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Stampede (1930)


Main image of Stampede (1930)
35mm, 3042 ft, black & white, silent
DirectorC. Court Treatt
 Stella Court Treatt
 Errol Hinds
Production CompanyBritish Instructional Films
ScriptStella Court Treatt
Written byC. Court Treatt
 Errol Hinds
PhotographyC. Court Treatt
 Errol Hinds
 Stella Court Treatt
Assistant EditorJohn Orton

Cast: Sheikh Achmed Fadl (Sheikh Asgar); Abd El-Aziz (Nikitu, his son); Abd El-Nebi (Boru, his foster son); Fatmas Idam (Loweno)

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The wanderings of a tribe in the Sudan in search of water.

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Stampede, "the adventures of a wandering tribe in the African forests" (opening titles), was filmed in Sudan on an expedition that originally had been planned as a hunting expedition of African wildlife. It was one of a set of three films released by British Instructional, along with a sound version, Africa in Flames (1930), and Stark Nature (1930), an account of the filming adventure.

Stella Maud Hines, a South African, had met and married Chaplin Court Treatt when he visited Cape Town on a military survey. They were the British answer to American adventurers Osa and Martin Johnston, and they first made their names in commercial cinema with their motoring film, Cape to Cairo (1926).

Stella Court Treatt wrote the script for Stampede, and in her book, Sudan Sands: Filming the Baggara Arabs, she describes the elaborate location production of the film by herself, her husband and her brother, Errol Hinds. The production was financed by Major Court Treatt, fully supported by the British colonial authorities in Sudan, and sold to British Instructional. People of the Habbania tribe of the nomadic Baggara people were mobilised to clear the locations and build the sets. They were also auditioned for the main roles and used as extras. There were dangers in the filming: in the hunting sequences, when fires were started for bush fire sequences, and when Chaplin Court-Treatt and his assistant were badly burnt when some of the nitrate film exploded.

The story of an adopted boy, Boru, who befriends the son of the Sheikh, and who ultimately becomes Sheikh himself when he saves the tribe from famine, is modelled on the genre of the popular romantic 'Arabian tales'. It also celebrates the ethos of the survival of the fittest, by framing its evolutionary message in hunting sequences that portray 'man's' need to hunt animals for food.

Stampede further promotes a racial interpretation of 'the natural order' by intercutting footage of Africans and animals in a comparative way. The film portrays Africans as 'primitive' and exotic, appealing to its audiences by showing the naked torsos of men and bare-breasted women, while also casting its leads (one of whom Stella Court Treatt thought was 'like Valentino') to ensure commercial success and "to thrill the hearts of a good many feminine 'movie fans'".

Emma Sandon

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Video Clips
Africa in Flames: complete film (52:11)
Nionga (1925)
British Instructional Films (1919-1933)
British African Stories