In Black and White

Anant Singh

01 November 2021


It all began with Charlie Chaplin, flickering in black and white on a makeshift screen in their modest home in Springfield, which later led to the neighbourhood children happily handing over their coins to 10-year-old Anant Singh and his younger brother Sanjeev. At age 13, deeply affected by the passing of his father, Anant found solace and escape in the moving image to which his father had introduced him.

The combination of a deep and abiding passion for film and an entrepreneurial spirit were the sparks that lit the flame for Anant as he rewound 16mm reels in a film rental store in Durban, first for R1 a day and then for R25 a week. In South Africa in the 1970s, there were not many career options for a Black person who dreamed big in any business, let alone the film industry. But before his twentieth birthday, Anant was the owner of that store and in a business in which no person of colour had ventured. Restrictive legislation was not the only problem; all public facilities, including cinemas, were segregated and any voice raised in opposition to the state was swiftly silenced, while censorship across all forms of media, including films, was strictly enforced.

By hiring out films classified for whites only to all races and uncensored movies to anyone who wanted to watch them, Anant was arrested for breaking the laws he refused to recognise as legitimate. He moved on to wider distribution, first to cinemas across Africa and then to the international market, to setting up Videovision Enterprises and capturing the home video market, and finally to putting his heart and soul into producing award-winning and important films.

This extraordinary memoir is a story of professional relationships – and of friendships – with mentors including Ahmed Kathrada, Fatima and Ismail Meer and Nelson Mandela, as well as with superstars such as Quincy Jones, Sidney Poitier, Whoopi Goldberg, Amitabh Bachchan, Denzel Washington and Idris Elba. And it is a testament to determination, courage and perseverance – to speak up and speak out through the powerful medium of film.