Peter Davis of Villon Films has made approximately seventy documentary films, including portraits of Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro and Johnny Cash. Born on November 12, 1933 in London, England, Davis moved to Vancouver in 1994. An independent documentary producer, he wrote In Darkest Hollywood: Exploring the Jungles of Cinema's South Africa (University of Ohio Press, 1996), an examination of early Hollywood in South Africa and its affect on racism and apartheid. In Darkest Hollywood was shortlisted for the Alan Paton Book Award in South Africa.

In 2013, as a film historian, Davis also self-published a book of still photographs depicting the first use of Zulus as primary characters in a silent film. This rare footage from 1927 was generated by an Italian film crew that had originally intended to make a feature film in Angola. Davis' book entitled On Location, Zululand (2013) tells the story, through photos taken by the film crew at the time, of how the film came to be made, and of its unique place in the history of cinema.

According to Peter Davis: The Italian crew landed in South Africa intending to make a film about a white woman abducted by Zulus. When this was forbidden by white authorities, director Attilio Gatti decided instead to make a film about Zulu life. He designed a melodrama that had little to do with Zulu culture, but which contained the first authentic scenes of Zulu life to be recorded at that time.

Having none of the racist sentiments of South African whites, the crew were able to live with and work on close terms with the Zulus, and managed to create the first full-length fiction film with an all-African cast to be made in South Africa, and possible in all of Africa. This film was called Siliva the Zulu.

Coming as it did at the moment of impact of talkies, the film received minimal distribution in Italy, having no more than a half-dozen screenings, after which it disappeared until being pulled out of an archive by Villon Films, which added a soundtrack of traditional Zulu music, and offered the film for distribution.

Peter Davis also edited "Lionel Rogosin, A Man Possessed: the story of the making of the classic anti-apartheid film, "Come Back, Africa". (STE Publishers, South Africa)

[BCBW 2013]