Utolo Beperk

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Utolo Beperk (sometimes known as Utolo Films or Utolo Filmmaatskappy) was incorporated on 7 December 1940 and the oficial articles gave the company's location as the Volkskas Building in Market Street, Johannesburg. Its first directors were J.G. van der Merwe, an attorney and businessman from Heilbron who would later become the Chairman of the Afrikaanse Handelsinstituut, and Wynand H. Louw, a prominent architect from Paarl. To start with they took over the equipment, a small film library and furniture/fittings from the Cape Town-based Utolo Films of Africa, a production company owned by Harold C. Weaver and Graham C. Young that specialised in documentary production. Because the new firm was short on technical expertise, it was agreed that Weaver and Young would enter into a two-year contract with the new owners, with the proviso that Weaver would be released should his anticipated appointment as head of the Union Defence Force Film Unit come to pass - which it did.

The total amount paid came to £1267/10/- plus £600 for goodwill and the continued use of the Utolo name. The trustees who signed the agreement on behalf of Utolo Beperk were J.G. van der Merwe and P.J. Botma, the latter being the Secretary of the parent company, Volksbioskope Maatskappy Beperk, which had been founded earlier that year. In fact, Volksbioskope (or VOBI) committed itself to paying all the initial costs of launching the company in return for 400 shares in Utolo. They would also serve as the distribution agency for all films produced and became the majority shareholders with 4400 shares, with smaller number of shares being held by various individuals, including Thomas Blok, one of the directors of the film Donker Spore, and Nicolaas Diederichs, a future Minister of Finance in the National Party and later State President (1975-1978).

The new company didn't lack ambition. Not only were they going to produce films of all genres, they were going to try and export them, import others and screen them in their own cinemas. Their films were going to be in Afrikaans and deal with Afrikaans themes. The first feature that was completed was Die Lig van 'n Eeu (1942), made on the occasion of the centenary of the Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk in the Transvaal. The director was Andries A. Pienaar (Sangiro), who had previously been involved with Die Bou van 'n Nasie (1938). This was followed by Donker Spore (1944), an adaptation of a story by C.J. Langenhoven, directed by Thomas Blok and J.F. Marais. Finally there was Pinkie se Erfenis (1946), based on a play by Pierre de Wet and directed by the author himself. It was to be the only film de Wet made outside the umbrella of African Film Productions.

At the third annual general meeting of Utolo held in November 1944, J.G. van der Merwe admitted that technically the films that had been made so far left much to be desired. The sound equipment that had been ordered from overseas had been sunk by "enemy action", which meant that the filmmakers had had to rely on what they could obtain or manufacture locally. The war, of course, had made it impossible to import new equipment and there were very few Afrikaans technicians who could guide them. Nevertheless they were still hoping to set up an independent production unit that could film on 35mm and the aim was to create four feature films per year. One of them was going to be constructed around the theme of "Sarie Marais" and was going to be a tribute to the ideal of Afrikaans womanhood. It was estimated that it would take from 4 to 6 years to bring to completion. However, it soon became clear that with its last film Utolo had over-extended itself and shortly afterwards it filed for bankruptcy. (FO)


Articles of Association (Cape Town Archives Repository)

The Forum, 12 September 1941

Filma, December 1944

Binge, L.W.B. - Ontwikkeling van die Afrikaanse toneel (1832 tot 1950)

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

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