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David Lister is a South African born Australian film and television director, lecturer and fine artist.


He grew up on a farm in Mpumalanga Province, South Africa.


After studying painting and sculpture at Pretoria Art School, he was employed at The Performing Arts Council Transvaal (PACT).

As co-head of the scene painting department and head of the props department, he was involved in 40 opera, ballet and drama productions over a period of four and a half years. .

At the age of 22 he designed the sets for “Vrydag” and the hugely popular Afrikaans play “Die Drie Van Der Walts” directed by Francois Swart.

While in the theatre he supplemented his income by painting and undertaking commissions. His paintings are in private collections in South Africa, Namibia, Australia the UK and the US.


A brief period as a documentary film cameraman at SABC TV followed before he left South Africa to study in the UK.

Graduating with first class honours from The London Film school in 1974 he returned to South Africa to work as a director in the film and television industry.


David Lister’s films encompass a variety of genres and he is considered one of the most experienced filmmaking lecturers and feature film and television drama directors in South Africa. In a career spanning 45 years he has directed 16 cinema & telefeatures, 13 television drama series totaling 138 episodes, a 52 part puppet series and 63 documentaries, commercials and corporate videos.


In the early years at SABC TV as a Principal Producer/Director,  Lister directed memorable documentaries such as “The Forgotten Children” (handicapped children)“The High Cost Of Dying”(The funeral business)”The Health Business” (alternative medicine)and iconic sports documentaries “ The Agony and the Ecstasy” (Athletics)”The Punch and Judo Show” (wrestling)”The July” (horse racing),”Before The Wind”(sailing) and “Journey of Dreams” (Ladysmith Black Mambazo).

Lister created and directed the immensely popular “Video 2” and “What’s Happening?” SABC TV series for teenagers before progressing to television dramas and feature films.

His two Leon Schuster feature film comedies “Oh Shucks, Here Comes UNTAG!” and “Panic Mechanic” broke South African cinema box office records.

Lister has worked in Australia and the UK and his productions have been widely distributed internationally, appearing on SABC TV, Mnet, Etv, BBC TV, ITV, Disney, Fox, HBO, NBC, RTL2, and Sky. Eight of his films have been released theatrically in the US, UK, Ireland and South Africa.


His critically acclaimed feature films and television drama series have won him 10 directing awards and numerous actors and technicians have garnered awards for their work under his direction.

He has been nominated for 13 directing awards. He won 6 Artes (the South African equivalent of the “Emmy”) and 2 Star Tonight! (South African national critics) directing awards for the television dramas “Riding High”, “John Ross”, “Barney Barnato”, “The Big Time”, “Konings” a Fespaco jury directing award for “Soweto Green” and a finalist award at the New York Film and TV festival.


Lister is passionate about transferring skills to emerging filmmakers.

He worked at The Media Workshop in Port Elizabeth South Africa for 5 years, lecturing film and television production students in all aspects of filmmaking with special focus on directing and scriptwriting. He was facilitator and mentor for “Songololo”, a ground-breaking project assisting a group of interns and students to write, direct, produce, shoot and edit a 24 minute x 13 episode comedy series which was broadcast on eTV’s Open View HD channel.

He was also The Media Workshop film directing mentor/supervising director for an Eastern Cape Provincial Arts and Culture Council/ National Film and Video Foundation project overseeing the shooting of their training project dramas.

In 2015 he was instrumental in establishing AFDA (The South African School of Motion Picture and Live Performance) in Port Elizabeth where he was employed as Head of Film School and lecturer in directing and production design.

He permanently moved to Australia in 2016 although he continues to work internationally.

By Ginny Pamboukian

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