“His work has to do with precision of understanding and portrayal, humour in both, and fellowship as an ideal.” Peter Sainsbury
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BURRA SAHIB (1974)
My connections with India begin with my family. My uncles lived in Mysore, where, with my grandfather Eugene Van Ingen, they made their reputation as taxidermists over the decades.
This film documents the daily activities of the family, their employees, and their taxidermy business in India.
“Taken together with its companion piece General Sahib (Nick Gifford, 1976), this forms an unforgettable documentary portrait of curious lives from the days of the Raj. The first deals with Gifford's three uncles, all Boer expatriates, who run a taxidermy business in India. With patient elaboration, a picture of a time-warped Imperial past emerges alongside the personal details. Sepia photographs of polo and pig-sticking compare with Uncle Joubert's contemporary sporting life - duck-shooting or fishing from the same hide coracle that he has used for forty years. Few words, the images speak for themselves.” TIME OUT
BURRA SAHIB – BEFORE THE LAST WAR.
Seeing photographs of my uncles before the last war – superbly dressed in jodphurs and cravats, picnicing after pig sticking – you realize they then lived in an absurd world that could not continue. Independence was to come within fifteen years or so.
Yet they did not really fit in, as they were Anglo-Dutch, born there and in Trade. Luckily they were superb shikars and their taxidermy was second to none.
Yet seeing the film now, there is a sadness in it, of hopes not realized.
Alex Neel produced and funded this film.
Peter Cantor edited Burra Sahib. An ex BBC producer/director for Horizon, a lively, sensitive man, I was his cameraman on several educational films and enjoyed working with him. He died suddenly a year or two later.
View clips from the film!
Click on the 2 video clips below to watch excerpts on Vimeo:
Click on the frame below to view the full length film on Vimeo. (Playing time 58 minutes)