From Anant Singh's office, this official biography:
Anant Singh has brought to international screens the most prevailing anti-apartheid films ever made, including Sarafina! (Whoopi Goldberg) and Place of Weeping from director Darrell James Roodt.
He was born and raised in Durban, South Africa where his association with film began with 8mm and 16mm home movies: he started a cinema for the neighbourhood kids in his own lounge.
Before video, 16mm film rental was the only home entertainment available and as an adolescent, he worked part-time in a movie rental store re-winding films. From the beginning he was in possession of an indelible drive which today has made him one of the leading motion picture producers in South Africa, and certainly the first black film producer.
Anant Singh made his first entrepreneurial foray at the age of eighteen when he relinquished his engineering studies at the University of Durban-Westville to purchase a movie rental store. This, as a starting point, in industry beset with obstacles for a black South African, was an early indication of Singh's enduring vision.
From there, he moved into video distribution and attended global markets and industry events under the acquisition 'banner', displaying the beginnings of a business style that would, one day, see him securing world-wide distribution for his own product.
The formation of VIDEOVISION ENTERPRISES (now known as Videovision Entertainment) was the beginning of a gradual acquisition of overseas product for local audiences and fourteen years on, this company is one of the largest independent distributors of motion pictures in Southern Africa.
With his years of accumulated experience and contacts made in distribution, Anant Singh expanded into film production in 1984, financing most of the films personally. His first feature film, A Place of Weeping, directed by Darrell Roodt, was the first anti-apartheid motion picture to be made entirely in South Africa and received world-wide acclaim. It was also the only South African film to play on HBO and was released theatrically in the United States and most global territories.
In 1992, Anant Singh brought to international screens the most powerful statement against the apartheid regime, and his most ambitious project - Sarafina! the tragic story of the 1976 Soweto uprisings. Directed by Darrell James Roodt on location in Soweto and starring Whoopi Goldberg, Miriam Makeba and Leleti Khumalo, the motion picture is based on the award-winning international stage production by mutli-Grammy and Tony nominee, Mbongeni Ngema. Sarafina! was distributed in the United States by Hollywood Pictures through Buena Vista Distribution, and by Warner Bros. in foreign territories. The picture earned significant critical and commercial acclaim, grossing $8 million in the United States and garnered the 1993 Christopher Award for 'affirming the highest values of the human spirit'.
Towards the end of 1992, in an exciting new relationship, Anant Singh was engaged by Disney to produce, Fatherhood, starring Patrick Swayze. In 1993, Dead Beat was co-produced with Distant Horizon, in association with actor Christopher Lambert and George Moffley. This was followed by the BBC Films co-production Captives which was directed by Angela Pope, and starred Tim Roth (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction) and Julia Ormond (Legends of the Fall, First Knight and Sabrina). Captives was selected as the opening film in the Venetian Nights section of the 1994 Venice Film Festival, in addition to its selection for Gala Presentation at the 1994 Toronto Film Festival.
Also in 1994 Anant Singh produced the exclusive documentary Countdown To Freedom, directed by Danny Schechter and narrated by James Earl Jones and Alfre Woodard. This film documents the first free and fair election in South Africa and includes solitary access to Nelson Mandela as he took the final steps on his walk from prison to Presidency. It presents an intimate and independent chronicle of ten days of change in an event of global historical importance, taking the audience inside President Mandela's campaign, not previously revealed on television.
In the early 1990's, Singh bid aggressively for, and acquired the coveted film rights to Alan Paton's profound literary classic Cry, The Beloved Country, but delayed production until South Africa attained democracy. Paton's story was adapted for screen by Oscar nominee Ronald Harwood (The Dresser, The Browning Version) and directed by Darrell James Roodt. The film stars Academy Award nominees James Earl Jones (The Great White Hope) and Richard Harris (This Sporting Life and The Field) and a stellar local cast including Vusi Kunene (The Line), Leleti Khumalo (Sarafina!) and Abigail Kubeka. The music is scored by five time Academy Award winner, John Barry (Dances With Wolves, Out Of Africa, Born Free and The Lion In Winter).
Cry, The Beloved Country had its world premiere in New York in October 1995 as a benefit for the Friends of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund. The event was attended by President Nelson Mandela and United States First Lady, Hillary Rodham-Clinton with the stars of the film James Earl Jones and Richard Harris, director Darrell James Roodt and John Barry who scored the film.
In 1996, Anant Singh produced Prisoners of Hope, which documents the reunion on Robben Island of 1 250 of its former political prisoners led by President Mandela. This event of the reunion of former prisoners as free men, at their place of incarceration, was considered to be of historical importance by Anant Singh and as a result it has been saved, on film, for posterity.
Also during 1996, Singh produced a documentary detailing the South African visit of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, providing a service that should have been the duty of the public broadcaster. Recently completed is a series of documentaries on President Mandela; Ahmed Kathrada who is an advisor to the president and who was imprisoned with the President on Robben Island; Dr Goonam, a fiery Indian woman anti-apartheid activist who played a key role in the passive resistance campaigns of the 1940's and on the acclaimed playwright Athol Fugard. These documentaries, as well as Countdown To Freedom and Prisoners of Hope, illustrate Anant Singh's commitment to South Africa and his commitment to recording events of historical importance to the country.
Anant Singh embarked on his first Afrikaans film project, Paljas, in 1996. This film marked the first collaboration between South Africa's two leading filmmakers, Anant Singh and Katinka Heyns. Paljas is a truly indigenous film, shot by local crew and cast, in an indigenous language. The film was marketed in the international arena as a foreign language film. Paljas was South Africa's official entry for the 1998 Academy Awards in the category of Best Foreign Language Film, the first ever for a South African feature film.
Recognition of Anant Singh's skill and acumen in the film industry resulted in the South African Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology appointing him to the Arts and Culture Task Group (ACTAG) to set up a national agenda for film development. Recently, Anant was appointed by the Ministry as a member of the Interim Film Fund which would ultimately result in the formation of a film commission for South Africa. The aim of fund is to nurture the wealth of talent in South Africa and at the same time, it will give opportunities to previously disadvantaged filmmakers. In 1997, Singh was appointed to The Advisory Panel of the Directorate of Publications. Later, he served as president of the two film and television industry representative bodies, the National Television And Video Association (NTVA) and The Independent Producers' Organisation (IPO).
Singh holds the distinction of being the first South African Producer to be invited to become a member of the prestigious Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, giving him the ultimate recognition by the international film community. He also serves as a member of the National Advisory Council for Maryville College in Tennessee in the United States of America.
Face, executive produced by Anant Singh and recently completed in the UK with BBC Films, is a gritty urban drama that re-unites director Antonia Bird with Robert Carlyle (Trainspotting) with whom she made the critically acclaimed Priest. Face tells the story of a group of small-time thugs looking for one last heist as their tickets out of the slums and the criminal life. When the botched job leaves them scrambling away with only one share to split between them, amity quickly turns to enmity. Paranoia, greed and deception make a volatile combination as the five gangsters play a deadly game of 'cheat or be cheated'. The film stars an impressive list of British talent including Ray Winstone (Nil by Mouth), Steven Waddington (Ivanhoe), Philip Davis, Lena Headey, Peter Vaughn, Sue Johnston and Damon Alburn, the lead singer of the rock group Blur makes his film debut in Face. The film premiered at the Edinburgh Festival in August 1997 and will also be screened at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals in September 1997.
The Theory of Flight, which was shot on location in Cardiff and London, was also produced by Anant Singh with BBC Films. This darkly comic film starring, three time Academy Award nominee actor/director/writer Kenneth Branagh (Henry V, Dead Again, Frankenstein, Hamlet) and Golden Globe nominee Helena Bonham Carter(A Room with a View, Howards End, Mighty Aphrodite), charts the outlandish relationship that grows between a young woman (Bonham Carter) afflicted with a Motor Neurone Disease and her reluctant and eccentric care-giver (Branagh).
Bravo Two Zero, based on the multi million best-selling book of the same title, was recently completed in South Africa with Anant Singh as producer. It is the story of a crack SAS troop, that embarked on a top secret mission, in January 1991, to infiltrate Iraqi territory and sever strategic communication lines between Baghdad and North West Iraq and to seek and destroy mobile SCUD launchers. Their mission goes awry after being discovered by an Iraqi shepherd who alerts the Iraqi forces. In the ensuing battle, the troop suffers injuries and is forced to flee on foot to the nearby Syrian border. In the desperate days that followed, though stricken by hypothermia and other injuries, the patrol 'went ballistic'. In their bid to escape, four men are captured, three fall victim to the Iraqi firepower and only Sergeant Andy McNab escaped. Sean Bean (Golden Eye & Anna Karenina) stars as Sergeant Andy McNab and the film is directed by multi-award winning director Tom Clegg.
Recently completed in Wales is Happy Now, the directorial feature film debut of Philippa Collie-Cousins executive-produced by Singh. Happy Now is an off-beat thriller set in a remote Welsh village starring Ioan Gruffudd, Paddy Considine, Richard Coyle, Susan Lynch, Robert Pugh, Om Puri, Alison Steadman, Jonathan Rhys Myers and newcomer Emmy Rossum.
Singh's latest production, Mr Bones, starring South Africa's Number One Boxoffice Star, Leon Schuster, is set against the backdrop of the Sun City Million Dollar Golf Challenge. It is a classic slapstick comedy that follows the adventures and misadventures of golf sensation Vince Lee (David Ramsey) and his hapless manager Pudbedder (Faizon Love) as they are inexorably drawn into a web of utter chaos spun by the well-meaning witchdoctor, Mr. Bones (Leon Schuster). Mr Bones will be released in South Africa on November 30.
Singh's next film will be the film version of Nelson Mandela's autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. He was granted the coveted film rights ahead of other bidders in March 1996. The criteria for the bid was that a project of this nature had to be brought to the screen by an "accomplished South African filmmaker with established links to distribute the film worldwide." On awarding the rights, President Mandela commented, "Anant Singh is a producer I respect very much and when we were considering various offers, I personally opted for him. He is a man of tremendous ability and I think that given the resources and support, he can do absolutely excellently."
In development is a motion picture on the life of Fulbright Scholar, Amy Biehl who was murdered on August 25, 1993, by militant students while she was studying South Africa's transition to democracy. A script has already been developed by American writer, Johanna Baldwin with the collaboration of Peter and Linda Biehl, the parents of the slain student. The script is a very powerful and emotive one that focuses on Amy's experiences, leading up to her tragic death, and also gives an insight into the problems and dangers faced by young South African Blacks within their own communities.
Anant Singh together with Showtime Concerts brought Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine to South Africa as part of their Evolution World Tour in March 1997. Gloria Estefan is without doubt, the most popular cross-over artist the world has ever seen. Gloria Estefan fans had the opportunity to party along with her to the strains of popular tracks like Party Time, Doctor Beat, Conga, The Rythm is Gonna Get You, Everlasting Love and Reach which was adopted as the official song of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
In October 1997, Anant Singh and Videovision co-presented the South African leg of Michael Jackson's History World Tour. South Africans were treated to the best live entertainment extravaganza ever seen in the country in five shows, three of which were sold out. Jackson thrilled fans with a power-packed show that spanned his career as an entertainer with mind-blowing special effects and a breath-taking performance by the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson.
Anant Singh and Videovision Entertainment, as part of the New Radio Consortium which includes Kagiso Trust Investments Company, and internationally acclaimed singer / songwriter, Johnny Clegg acquired two formerly state-owned radio stations, Radio Oranje and East Coast Radio. This was followed by the establishment of Kagiso Media Limited, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange listed media company of which Singh and Videovision Entertainment and The Kagiso Trust were founding shareholders. This was one of the few pure empowerment deals with majority ownership and control in the hands of Black businessmen.
In April 1998, Anant was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Port Elizabeth for his "wide-ranging contributions to the South African film industry and for taking South African stories and talent to the world; his efforts to raise awareness locally and abroad, through the medium of film, of the injustices of apartheid; and for his commitment to recording South Africa's history for generations to come. In August 1998, the Wine Country Film Festival in Northern California awarded its inaugural DISTINGUISHED PRODUCER AWARD to Anant Singh for his "commitment to cinema and social justice".
The University Of Durban-Westville, the institution Singh dropped out of to pursue a career in the film industry, conferred him with an Honorary Doctorate in May 2000 in recognition of his achievements as a filmmaker and an astute businessman.
The World Economic Forum conferred its prestigious Crystal Award on Singh in January 2001. On announcing the Award, Professor Klaus Schwab, President of the Forum said, "Anant Singh's significant commitment to recording South African history and his life-long engagement for social justice are exemplary and distinguished him clearly for the Crystal Award."
With conviction, he has showcased internationally, South African stories and talent and earned for himself recognition as a pioneer in the motion picture industry of South Africa.