Unknown Togoland

On 8 October 1914, the Times Literary Supplement ran an article In unknown Togoland, which reviewed the book A camera actress in the wilds of Togoland by Miss M Gehrts which tells of her experiences in the filming of The white goddess of Wangora.

The review starts by pointing out that the territory under discussion is ‘the latest British possession’ and gives a view of the Kamina radio station which was the focus of the military expedition. Her description of what the radio station was to accomplish supports its recent destruction. While filming took place in some well-known spots such as the holiday resort at Aledjo, most of it was ‘at the back of beyond’. ‘Tribes were pressed into the service as “supers”, and Miss Gehrts as the “white goddess” of a sensational story.’ It was a ‘further tribute to the enterprise of cinematograph producers.’

The reviewer felt Miss Gehrts spent too much time on trivial matters and should have expanded on ‘the very curiously fortified villages of the Tshokossi’ which was ‘of real ethonological value.’ Her account did however, provide an insight into a ‘new and little-known possession, its people, its customs and its industries’. It ‘was certainly above the average of woman traveller’s adventures’, and the film was said to be successful too.

The director of the film was Hans Schomburgk and the film was released in German in 1910. The Bioscope which has an overview of the film has its filming as 1913/4. There seems to be some discrepancy when the film was made/released with the BFI having 1910, and Wolfgang Furhmann referring to 1917 in his 2015 book Imperial Projections: Screening the colonies.

I wonder if anyone has done a comparison between the films listed in Furhmann’s book with those in English identified by Neil Parsons in Black and White bioscope. I have a sneaky suspicion that German cinematographers were far more adventurous at the time than their British counterparts, given that more German settler women wrote about their experiences than British.

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