This film is held by the BFI (ID: 59227).


Central African Film Unit Newsreel. Artists In Stamps - P. Jaffa makes portraits from old stamps and is also a yoga guru. Once Upon a Rhino - orphan rhino Rupert saved from the Kariba Dam is brought up on a farm. Spotlight on Fort Jameson - scenes of the tobacco industry.



The 35mm newsreel Federal Spotlight was produced by the Central African Film Unit and played predominantly to white audiences in the cinemas of the Federation. From 1957 until the end of the Federation in 1963, CAFU also produced a monthly 16mm newsreel, entitled Rhodesia and Nyasaland News, which played primarily on the mobile cinema circuit to local African audiences. However, this was afforded far less prominence, time and financial investment than Federal Spotlight (Burns, 2002, 98, 100). While Federal Spotlight was produced for exhibition within the Rhodesias and Nyasaland, ‘vigorous efforts’ were made to get items filmed for the Spotlight into newsreels overseas to promote the Federation on an international level (Smyth, 1983, 134). An example of this is the second item within this edition – Once upon a Rhino – which featured in Pathe News and in British Movietone News (under the title ‘One of the Family’) in November 1962.

This story of Rupert the Rhino was also reported within the British press. In May 1962, the Daily Mirror ran an article reporting that ‘Rupert the Rhino is an orphan. His mother died on a flood-swept island in Rhodesia’s Kariba Lake when he was about a month old. A game ranger rescued the baby rhino a fortnight ago’. The press reports followed a similar tone to the newsreel. ‘Now Rupert is living it up in the garage of the Condy family’, the Mirror added, ‘Sleeping on clean straw. Warmed by infra-red lamps. Getting two regular pints of milk a day. And fussed over by the whole family’ (Daily Mirror, 28 May 1962, 3). A couple of months later, the same paper published a two-page feature entitled ‘There’s a Rhino at the bottom of our garden’, discussing how ‘Ricky the terrier’, a family dog of John Condy, a Government Veterinary Surgeon living six miles from Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia, had decided to be ‘pals’ with the new family pet, Rupert the Rhino (Daily Mirror, 19 July 1962, 12).

Rupert the Rhino was saved as part of Operation Noah, a major wildlife operation between 1958 and 1964, which aimed to rescue and relocate animals that were stranded after the construction of the Kariba Dam had led to the flooding of the Zambezi valley. The Central African Film Unit covered Operation Noah in depth, most notably in John Roulet’s film Bring Forth Every Living Thing, and earlier issues of Federal Spotlight showed the relocation of rhinos from the flooded plains (for example, Federal Spotlight No. 112). A recent piece in the Daily Mail, entitled ‘The Extraordinary story of Rupert the Rhino’, tracked down Mike Condy (the young boy in the film who was eight at the time) and his childhood friend and neighbour, Simon Ford, who recalled their memories of life on the farm. The article described how a team, led by Rupert Fothergill and including John Condy, had rescued Rupert by building a raft from oil drums and tree trunks, on which to carry stranded animals to safety (Rupert’s mother ‘was too heavy, slipped off and drowned’). Rupert would live on the farm for a year, until he became too big, at which point he was released back into the bush (Daily Mail, 17 November 2006). 



Released at a time of extreme social and political unrest within the Federation, Federal Spotlight No. 167 contains items on creating artwork out of stamps and on a pet rhino. As a government cinemagazine, subject to censorship, the items often veered towards the mundane or at least the non-political, yet these subjects still served to promote an idealised image of the Federation for both domestic and overseas audiences.

In many respects the reel offers a nostalgic celebration of a traditional settler lifestyle that was seemingly coming to an end. The story of Rupert the Rhino (possibly the only item that could be deemed more lightweight than the previous tale of stamps) is presented as a fairytale. The commentator begins by stating ‘Once upon a time there was a little orphan rhino called Rupert. He lived at Kariba, but the big lake sprang up and Rupert lost his Mummy and Daddy, so a noble knight of the vet department adopted him’. While presented as a light, comic piece, showing Rupert drinking Castle lager and taking his daily bath, the item endorses a message of conservation and, more broadly, of settler paternalism. The settler family look after the African creature and embrace him as a member of the family, before preparing to set him free. Viewed within the context of impending independence, the item presents a nostalgic and optimistic account of settler life, concluding that Rupert would soon be released to a game reserve, where he will live ‘happily ever after’. However, there was to be no fairytale ending, either for Rupert or for the Federation, as within 18 months of his release into the wild (shortly after the break-up of the Federation), Rupert died of pneumonia.

The final item responds more directly to the social changes within the Federation, as it shows the collapse of the tobacco farming industry within Fort Jameson. Over shots of derelict barns, the commentator notes the effects of closing the auction house within the area. The item does once more conclude on a note of optimism, stating that the Europeans that remained are doing ‘better than ever’, while also noting that ‘the emergent African farmers are now catching up with modern methods and many are thriving’. The item endorses a message of African development under European guidance, but still inadvertently reveals the vastly different conditions for the Africans, who are shown checking their harvest in small huts. This brief reference is the only consideration of the African experience within a newsreel whose avoidance of significant social and political issues is conspicuous. These impending changes within the Federation do, though, still influence the film’s tone and message, as the newsreel romanticises and celebrates an image of traditional settler life for white audiences at home and overseas.

Tom Rice (May 2010)


Works Cited

Burns, J. M., Flickering Shadows: Cinema and Identity in Colonial Zimbabwe (Ohio: Ohio University Research in International Studies, 2002).

‘The Extraordinary Story of Rupert the Rhino’, Daily Mail, 17 November 2006.

‘Pinta for the Orphan Rhino’, Daily Mirror, 28 May 1962, 3.

‘There’s a Rhino at the bottom of our Garden’, Daily Mirror, 19 July 1962, 12.

Smyth, Rosaleen, ‘The Central African Film Unit’s Images of Empire, 1948-1963’, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol. 3, No.2, 1983, 131-147. 



Series Title:

Technical Data

Film Gauge (Format):
16mm Film
228 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Central African Federation
Director of Photography
CULL, Humphrey
Director of Photography
HAY, Michael
Director of Photography
Production Company
Central African Film Unit