Sanders of the River (1935)

Sanders of the River (1935)

“I’ll do as you want me, Sandi, because I am your friend.”

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

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Kidnapping
  • Native Peoples
  • Paul Robeson Films
  • Zoltan Korda Films

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
  • On-location footage of native African tribes
  • Tony Wane’s unusual star-shaped hairdo

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


One thought on “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:

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