Sanders of the River (1935)

“Tens of millions of natives under British rule…”

Synopsis:
Commissioner Sanders (Leslie Banks) tries to prevent warfare between rival chieftains (Paul Robeson and Tony Wane) in British-ruled Africa.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this dated, offensive film “gives the impression that black Africans [were] prosperous, happy, and peaceful under British rule.” Commissioner Sanders (“Sandi”) is shamelessly portrayed as a heroic, benevolent father-figure who must intervene in order to save the warring African “children” from themselves. I was grateful whenever footage of native African tribes appeared on-screen; their (hopefully authentic) dancing and music making were a welcome relief from the colonialist blather of the storyline. Paul Robeson’s singing is (as always) a highlight, but nonetheless woefully out of place. Worth watching for historical purposes only.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Paul Robeson’s singing
    Paul Robeson
  • On-location footage of native African tribes
    Dancing
  • Tony Wane’s unusual star-shaped hairdo
    Hairdo

Must See?
No, although it’s a revealing look at the historical distortion that was prevalent in so many early films.

Links:

One Response to “Sanders of the River (1935)”

  1. First viewing. Not a must.

    Not at all interesting as a narrative, the film is largely sloppy and pedestrian as it progresses in embarrassing fashion. And, gee, it’s a semi-‘musical’ to boot (?!). Robeson himself ultimately felt his involvement was the result of being duped. He disowned the film. Wikipedia briefly explains why:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanders_of_the_River

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