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Sanders of the River
Alternate title: Bosambo
Directed by Zolt√°n Korda
Produced by Alexander Korda
Written by Lajos Biró
Jeffrey Dell
Edgar Wallace
Arthur Wimperis
Starring Leslie Banks
Paul Robeson
Cinematography Osmond Borradaile
Louis Page
Georges Périnal
Editing by Charles Crichton
Release date(s) 8 April 1935
Running time 98 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Sanders of the River is a 1935 film directed by Zolt√°n Korda, based on the stories of Edgar Wallace. It was later spoofed in the 1938 Will Hay film Old Bones of the River, which also featured the characters of Commissioner Sanders, Captain Hamilton and Bosambo seen in this film, but played by different actors.


Plot summary

The story describes how a British colonial District Officer in 1930's Nigeria tries to rule his province fairly. He struggles against gun-runners and slavers and enlists the support of a native chieftain.

Paul Robeson disowns the film

The African-American entertainer and athlete, Paul Robeson accepted the role of Bosambo during a time when he was living in London and was engaged in deep explorations of the roots of African culture through studies of language and music. He felt that if he could portray the African leader, Bosambo, with cultural accuracy and dignity, he could help audiences- especially Black audiences-to understand and respect the roots of Black culture. The filmmakers even took an unusual step towards authenticity by sending a film crew on a four-month voyage into remote areas of Africa to record traditional African dances and ceremonies. These would be interwoven with the studio scenes. After the filming, Robeson was asked back to the studio for retakes of some scenes. He discovered that the film’s message had been changed during editing; it seemed to justify imperialism and upholding the "White Man's Burden". Bosambo was changed from an African leader to a servile lackey of British colonial rule. Robeson was furious and complained,

"The imperialist plot had been placed in the plot during the last days five days of shooting...I was roped into the picture because I wanted to portray the culture of the African people and I committed a faux pas which convinced me that I had failed to weigh the problems of 150,000,000 native Africans...I hate the picture."[1] In 1938, Robeson also added disparagingly that; It is the only film of mine that can be shown in Italy or Germany, for it shows the negro as Fascist states desire him-savage and childish."[2]

Paul Robeson was so disillusioned by the picture that he attempted, but failed, to buy back all the prints to prevent it from being ever shown.[3]


External links


  1. ^ Duberman, Martin Paul Robeson The Discovery of Africa, 1989, pg 182.
  2. ^ Duberman, Martin Paul Robeson The Discovery of Africa, 1989, pg 180.
  3. ^ Robeson, Susan A Pictorial Biography of Paul Robeson: The Whole World in His Hands, 1981, pg 73.


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