Italo Bernicchi

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Italo Bernicchi (b. Italy, 01/05/1924 – d. Johannesburg, 12/05/2011) was a cameraman, cinema owner and film buff.


Though born in Italy, Italo Bernicchi came to South Africa when he was 1 year old, together with his parents and his siblings. He was educated at Marist Brothers in Johannesburg and started his film career as an assistant projectionist at the Colosseum in Commissioner Street in 1938. For many years he worked as a cameraman for African Film Productions in its various incarnations (South African Screen Productions, Killarney Film Studios), contributing to the newsreel African Mirror and filming documentaries for the likes of Kurt Baum, Jan Perold and Basil Mailer. During this time he also worked on the second unit for Zoltan Korda's version of Cry, the Beloved Country (1951). He directed at least three documentaries himself: Friendly Touchdown and Assegai to Javelin / Van Krygsman Tot Atleet , both for the Department of Information, and Breakthrough for Caltex Oil. He also made some travel films for South African Airways. Between 1951 and 1954 he was stationed in what was then Tanganyika and made some films in Swahili which featured the future Prime Minister of Tanzania, Rashidi Kawawa.

He must have had a special arrangement with AFP, because during the early 1940s, Bernicchi was already showing “foreign” films at the Moncine Cinema in Johannesburg’s Bree Street. When, in 1947, I.W. Schlesinger approached him to screen his films at the Grove Kinema in Orange Grove, he accepted. The Grove had opened in 1929 and after the end of World War II it was renamed the Victory. Bernicchi continued to run it for 35 years, until the competition from chains like Nu Metro and Ster Kinekor eventually forced him to close down. Other independent cinemas which he owned/managed were the Piccadilly in Yeoville, the Corlett in Bramley, the Avenue in Norwood, the Rand in Primrose and the Classic in Braamfontein. The story goes that when the Victory closed down, critic Percy Baneshik had a square of its carpet framed and put it up in his lounge. Bernicchi took the rest and some 40 chairs to furnish his home cinema in Bagleyston. Called the Preview Theatre, it continued to provide a home for like-minded enthusiasts until his death at the age of 87 in 2011. (FO)



Arches Of Faith / 'n Volk Se Erfenis (with others) (Kurt Baum/1949), Hier's Ons Weer! (assistant to Peter Lang) (Hyman Kirstein/1950), A Hundred Years and a Day / Honderd Jaar en 'n Dag (Jan Perold/1955), South Africa: Land Of Endeavour (with others) (Jan Perold/1957), They Came To Stay / Eie Bodem (Basil Mailer/1958), Cricket Tests Between South Africa and New Zealand (1961/62), Touching Wood (Jan Perold/196-), University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (Robert Young/1970), South African Battlefields (David Millin/1990).


Friendly Touchdown (1964), Assegaai To Javelin / Van Krygsman Tot Atleet (1965), Breakthrough (1971)


Rand Daily Mail, 24 January 1962

Sunday Times, 30 July 2000

Le Roux, André I. & Fourie, Lilla – Filmverlede: geskiedenis van die Suid-Afrikaanse speelfilm

Private correspondence

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