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From Cookhouse to Cinematic Glory: The Inspirational Journey of Gerhard Uys

FilmmakerLife Magazine Presents

Gerhard Uys, an acclaimed filmmaker and educator, hails from Cookhouse in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. His journey into the world of cinema began at the tender age of five, frequenting the local Railway Cinema. It was here, amidst discarded pieces of 35mm film and the projector’s inner workings, that his fascination for filmmaking was born. Driven by an insatiable curiosity, young Gerhard ingeniously constructed a fully operational slide projector, showcasing film clips with pristine clarity on screens as large as 3 x 2 meters.

Despite his passion, Gerhard faced resistance from his mother, who envisioned a more pragmatic career for him, mistaking his aspirations for those of a wedding photographer. She insisted he pursue teaching as a backup, a directive he dutifully followed, embarking on a 21-year academic journey. This pursuit of knowledge led him to attain seven academic qualifications, culminating in South Africa’s first Doctorate in Motion Picture Production.

Gerhard’s exceptional talents were soon recognized on an international scale. The French Chamber of Commerce honored him with the production of “The Inauguration of F’SATIE,” presided over by former French President Jacques Chirac. As Head of the Pretoria Technikon Film School, he nurtured creativity, laying the foundation for Nickelodeon Films and numerous other productions for prominent institutions such as SABC, University of Pretoria, Armscor, and Grundy TV in Australia.

Beyond academia, Dr. Uys showcased his prowess in scriptwriting. His masterpiece, “Frankie’s Flyer,” represented by Aquarius Literary Agent in London, secured a publishing deal with Dizzy Emu Publishing in Hollywood. The paperback edition, printed in Las Vegas, achieved global distribution through Amazon Books.

Gerhard shares the sentiment of Eisenstein that “Editing is the foundation of film art,” believing that editing is akin to directing the film for the second time. In collaboration with his editor Neel Smit, he dedicated seven years to restoring his student film, “A Fire in Africa.” This meticulous process transformed the film from a student project into a professional production, capable of competing with established films.

Facing challenges in domestic distribution, Gerhard turned to the international stage. To his astonishment, “A Fire in Africa” garnered 37 accolades, including 11 Best Picture Awards at prestigious film festivals in Germany, England, France, Spain, and Australia. Following a rigorous Quality Control assessment at Filmhub in Los Angeles, the film secured distribution on 11 VOD channels, including Amazon’s Prime Video, reaching an audience of over 200 million viewers across 133 countries.

The intellectual depth and esoteric narrative of “A Fire in Africa” solidify its place as a directorial milestone in South African high-art cinema, challenging audiences and film critics alike with its audacious vision. Through his extraordinary journey, Director Gerhard Uys has left an indelible mark on the world of cinema, showcasing the power of passion, perseverance, and artistic vision. His legacy continues to inspire future generations of filmmakers and cinephiles globally.

Connect with Gerhard Uys


Filmmaker Magazine Vol. 78 – Gerhard Uys

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