Sanders of the River

Watch Sanders of the River

"He Breaks Loose in the Jungle!"
  • Approved
  • 1935
  • 1 hr 25 min
  • 5.4  (723)

Sanders of the River is a 1935 British film that tells the story of British colonial administrator Commissioner Sanders, played by Leslie Banks, in the fictional African country of Nigeria. The film is based on a novel by Edgar Wallace and is directed by Zoltan Korda. One of the highlights of the film, however, is the magnetic performance from the lead actor, Paul Robeson, who plays Bosambo, a local tribal chief and ally of Commissioner Sanders.

The movie presents an idealized, romanticized view of colonialism, which plays as a celebration of British imperial power. Commissioner Sanders is portrayed as a valiant figure of righteousness who bravely takes on the challenges of ruling over the African people. He is presented as a man who is willing to do whatever it takes to maintain the British empire's grip over the African continent. The film shows him as someone who is dedicated to achieving peace, order, and justice in this colonial territory.

The story of Sanders of the River revolves around Sanders and his efforts to combat gun-running and smuggling on the Niger River. The focus is on the adventures of Commissioner Sanders, but Robeson's Bosambo is given ample screen time. Bosambo is depicted as a man of intelligence and charisma, respected by his people, and capable of not only fighting against the unjust forces of colonialism but also of working alongside Sanders to create a better future for the people of the region. In the film's climactic scene, Bosambo leads his people to a successful attack against the gun-runners and labor agents who have been exploiting the African population.

The movie has several visually striking scenes that showcase Korda's directorial talents. The outdoor scenes are spectacularly shot, using the natural beauty of the West African landscape to provide visual splendor. The set design is also impressive, with the filmmakers accurately portraying the African landscape and using authentic African music and dance. One particular scene that stands out is Bosambo's dance, which is performed by Robeson with great intensity, skill, and charisma.

Sanders of the River is a product of its time and place. The movie reflects the prejudices and attitudes of the colonial era, with countless scenes of Africans working in the fields, hunting animals and performing various stereotypical cultural activities. Additionally, the movie offers a simplistic depiction of colonialism, portraying the British as gallant and benevolent rulers who are there to civilize the savage Africans. However, the film’s images and characterizations of Africa's flora and fauna provide a noteworthy visual documentation of African life in the early 20th century.

Paul Robeson's performance is the highlight of Sanders of the River. The actor, singer, and civil rights activist was one of the most prominent African American artists of his time. Robeson had made a name for himself with his performances on stage and screen, most notably in the 1933 film adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's The Emperor Jones. In Sanders of the River, his performance as Bosambo is striking and was viewed as a groundbreaking representation of an African leader who is capable of taking on the challenges of colonialism. Even though the film’s representation is idealized, it was still a significant milestone in early cinematic depictions of Africans.

Overall, Sanders of the River is a movie that offers an entertaining account of colonial life in West Africa. Though the film is marred by its dated colonialist attitude, it is still a compelling watch, particularly for the excellent performances of Paul Robeson and Leslie Banks. The movie offers a unique perspective for modern audiences by providing an example of how Hollywood once presented its audience with a romanticized view of the European colonial era. It can be viewed as a historical document, offering glimpses into the visual representation of Africa and African film stars before the age of pan-African cinema.

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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 25 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    5.4  (723)