Jamie Uys 1983


Jamie Uys was born in Boksburg on 30 May 1921. After matriculating he worked for a year on a mine before going on to obtain the BSc degree at the University of Pretoria

He married Hettie van Rooyen, and the couple taught until he decided to go farming in the Bushveld. There his life-long interest in photography became more intense. He began collecting camera parts and also bought himself a second-hand 16 mm Home Movie for £15. With this camera Daar Doer in die Bosveld was made with the help of his friends, family and even his own old motor car. It was the start of a new life.

For the sake of his new love Jamie Uys was obliged to sell all his possessions to provide for a sound track to the film. He went from newspaper to newspaper seeking publicity for his first attempt. Finally the Schlesinger organisation offered to cover his costs to finance a 35 mm re-issue of the film subject to certain conditions. This offer brought out the firmness to which Jamie Uys owes his success. He turned down the offer. Even when some members of the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns suggested that he go to Hollywood and started a fund to send the young Afrikaner there he declined, preferring to remain in South Africa to build up an indigenous film industry.

After Daar Doer in die Stad which he produced for Killarney Studios, he formed his own company, Jamie Uys Film Productions. With a few pounds in capital he and his brother Jok embarked on the film Geld soos Bossies. Even at this early stage other local film-makers began looking to this talented compatriot for guidance.

He took the lead in making representations to the Government that the South African motion picture industry should be stimulated by the repayment to the film-maker of a part of the entertainment tax. In this way a film industry arose in South Africa with its small population of 3 million whites, in contrast with a country such as the Netherlands, for example, with millions of inhabitants but at that time without any active film industry.

Despite his financial difficulties Jamie Uys was adamant that nothing would check him on his path to success. He and his brother invested their last penny in Jabulani Afrika which was awarded a prize at the Cannes Film Festival and was distributed in nine countries including France, Germany, England and Australia. This was followed by a number of films including Doodkry is min- a brilliant full-length film on the birth of Afrikaans, Hans en die Rooinek and a co-production with a British company, entitled The Hellions. Established undertakings began investing in Jamie Uys and prominent personages such as Hein Louw, Hennie Marais and Prof. H.B. Thom became directors of his company.

With Dirkie and Beautiful People, which both did excellently overseas, Jamie Uys broke into the competitive and exclusive international motion picture market. It was Jamie Uys who raised the banner of the South African industry to new heights by maintaining the inter­nationally respected standard of his films, saying undauntedly that it wasn't fair to compare every little film made in South Africa with the cream of 6000 films made annually in the world. Beautiful People, produced by Jamie Uys's new company, Mimosa Films, not only broke all South African records, but after the first seven weeks it earned more than five million American dollars.

The Gods must be crazy earned thirty million dollars in the film theatres of Japan. During the week of 7th April 1983 it was also broadcast on television and a further forty five million viewers were reached. In France this film had earned eight million dollars by this time and is still being shown there. Predictions are that it should have the same success there as in Japan. This film has fared just as successfully all over the world as it has in these two countries.

In countries traditionally described as anti-South African, such as the Scandinavian countries, people queued to see the pictures of this man of the Bushveld.

It is a well-known fact that just about all the creative work on a Jamie Uys film and all the scenarios are undertaken by just one man: Jamie Uys. He prefers to stand behind the camera himself, and works for up to seventeen hours a day editing - a task which he regards as just as creative as writing film scripts or directing.

Many names now well-known in the South African film industry originally joined Jamie Uys Films and were initiated into the art of the film by him: Emil Nofal, Jans Rautenbach, Ivan Hall and Elmo de Witt.

He enjoys international recognition and acclaim for his creative contribution towards the efforts to place our country in a favourable light overseas through his highly acclaimed documentaries for the Department of Information, for example, The Fox has Four Eyes (1958), Citizens of Tomorrow (1962), and Three Wise Men of the World (1967).

The Suid·Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns awarded him a Medal for Cinematographic Art on 21 September 1970, and in March 1983 the State President presented him with the highest civilian award of the Republic of South Africa, the Decoration for Meritorious Service.

  • For the artistic recognition which he as a true South African has gained for South Africa internationally, and for the innovating efforts which he has made for entertainment and the South African film industry
  • for the essentially superior quality of his contribution to the performing arts in South Africa
  • for the financial successes which he has achieved in international competition with the financial giants of the industry,
  • but above all for his example he sets of the personal values of modesty, sound family life and faith in the future of our country and all its people

the University of Port Elizabeth honours a gifted artist and a pioneer with a vision of the future: a man who believes that South Africa will be able to take its rightful cultural place among the nations of the world on a free and equal footing.

It is a privilege for the University of Port Elizabeth to award the degree of DOCTOR LITTERARUM, HONORIS CAUSA, to JACOBUS JOHANNES UYS.