The influence of the US on South African film and television

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The influence of the United States (US) on South African film and television is substantial and multifaceted, reflecting broader trends of globalisation and cultural exchange. From cinematic styles and television formats to thematic content and industry practices, the American impact is evident in various aspects of South African media.

Cinematic styles and techniques

American cinema, known for its high production values and sophisticated storytelling techniques, has significantly influenced South African filmmakers. Looking beyond well-known South African films such as District 9 and Tsotsi, Hollywood’s emphasis on narrative structure, character development and visual effects has been adopted and adapted by many South African directors and producers. For instance, the use of advanced special effects and high-definition cinematography in South African films often mirrors Hollywood standards, enhancing the visual appeal and marketability of local productions. We can see this in more recent productions that have been broadcast on worldwide streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon’s Prime Videoand African streaming platforms such as MultiChoice’s Showmax.

Television formats and genres

The format and genre diversity that is present in American television has found its way into South African programming. Popular genres such as reality TV, sitcoms and drama series have been localised to suit South African audiences. Shows like Survivor South Africa and more recently, The Ultimatum: South Africa, are direct adaptations of their American counterparts, demonstrating the appeal and adaptability of these formats. This trend extends to scripted television, where American-style procedural dramas and soap operas have become a staple in South African households.

Thematic content

Thematically, American films and television shows have influenced South African content by introducing global narratives and culturally resonant themes. Issues such as social justice, racial equality and personal freedom, often explored in American media, resonate strongly in the South African context. This has led to the creation of locally relevant content that addresses similar themes, fostering a global dialogue while remaining rooted in the South African experience.

Cross-cultural exchange

The influence is not unidirectional; South African stories and talents are increasingly making their mark internationally, facilitated by the exposure and opportunities provided by American platforms. Many South African actors, directors and films have gained international recognition, contributing to a cultural exchange that enriches the industry as a whole globally.


The influence of the US on South African film and television is a testament to the pervasive reach of American media and the dynamic nature of cultural exchange. While South African filmmakers and producers draw inspiration from American practices, they also infuse their material with their unique perspectives and narratives, creating a vibrant and diverse media landscape. This interplay continues to shape the evolution of South African film and television, highlighting the importance of global connections in the modern media environment.

Written by Siwakhile Maseko.