / 1960 - South African Encounter (Photography, Script & Direction) / 1962 - To Catch a Rhino / Red ons renosters (Photography, Production & Direction) / 1963 - Lake Wilderness / Onsgeskonde natuurlewe (Photography, Editing, Production & Direction) / 1964 - Rhino! (Associate Producer) (Director: Ivan Tors) / 1965 - The Naked Prey (Co-Producer) (Director: Cornel Wilde) / 1965 - Safari South (Director) / 1966 - A Million Cities of Gold (Director) / 1966-69 - Daktari (TV series) (Co-Producer?) (various directors) / 1968 - Raka (Director of Photography & Producer) (Director: Alf Travers) / 1968 - One for the pot (Director of Photography) (Director: Alf Travers) / 1968 - King of Africa / Caccia ai violenti (Associate Producer & Photography with Julio Ortas) (Director: Nino Scolaro) / 1970 - Elephant Country (Photography) (Director: Ivan Tors) / 1971 - Trail to survival (Director)/ 1972 - Soweto, Johannesburg (Producer & Director) / 1972 - Makulu / Rogue lion (Additional Photography & Director) / 1974 - Land Apart (Director of Photography, Producer & Director) / 1976 - The South Africans (Camera with Francois Marais, Producer & Director) / 1981 - Requiem for Canaan (TV movie) (Director) / 1986-88 - Orphans of the wild (TV series) (Co-Writer & Editor) (Director: William Revolta) / 1989 - Wild Zone (2nd Unit Camera) (Director: Percival Rubens) / 1990 - The last samurai (Director of Photography) (Director: Paul Mayersberg).


Raka Programme

Sunday Times Colour Magazine, 20 January 1974

Swedish Film Institute Database

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