Behind the camera for a moment, Jamie Uys as the Reverend Henderson in
The Gods Must be Crazy

The genial genius: 
Life is a song – one of joy, sometimes sorrow. His life’s song was one of joy – and he wanted everyone to know the words so that they could sing along. Away with doom and gloom – his ultimate quest was to surprise the common man with humour. He cherished the Oh-my-word! in the everyday and the ordinary. Magnificence, for him, was embodied in simplicity. His stories caressed the strings of one’s heart. His images were monuments to the skills of a golden eye. Frozen smiles would curve in praise of his humour; anointing cold eyes with warm tears. The beautiful, the good, and the joy of life were his bread and butter – daily bread he longed to break with all of mankind. He possessed a zest for life which he peddled with consummate ease over all of the Earth. At the rainbow and the smoke of his camp fire, in the hallowed circle of his imagination, this sage of the silver screen took his audience on tow to another world:
The wonder world of Jamie Uys
 

In spite of:
Thomas Edison patented the Kinetoscope on 17 October 1888 as a contraption that “would do for the eye what the phonograph does for the ear.” With the outbreak of the Anglo Boer War, one of Edison’s co-workers, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, with exactly such a contraption under the arm, came to South Africa together with Sir Redvers Buller to document on film the conflict. Thus kicked off the country’s film industry – which might just be the oldest in the world. The country’s most successful filmmaker was born 33 years after Edison’s invention, in 1921. In Boksburg, the family’s Scottish neighbours gave the young Johannes Jacobus Uys a nickname that would stick – Jamie – or rather D’jy’mie. He became a teacher, a farmer, a trader, a justice of the peace, a miner, a radio man, an actor, a cameraman, a sound engineer, a voice artist, a scriptwriter, a producer, a director, and the maker of television advertisements for groups from abroad. In the late 1940’s, Jok, Jamie’s brother, suggested that they make a movie. Jok could borrow a camera, but not for long. Jamie remembers, “I had to really pinch and scrape to buy a tiny home movie camera.” With his 16 mm camera (with not enough film) Jamie, without any training, without a script, without professional actors, without a technical team and without a budget – and with a struggle of gigantic proportions – Daar Doer In Die Bosveld (1951) eventually saw the light of day. Despite this costing him his Bushveld farm and landing him in financial trouble, the movie was a success. Vyftig-Vyftig (1952), also known as Fifty-Fifty, followed in which he, not for the last time, satirised the Afrikaner-Englishman politicking of the time. He made Daar Doer In Die Stad (1953) for African Film Productions, and then developed Hensop for them, but the powerful IW Schlesinger regarded it as dangerously controversial and it was given the chop. “It was then that I decided to call it a day and do my own thing.” Jamie Uys Film Productions was established in 1954 and a string of successful full-length movies, as well as information films for state departments, followed. Jamie was an ingenious documentary maker who somehow always made the right moves. Jabulani Afrika which told the story of South Africa’s various musical styles (which contained no dialogue, only music) was already a huge hit abroad in 1954. A year later, in between his filmmaking, he tried his hand at acting with André Huguenet in Paul Kruger.  In 1961 The Hellions appeared which Jamie made with the assistance of funding from abroad – a box office success, but for Jamie a financial disaster. Relief came when the FAK asked him to make Doodkry Is Min which dealt with the history of Afrikaans. The open-air première at the Voortrekker Monument, on 29 April 1961, was attended by State President CR Swart and Mimi Coertze. The famed opera singer sang O Boereplaas to an audience of 50 000. Classic Uys’s such as Rip van Wyk (1960), Hans en die Rooinek (1961), Lord Oom Piet (1962) appeared next. He and his production company also made Jim Reeves’ only movie, the extravagant musical Kimberley Jim (1963). Next was Dingaka (1964) with Juliet Prowse and Stanley Baker in the main roles (Jans Rautenbach was the production manager; Elmo de Witt the musical director). It was a major success for its Hollywood backers but it would take years before Jamie would make up the R 300 000 he lost. All the Way To Paris (1966), an adaptation of Hans en die Rooinek, which was filmed in ten European countries and in which General Charles de Gaulle and Georges Pompidou appeared, was released. Despite Jamie’s unprecedented success, Jamie and his own board were at loggerheads. Unbearable frustration made him sever these ties. 


Jamie Uys




Chillies

General George de Gaulle made a cameo appearance in Uys’ All The Way To Paris – starring as… himself.

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