This film is a disconcerting mix of colour and b/w footage, with a mixed storyline. Filmed in 1941 by amateurs, part of the film acts out imagined scenes from an earlier life in the Lupa Goldfields which runs from the 1920s and is filmed in colour. However it also acts as a real-time documentary of the geography and wildlife of the area with extensive sequences showing the early practices of gold mining from panning (wet and dry) to mechanical means in the 1940s. The group of film-makers wanted to preserve the history of this little known gold rush. The administration of the goldfields and some of the social life is also represented, alongside the acting out of a couple of sub-storylines.
The Lupa Gold Field is an area of around 1,000 square miles in south-west Tanganyika (Tanzania). European mining started after alluvial gold was found in water drawn from the Lupa River near Lake Rukwa.
A ‘script’ for the film was also deposited and some of the details in the shot-listing have been taken from this. The credits read: Photographed by Theodore Rufus Naylor, Produced in collaboration with Robert & Mercedes Mackay.
Intertitle: Chunya, 1941.
00:17 A rotund man (George Layton) approaches camera, walking down a dirt road. Switches to view from car with a woman behind the wheel (Mrs Mary Dicey). She pulls up and talks to Layton, and he gets into the car.
00:37 Car (Reg no. MB 370) comes round the corner of a building and pulls up. They get out of the car and enter the Lupa Club (sign reads private club for members only) where they join men at the bar.
Intertitle: Tukuyu, 1922.
01:04 Barrel of a Cannon. Men are seen working on the land with local, long handled picks.
01:24 Group of young Africans seated on the ground outside grass thatched huts. A gold prospector in pith helmet (Bill Cummins) passes by, followed by porters carrying his luggage.
01:43 Cummins, followed by porters, crosses the tree line and descends hill. He shoots into bushes, possibly to show this was ‘wild and dangerous’ country, then washes his hands in a stream, scooping up some gravel and dirt that catches his eye. He pans for gold using lid of cooking pot.
02:33 Newspaper headline and article: ‘Gold found Upcountry by William Cummins on the Lupa River.’
02:40 Prospectors arrive by various means: motorcycle (Sandy Kerr), bicycle, one walking with porters carrying luxuries and a dog. Another is being carried by two of his porters, and one is on a donkey (Charley Wood).
03:43 Wood is met by two other white men who drink with relish from the bottle he passes to them.
03:58 Cummins shows a gold nugget to the newly arrived prospectors and draws a map in the dirt. 3 men travel in a 1920s-style car as steam comes from the bonnet. 2 men abandon the car and press on along the rock-strewn track.
04:27 Train of porters carrying loads approach over brow of hill, then along the ridge and through tall grass.
05:10 Prospector with false beard, followed by porters, being greeted by a fellow prospector.
05:18 At stream at Mpive, prospector looks on as Africans pan for gold.
05:31 Tall grass burning and then roof of hut is aflame. 2 white men are salvaging goods from the hut, which is destroyed.
06:45 A line of African men are dry panning gold dirt in panning dishes.
07:05 Layton, outside a thatched hut, examines a ticket, puts it in his pocket and goes inside his hut. Inside he takes the last scrap of food from the table and eats it. He leaves the hut, tightens his belt another notch, joins a group of seated Africans and eats some of their ground maize food.
08:00 Scene showing white man at a bar. He looks at his watch, finishes his drink and leaves.
08:05 Mrs Menzies, a white nurse from Mbeya, which is about 50 miles away, crosses the River Sira with 2 porters, one of whom is carrying her medical case as she has been called to give Layton medical assistance. She walks up a hill, wiping off sweat. She arrives at Layton’s hut, and takes Layton’s temperature. Having decided to move him, 4 Africans carry him on shoulder-stretcher.
09:44 Interior of the Lupa Bar (1941) with group of white people (including Mrs Dicey) talking at the bar. There is a darts board with a man throwing darts. Back to the 1920s, and the re-enactment shows groups of men crowding at the bar and drinking noisily (this represents a Lupa diggers party). One man at bar suddenly punches another unconscious to the ground and arguments follow. Attempts to revive man by fanning him, and feeding him beer.
10:24 White man orders drinks (1941).
10:31 Store sign reads: John B. McFie. Jock McFie greets a porter at his store door and porter carries crate away on his shoulder in exchange for a credit note. A second porter collects another crate labelled ‘evaporated milk’ and heads off.
11:02 The first porter walks by hut with crate when white man comes out to stop him. (Crate labelled John Haig’s Whisky.) He prises open the crate, unwraps bottle from packing, tucks an IOU under packing straw and returns lid. Porter continues his way carrying crate.
11:48 Another white man appears (Jock Fisher) and calls porter over. He too exchanges IOU for bottle. His note reads ‘Thanks for the bottle, Jock’.
12:05 Many different hands take bottles from crate and replace them with IOUs. The acted story continues by showing several prospectors following the crate labelled whisky with their mugs.
12:55 The 2 porters are seen heading off in different directions to deliver the crates.
13:16 Layton pries open his crate to find only one bottle and lots of IOUs. He kicks the crate in frustration. The men following the crate are sent away from his hut, disgruntled.
13:59 Another prospector is sitting outside his hut when his crate, labelled ‘evaporated milk’ arrives. He retrieves a bottle of whisky and pours a drink.
14:35 The other prospectors come over to his hut and they all share the bottle.
15:04 In another scene, a prospector sketches a design, and constructs a machine, which appears to be a centrifugal separator.
15:24 Group of Africans are digging and adding soil to a chute on the working machine. Layton unwraps a nugget and examines it.
16:04 Layton eats his meal of corned beef and bread, using a crate as a table.
16:20 Shots of the scenery as the weather turns and rivers are in flood.
17:07 Charley Wood is pushed across a river in bathtub. He falls out and struggles in the water.
17:40 Africans labourers are shown panning gold using a large water sluice.
18:08 Scene showing local fishing boats then the catch is piled on the beach.
19:12 2 white men leave the jetty on a motor boat called Prince.
19:22 Scenes of wildlife including birds, hippos, crocodile, giraffe, lion, cheetah, and eagle. This may be Lake Rukwa at the foot of Rift Valley.
21:12 Back in the Lupa Club (1941), Mrs Dicey is talking, joking and playing dice.
21:30 Gold buyer (Jock Sutherland in Chunya) weighs gold on his scales and counts out money.
21:57 A messenger brings telegram. After reading it, the gold buyer takes down the old sign (Price of gold 63/-) and replaces it with new one (Price of gold 85/-, date reads Sep 1931). He deals with his next customer.
22:34 Gold-panning as an industrial operation, with large powered rotating sluices, overseen by prospector called Goodrich. He shows his formally-dressed wife and her friend around the site.
23:24 In the next scene, a prospector pans from a wheelbarrow, and leaves gold he has found to dry in the sun. His chickens peck the ground and are then seen eating from the pan containing gold. When he sees the empty pan, he throws it to the floor in disgust.
24:19 An African man hands him a bottle of castor oil which he force-feeds to the chickens.
24:33 The chicken run is then swept out and droppings are panned to retrieve the gold.
25:06 The following scenes show labourers digging at ground with picks. Milestone: Mbeya 45. Royal Mail truck passing. Signs for Mitsingas Hotel, Piccadilly Hotel, Goldfields Hotel. Crates of sanitary goods such as toilet bowls. Sign for Barclays Bank. Bill Martinaglia leaves the Bank.
25:53 Scene showing dancers at Lupa Club.
26:00 Man seen chopping tree down with an axe. Surveyor with sight on tripod. Heavy machinery including bulldozer, clearing land. Sign reads: To Ntumbi Reefs Ltd. 8 miles.
27:03 An African man pounds dirt in large pestle and pours contents into bowl of water from which a white prospector pans for gold. Sign reads: No thoroughfare. Private road. Chipoka & Chapa Reefs, F Loveridge. Further signs read: Saza mine; Shenzi Reefs. 6 miles. Menzies & Wright. Safari Mines.
27:35 Industrialised gold digging equipment, separating and refining machinery.
29:03 Layton tying his tie on the occasion of the visit to the goldfields of Governor-General.
29:11 Soldiers from Kings African Rifles on parade. Governor-General (Sir Mark Aitchinson Young, 1938-41) arrives in car wearing a plumed topi, accompanied by others in similar dress. Receives guard of honour salute. Meets white spectators. Governor leaves in his car, saluting as he goes.
30:03 Official dignitary pins medal on the nurse, Mrs Menzies.
30:11 Newspaper headline: Rumours of Polish Mobilisation. Couple listen to radio broadcast. Tanganyika Standard newspaper headline: German Invasion of Poland. Newspaper headline: French declaration of war.
30:25 Troup of Kings African Rifles marching in uniform. Group of 3 white men in suits, wearing war medals. Small body of white uniformed men marching. Convoy of army trucks drive past parked car.
30:57 Mary Dicey and others in Lupa Club.
31:00 Replicating scene from beginning of film, Layton walks along road towards the camera. Cuts to Union flag flying against the blue sky.
Intertitle: The End. A Lupa Film Society Production