VIDEOVISION ENTERTAINMENT is a multi-faceted entertainment business based in South Africa, with strong international relationships in production and distribution. The company produces and distributes popular film and video attractions to a worldwide audience in theatres, on video, cable and television. The main focus of the company is to produce films with world-wide appeal creating a local and export commodity and also giving profile to the South African Film Industry abroad.
Videovision Entertainment started out as a one-man show twelve years ago headed up by Anant Singh. Today the company is one of the largest independent production and distribution houses in Southern Africa. As the first Black film producer in South Africa, Anant Singh has had to exercise extreme tenacity and acute business acumen in order to maintain the success he has, in an industry beset with obstacles for a black in apartheid South Africa. Videovision Entertainment has distributed over five hundred films in South Africa and has produced thirty feature films, all of which have been distributed globally in all media. A number of its South African productions including its first production Place of Weeping in 1986 spoke out against the apartheid system, the first South African film to do so.
From a staff compliment of two, the company has progressively increased its infrastructure to eighteen permanent personnel, and up to two hundred personnel during film production.
The company's diversified operations are organised into Acquisition and Distribution:
ACQUISITION: In all media, including pictures distributed by Warner Brothers, Paramount, Orion, Tri-Star, Universal and Columbia and the major independent distributors around the world.
MOTION PICTURE PRODUCTION: In the mid-80's Videovision Entertainment and Anant Singh's associate companies expanded into feature film production and since then, has produced over thirty films. For the past 10 years the company has been represented at all the major film festivals and markets world-wide. This high visibility of product has seen successful global distribution deals concluded for all its films.
Committed to using the visual medium to speak out against apartheid, its feature film Place of Weeping was the first anti-apartheid feature film to be made in South Africa and garnered world-wide critical acclaim. The Mayor of Los Angeles, Tom Bradley, signed a declaration for 23 January 1987 to be "Place of Weeping" Day. It was also the only South African film to play on HBO and was released theatrically in the United States and most other countries throughout the world.
City of Blood and Tenth of a Second (both political thrillers) followed in production, and Quest for Love, directed by Helena Nogueira, starring Sandra Prinsloo (The Gods Must Be Crazy) and Jana Cilliers, which was nominated for best picture in the 1988 AA Life/M-Net Awards. It was invited to be screened at a number of major festivals around the globe including Moscow.
Anant Singh also produced the controversial and later banned, anti-war film The Stick, also directed by Darrell Roodt. Declining an order to make 48 cuts to the film, he opted to wait two years for it to be passed by the stringent local Publications Control Board. The film was selected from 230 international contenders to open the prestigious World Film Festival in Montreal. It was quoted as "the best opening film in several years" by the Canadian press. It was nominated for six awards, including "Best Film" in the 1989 AA Life/M-Net Vita Awards. The Stick was also honoured with a special screening at the Moscow Film Festival and a number of other major international festivals.
Another successful project was The Road to Mecca, which stars 1991 Academy Award Winner for "Best Actress" Kathy Bates, and the Laurence Olivier Award winner Yvonne Bryceland, and is written and directed by acclaimed playwright Athol Fugard, described by Time Magazine as "the most active playwright in the English speaking language". Anant Singh has also co-produced the vibrant Township Fever, with BBC Television.
Recent productions include American Kickboxer, and To the Death, an action thriller acquired by Warner Home Video, starring Michel Qissi (Kickboxer) and John Barrett.
Sarafina! starring Whoopi Goldberg was Anant Singh's most ambitious project, taking 4+ years to be finally produced. It was distributed in the United States by Hollywood Pictures through Buena Vista Distribution, and in the foreign territories by Warner Bros. Sarafina! gained tremendous critical and Box Office acclaim, grossing $8 million. Sarafina! received the 1993 Christopher Award for affirming the highest values of the human spirit.
In 1993, Anant Singh produced The Mangler in association with Distant Horizon and Allied Film Productions, starring Robert Englund (Nightmare on Elm Street - parts 1-5) and Ted Levine (The Silence of the Lambs). The script, based on a short story by Stephen King, is co-written by, among others, Tobe Hooper (Poltergeist, Texas Chainsaw Massacre), who also directed the film. The special effects on this film are by and award winning team of Hollywood talent whose credits include Super Mario Brothers, Beetlejuice, Aliens, Predator and Addam's Family.
In 1994, at the request of President Nelson Mandela, Anant Singh produced the exclusive documentary Countdown to Freedom, directed by Danny Schechter and narrated by James Earl Jones and Alfre Woodard. This film documents the first free and fair election in South Africa and includes solitary access to Nelson Mandela as he took the final steps on his walk from prison to Presidency. It presents an intimate and independent chronicle of ten days of change in an event of world historical importance, taking the audience inside President Mandela's campaign, not previously revealed on television.
Cry, The Beloved Country is Videovision Entertainment's most significant feature film. Six years ago it bid aggressively and acquired the coveted film rights to Alan Paton's profound literary classic Cry, The Beloved Country, but delayed production until South Africa attained democracy. Paton's story was adapted for screen by Oscar nominee Ronald Harwood (The Dresser, The Browning Version) and directed by Darrell James Roodt. The film stars Academy Award nominees James Earl Jones (The Great White Hope) and Richard Harris (This Sporting Life and The Field) and a stellar local cast including Vusi Kunene (The Line), Leleti Khumalo (Sarafina!) and Abigail Kubeka. The music is scored by five time Academy Award winner, John Barry (Dances With Wolves, Out Of Africa, Born Free and The Lion In Winter).
Cry, The Beloved Country had its world premiere in New York in October 1995 as a benefit for the Friends of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund. The event was attended by President Nelson Mandela and United States First Lady, Hillary Rodham-Clinton with the stars of the film James Earl Jones and Richard Harris, director Darrell James Roodt and John Barry who scored the film.
The premiere of Cry, The Beloved Country in Johannesburg, was a benefit for Streetwise, a charity that benefits the street children of South Africa. Cry, The Beloved Country has received many awards and accolades. Among them was Anant Singh's second Christopher Award which is presented to films that help in affirming the highest values of the human spirit. At the Southern African Film Festival in Zimbabwe, the film garnered two awards, Best Picture and Best Actor for Vusi Kunene. Vusi Kunene also won Best Actor at the M-Net Film Awards in South Africa. Cry, The Beloved Country has also made history in the United States by being the first film to receive an award from the Academy of Religious Broadcasting in Seattle.
More recently, Videovision Entertainment produced Prisoners of Hope, which documents the reunion on Robben Island of 1,250 of its former political prisoners led by President Mandela. This event of the reunion of former prisoners as free men, at their place of incarceration, was considered to be of historical importance by Anant Singh and as a result it has been saved, on film, for posterity.
Recognition of Anant Singh's skill and acumen in the film industry resulted in the South African Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology appointing him to the Arts and Culture Task Group (ACTAG) to set up a national agenda for the Arts.
During August 1996, Videovision produced a documentary detailing the South African visit of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, providing a service that should have been the duty of the public broadcaster. This documentary, as well as Countdown To Freedom and Prisoners of Hope illustrates Videovision Entertainment's commitment to South Africa and their commitment to recording events of historical importance to the country.
Videovision Entertainment recently embarked on its first Afrikaans film, Paljas. This marks the first collaboration of South Africa's two leading filmmakers, Anant Singh and Katinka Heyns. Paljas is an indigenous film, shot by local crew and cast, in an indigenous language. The film will be marketed in the international arena as a foreign film that expresses the uniqueness of South African film. Also, this film will take to the rest of the world, the culture and language of South Africa, especially that of the Afrikaner people.
Earlier, Anant Singh and Videovision Entertainment were granted the coveted rights to Nelson Mandela's autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. The criteria for the bid was that a project of this nature had to be brought to the screen by an "accomplished South African filmmaker with established links to distribute the film worldwide". A cocktail party was held in Los Angeles to launch the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund to the Hollywood community and to celebrate the announcement of the motion picture Long Walk to Freedom.
Videovision expanded its activities to Live Entertainment by scooping the rights to promote the South African leg of Indian megastar Amitabh Bachchan's World Tour in 1991. Amitabh is described by London critics as "the ultimate in entertainment". Convinced that South Africans were eager to support international acts of "class", Anant Singh set about assuring the mandatory go-ahead from the cultural boycott officials, for an Indian entertainer to perform in South Africa. Based on the fact that Amitabh Bachchan was an outspoken critic of apartheid, as well as Videovision's powerful anti-apartheid stance and political voice through film, the Amitabh concert was approved by the ANC. This spectacular live show boasting a 110 strong troupe was seen by a record 100,000 people in just two 'capacity sold-out' shows, back-to-back, 24 hours apart, the first in Durban and the next in Johannesburg.
In March 1997, Videovision Entertainment, concluded a deal together with Showtime Concerts to bring to South Africa Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine as part of their Evolution World Tour. Gloria Estefan is without doubt, the most popular cross-over artist the world has ever seen and South Africans were able to party along with her to the strains of popular tracks like Party Time, Doctor Beat, Conga, The Rythm is Gonna Get You, Everlasting Love and Reach which was adopted as the official song of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Anant Singh and Videovision, as part of the New Radio Consortium which includes Kagiso Trust Investments Company, R&J Publications (Pty) Ltd (Publico), internationally acclaimed singer / songwriter, Johnny Clegg and Nedbank, recently entered the world of broadcasting with the acquisition of Radio Oranje and East Coast Radio which were sold off by the SABC as part of the privatisation of state assets. The broadcasting regulatory body, The Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) in granting the licences said that they found in the Consortium, "a creative team that has dynamic plans for the entertainment industry" and that "the country should not be deprived of this."
In 12 years, Videovision's consistent production of quality pictures has seen the international distribution of forty feature films. Anant Singh has built a modest distribution business into a serious contender in the global entertainment arena by assembling the right mix in collaborative ventures, backed by global marketing.
With conviction, Anant Singh and Videovision have showcased internationally, South African stories and talent and earned for himself recognition as a pioneer in the motion picture industry of South Africa.
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