SA’s Mr Bollywood dies after long film career

Pioneer: Moosa Moosa with his wife Mariam at the Cannes film festival in 2009. The Moosa family has been associated with films in South Africa since 1939. (Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

Pioneer: Moosa Moosa with his wife Mariam at the Cannes film festival in 2009. The Moosa family has been associated with films in South Africa since 1939. (Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

The custodian of the oldest independent cinema and entertainment company in South Africa, Moosa Moosa of the Avalon Group, died in Johannesburg on Monday, aged 75.

He was the son of cinema pioneer AB Moosa, who, in 1939, partnered with 20th Century Fox to cofound the company that would introduce Bollywood films to South Africa.

“This man was Mr Bollywood. He pioneered not just cinema as a whole but particularly Indian cinema, which was dead by the 1970s with the advent of video,” said film critic and family friend Fakir Hassen in an SABC interview on Monday.

At its peak, the Avalon Group had about 20 cinemas across South Africa before the Group Areas Act implemented forced removals, which harmed the company’s growth. Today, three cinemas are run by the Avalon Group.

Moosa took over his father’s role in the company when he died in the 1960s.
In the 1990s, Moosa’s son AB Moosa Jnr joined the family firm, the largest distributor of Indian movies in South Africa.

In 1979, the Avalon Group co-founded the Durban International Film Festival, which will celebrate its 39th year next month when it screens more than 200 films from the subcontinent and the world alongside its Film Mart.

Moosa was the longest-serving film executive in the world. During his acceptance speech for his Lifetime Achievement award in 2007, the first awarded by the South African Film and Television Awards, he said: “I have no doubt that in the years to come, sooner than later, the talent of this country will be bringing home the accolades of the world, no less than the Rugby World Cup.”

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