Monday, November 08, 2004

SABC to license short films

SABC are licensing local, short films to fit into a half hour slot. This means that the films have to be 24 -26 minutes in length. Also interested in shorts of 12 minutes duration.

Please email with a brief synopsis of your film and your contact details. Please title your email: Short film synopsis.

This IS NOT a call for scripts but for films which have already been shot and edited.

Erica Anyadike

Kae-Kazim on what SouthAfrica can learn from Nigeria

Cape Town based filmmaker Hakeem Kae-Kazim recently completed a co-production, Coming to South Africa, with a Nigerian producer. Shot on minimal budget, on digital video, over ten days, with three lights and "lucky locations" in Durban, Kae-Kazim has emerged from the experience with a better understanding of the Nigerian style of film-making.

"It was deliberately done 'the Nigerian way.' We wanted to mimic that style in the South African context," he says.

The film tells the story of two Nigerians who come to South Africa to improve themselves but end up in a drug gang. Kae-Kazim says it's a story that "humanises the South African stereotype about Nigerians." At the same time it's a cautionary tale to Nigerians back home as to why their fellow countrymen get such a bad press here.

Kae-Kazim admires the Nigerian filmmakers for finding and making stories that entertain, for doing the business without looking over their shoulder for guidance and affirmation.

In a population where thousands of VHS cassettes and VCDs are being pumped into the market, competition is intense. Keeping it cheap is a way of getting high turnover, small margins and maximum return - and for the consumers, a great variety of product choice. Inevitably, this opens up a can of questions about volume versus quality. But the value lies in the audience reception and, as Kae-Kazim notes, some directors are pushing out three or four films at a time.

So, does quality matter to Nigerian filmmakers? The answer from Kae-Kazim is that you make the best out of what you've got available. Omotoso reckons that if a producer thinks he can get more bang from his buck by upping the investment, then he will do that. But the bottom line is - business. It's strictly business.

Typically, movies from the Nigerian stable have riveting storylines, says Hakeem Kae-Kazim, although they may be patchy in terms of technique. It all depends on the maker and the amount of budget and time he can afford.

Coming to South Africa was his first experience of working in this way, at high-speed, relying on the story to make the impact. But the experience was critical in his development. Like all filmmakers would like the big-budget movie to fall into his lap, but he can't afford to rely on that happening.

"We must begin to tell it from our own perspective. I want to tell the story. I don't want to wait three or four years to tell a story because I don't have the money."

For Hakeem, the method is: fill the gap, improve your technique as you learn, by doing; compete in the market.

It's all very well trying to do the Hollywood copycat formula movie that is going to make millions (if you get really lucky), but the most important motto is - tell our own stories.

Kae-Kazim continues: "You have to look at where you started, and then get better. Otherwise we are just playing catch up the whole time." And that, as we know, is not how Bollywood evolved.

Kae-Kazim believes, however, that the popular tide is turning in Nigeria. Audiences are beginning to discriminate much more. They are asking for quality of technique, style and story-telling. The practitioners themselves are looking to create guilds for professional practitioners - a case of separating the wheat from the chaff.

Wait, he says, "In three years time it will be a different picture in Nigeria, whilst South Africa is still flapping about in the dark."

One of the hot issues at Sithengi will be how South African filmmakers respond to the challenge of the Nigerians. Are their audiences even the same? How do our filmmakers respond to local audiences? Nigerians tend to invest in home entertainment - video and DVD machines. South Africans in the township lack that basic technology.

It's time for change? The Nigerians will be at Sithengi in force, to show just how change is done.

Source: Sithengi Newsletter

Nigerians mean business

The biggest players in African film are about to burst onto the Sithengi scene when 130 Nigerian filmmakers arrive in Cape Town to do business.

Some of these filmmakers will be part of a delegation that heads up a forum on Co-production and Distribution possibilities with Nigeria. That discussion takes place formally on November 18th at the Sithengi conference. Many other delegates will be networking with local and international cineastes about the possibilities of business in South Africa and Nigeria.

The public will be treated to a kaleidoscope of Nigerian films on the African Magic Screen where they can choose between titles like Formidable Force, Beautiful Angel, King's Pride and Apostle Kasali.

Nigeria makes about 700 movies a year - films that are increasingly finding a following in South Africa. American movie companies are trying to make inroads on this phenomenal market force in a country where 120 million Nigerians regard VHS and VCD copies of the latest home-grown movie as part of their staple entertainment.

Joburg-based producer-director-actor, Akin Omotoso - who made God Is African and produced this year's competition entry, Gums And Noses - reckons that a symbiotic relationship between South Africa and Nigeria is all-important. The growth of Nigeria's film industry is vital to South Africa.

Omotoso believes there should be more reciprocity. The growth of African partnerships is as important to SA, if not more so, than linkages with Europe and the developed economies. He has, in the normal course of his business, been keeping lines of communication flowing between South Africa and Nigeria. "Discourse is already happening, under the radar," he says.

"I just want to meet up with the guys and find out what business they're doing and if we can do business - talk in the same way that I would talk to a Belgian, say. I understand the curiosity element about them (Nigerian filmmakers) but it's no different than anywhere else. It's not a weird thing."

The hyperbole and bad press that surrounds Nigerians masks the fact that their entrepreneurship in making movies that people want to see underlines big business.

Says Omotoso: "Nigerian audiences want to see Nigerian films. So there's a demand. And Nigerian producers understand their audience. So they produce movies for their market. It's a business - not like South Africa where nobody knows what South Africans want."

Source: Shitengi Newsletter

Sithengi strives for a Cinema Paradiso through Italian connection

A year after sealing a film co-production treaty between South Africa and Italy - and buoyed by the success of Hotel Rwanda at the Toronto Film Festival which was financed on the back of this bilateral agreement - a strong Italian delegation will be back at Sithengi 2004 to seek new linkages with its southern partners.

And the spoils of the 2003 protocol are potentially huge. Hotel Rwanda, starring Nick Nolte and Joaquin Phoenix, was picked from stiff United States competition for the Audience award at the Toronto Film Festival where it recently premiered. The movie is due for release in Hollywood this December.

The film's initial success has given considerable zest to the Cape-Roma film pact and will add lustre to South Africa's producing capabilities in increasing complex terrain of film financing.

Amongst Sithengi panellists who will discuss Working With Italy (November 16th, 11h30 to 13h00 on the conference programme) is home-boy Izzy Codron, who was co-executive producer on Hotel Rwanda, according to the treaty structure. Wearing his South African Film Finance Corporation (SAFFCOR) cap, Codron can offer considerable insight into the detail of putting together production packages in terms of the treaty.

"Why is the treaty important?" he asks, rhetorically. "It gives us a foothold in the European Union and allows us to do tripartite productions with other EU countries that have European funding. (In the case of Hotel Rwanda) it gave us access to the UK."

Codron reckons that South Africans can learn a lot from the technical finesse of Italian filmmakers. "Technically, their crews are brilliant. They have fabulous cinematographers, fantastic directors and great writers."

Codron is likely to go ahead with another Italian co-production in 2005 through his company, The Imaginarium.

A mutual transfer of skill, experience and culture is underscored by the Italian Cinema Authors Guild (ANAC) which has numerous projects in the pipeline for South Africa.

ANAC Gregoretti has said that Sithengi will provide a favourable environment to implement and protect intellectual rights. The delegation will also look at new ways of financing "quality cinema". An Italian state fund would also be instituted directly for the purpose of fuelling production between South Africa and Italy.

Sithengi boasts a good showing of Italian films, including the in-competition The Consequences of Love, an existential thriller from director Paolo Sorrentino, who will also be on the panel. Other guests are Paolo Virzi whose film Caterina in the Big City, is showing in the World Cinema line-up, Francesco Munzi, director of one of the most acclaimed Italian films at the Venice Film Festival 2004, Andate e Ritorno/Round Trip; producers Domenico Procacci, Carlo Brancaleoni of Rai, Christiano Bortone (Saimir) and African Italian filmmaker, Alberto Ianuzzi.

Sithengi aims to develop local talent

Between November 16th and 19th, Sithengi 2004 will host this exciting forum for filmmakers. Some 70 participants, ranging from students to young, relatively inexperienced cineastes from the region will pitch in with older, more skilled local personnel as well as a few masters from Africa and abroad.

Says CEO of Sithengi, Michael Auret: "The Talent Campus is a great opportunity for students and both aspiring and experienced filmmakers to learn from masters in the industry, both locally and internationally. The Sithengi Film & Television Market will now provide a new learning environment within the Market to allow professionals to increase their knowledge and skills and benefit from visiting international experts".

The Talent Campus will cover important aspects of the filmmaking process from pre-production, production, post-production and promotion and marketing to distributing film.

The Berlin Talent Campus brought in over 400 participants from about 60 countries. The success of this blueprint is reckoned to have revived the dynamism of the Berlinale amongst a growing, often confusing cluster of film festivals scattered through Europe.

It is hoped that Sithengi will add new shine to its lustre with the potential explosion of skills energy from the inaugural Talent Campus. "Our aim is to allow aspirant and veteran filmmakers an opportunity to acquire knowledge on global trends and techniques.

Source: Sithengi Newsletter

Berlin World Cinema Fund comes to SA

At the same time, they will also launch the Berlin World Cinema Fund in South Africa. This fund is an initiative of the Berlinale. It will swell funding sources for filmmakers in developing countries in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.

A pool of 500,000 Euros will be distributed annually to support feature films or creative full-length documentaries from these regions. The Fund promises to recognise and reward applicants who submit work with "a strong cultural identity". They will also help to strengthen the profile of these films in German cinemas.

South African production companies who are promoting their own directing talent, or German companies using a local director, could be in line for grants of up to 100,000 Euros for a project in the 200,000 to 1 million Euro range. Successful applicants are eligible for a disbursement of a further 15,000 Euros for distributing product in Germany. Applicants can go to the website: and check for links to the World Cinema Fund.

Source: Shitengi Newsletter

German Co-production treaty one step closer

Germany and South Africa are poised to sign a film co-production treaty that could truly transform the local industry from being a service-based location destination into becoming prime partners in the making, direction and ownership of movie product.

At the Sithengi Film and Television Market 2004, industry representatives from both countries are set to seal discussions that began between executives of both Sithengi and the Berlinale in February 2003.

Co-production treaties are becoming a vital mechanism for accessing funds that are not always fully available in one country. A German co-production treaty would expose South African product to more financing possibilities from that country and would also increase opportunities for cashing in on funds cached under the European Union umbrella.

Ms Sonia Moerkens from the Berlinale Co-production Market and Ms Dorothee Wenner from the Forum, will front a workshop discussion at the Sithengi conference on the co-production possibilities at Artscape on November 17th. Check the conference programme for details.

Brazil to forge closer ties with SA film

Three new film projects are being negotiated between South Africa and Brazil, according to the chief executive officer of the Gauteng Film Office, Themba Sibeko.

"Very soon you will see concrete co-operation between a film company in Gauteng and one in Rio, or Sao Paolo," Sibeko revealed.

The content of the deals will be revealed when all parties come together at Sithengi, Sibeko said. Stakeholders in the film industry will discuss the options of co-production partnerships between South Africa and Brazil when all parties engage at the Cape Town marketplace.

Concrete deals have materialised as a result of a rapid increase in dialogue and trade between Brazil and South Africa. Film producers are beginning to benefit from the huge politically-mandated trade initiative at state level between India, Brazil and South Africa, known as the IBSA Initiative.

With a total population of 1,3 billion people in these countries, the IBSA initiative promises huge benefits in trilateral exchange as a south-south free trade zone emerges.

IBSA is a counterpoint in world trade to the G8 countries of the north. The spin-offs for film and television in this relatively new agglomeration are already being felt.

The Gauteng Film Office (GFO) was mandated to develop trading options in the cultural sector. "So we took the baton and ran with it," says Sibeko.

Efforts bore fruit with the exposition of 20 South African films at the Rio film festival in September. Audience response was enthusiastic.

Links have been established at provincial level between Gauteng and Rio, in the main, and to some extent with the province of Sao Paolo.

A similarity in histories and culture could see a powerful fusion of creative synergies between Brazil and South Africa, even despite language differences. The emergence of Lusophone Angola as a producer of film has put a new spin on the possibilities of collaboration.

With that in mind, Brazil and Angola, as Portuguese speaking countries, will come together on the same panel discussion at Sithengi on 18th November. Maria Joao Ganga makes her feature film debut, Hollow City, at the World Cinema Festival, in competition. Ganga had written and directed theatre, and made documentaries before, but her story of a rural boy finding his way about the ravaged beauty of Luanda, is a new direction and heralds a cinematic era in that country. It will provide a haunting evocation of war and humanity in Angola.

As the sleeping giant of Angola awakes, so too Brazil, the world's fifth largest economy, is being roused to greater potential in the cultural field - especially film and television. With some 90 million citizens of African descent, there are growing indications that indissoluble links are being forged at every level with Africa. By virtue of their Portuguese histories, both Angola and Mozambique stand to benefit from stronger ties. Brazil's soap channel, Tele Novella, regularly dispenses programmes to its Mozambique and Angola.

But South Africa, with its film engine humming, is poised for a period of huge cinematic growth and opportunities when all the details of exchange and trade exchanged are honed.

"Sithengi provides the opportunity for participants to meet and newcomers to climb aboard and discuss synergies," said Sithengi CEO, Mike Auret.

Brazil have attached great importance to the Cape Town marketplace by sending a high-level delegation comprising their Secretary for Culture, Orlando Senna, as well as the convenor of the Festival Do Rio, Ilda Santiago.

Brazilian director Joel Zito Araujo will also attend. His film, Daughters of the Wind, is an entrant in the World Cinema competition. It deals with a feud between two long-estranged sisters and follows the heart-breaking seam of racial discrimination that still dogs darker-skinned Brazilians, for all that country's officially non-racial ethos.

The prospect of seeing a cinematic first from Angola and the opportunity to "broaden horizons" with Brazil - as Themba Sibeko has said - should make draw considerable interest from film workers and aficionados.

"I am very excited about the possibilities," said Themba Sibeko. "The outlook is very optimistic."

Swedes get in on the action

The completion of South African feature film, Max and Mona, in the studios of a small Swedish town may not be world news, but it is one of the reasons behind a growing desire for a co-production treaty between those two countries.

About an hour out of Gotheborg, the small town of Trollhaten is blooming into a tiny Tinsel town. Government subsidies to production companies have injected jobs and life back into the town as about 60 percent of Swedish film activity has now taken hold in the town.

Young Jo'burg-based producer, Tendeka Matatu, was in Trollhaten to oversee the final mix of Teddy Mattera's film, Max and Mona, which is on view at the Cape Town World Cinema Festival, November 12th to 20th.

Matatu said that film subsidies had reinvigorated the ailing town. A sound factory and studio facilities now attract the big names in Swedish cinema, like Lars Von Trier, to Trollhaten.

The final mix of Max and Mona was made possible by a straightforward barter deal with Swedish company, Film I Vast, who provided optical sound and Dolby in exchange for Swedish rights on the SA movie.

"It's great if we can continue doing these barter deals," Matatu said.

The Swedish delegation to Sithengi will include Bengt Toll, a representative of the Gotheborg Film Fund as well as a number of producers and directors.

The Gotheborg Film Fund has long-established links with Africa through IKON/South Africa. Currently IKON is developing documentary projects in Mozambique with backing from Swedish institutions before they turn their focus to South Africa at Sithengi.

It would seem that much is happening in Swedish small towns. A film from one of the Swedish delegations is a documentary made by Lisa Munthe and Helen Ahlsson, about a 23 year old woman arm wrestler from a tiny village in the snowy north. The film translates as the Arm Wrestler from Solitude (or Loneliness), this literally being the name of the small town where all of the sixteen inhabitants are the heroine's family.

It's the tale of a young woman, egged on by her whole family, who takes on the world in championship arm wrestling.

The delegation has been organised through the offices of Hanli Prinsloo, a South African filmmaker living in Sweden and working with the Swedish Institute. Ms Prinsloo will be part of the interesting Swedish entourage who will want to wrestle with South African counterparts to generate projects and perhaps pave the way for formal bilateral agreements between north and south.

From the Sithengi newsletter

Monday, November 01, 2004

Biltong makes it to Cyberspace

Yes, Biltong, the South African raw dried meat delacacy has made it onto Ebay. With prices ranging from £5 to £10 and seller which has already sold over 700 items it seems its quite popular. Apparently made by real South Africans!

bil·tong (bltng, -tông)
n. South African
Narrow strips of meat dried in the sun.

[Afrikaans : bil, buttock (from Middle Dutch bille; see bhel-2 in Indo-European roots) + tong, tongue (from Middle Dutch tonghe; see dgh- in Indo-European roots).]

South Africa's bumper crop

By Jack Malvern, Arts Reporter (The Times)

A FILM that recreates the Soweto riots of 1976 using real participants as extras is one of a bumper crop of South African films at The Times bfi London Film Festival.
The combination of a weak currency and a keen government have spurred a film industry that has previously struggled. In the past year 15 feature films have been made in South Africa about South Africa.

Stander, based on the life of a policeman who became South Africa’s most notorious bank robber, is the most expensive South African co-production ever made, and is one of four South African films at the festival.

Bronwen Hughes, Stander’s Canadian director, used 1,300 extras to re-enact the Tembisa uprising, the scene of a police massacre where Andre Stander took charge. “It was enormous,” she said. “We thought it would trigger feelings to go off in a real way. The crowd broke out into a harmony protest song. Just as I was thinking that this was the most joyous thing I had ever heard, my assistant said to me: ‘This is the scariest thing I have ever seen.’ ”

The film portrays Stander wracked with guilt. He began a spree of bank robberies, which he was then asked to investigate. Eventually convicted, he broke out of jail and formed the Stander Gang, which sometimes robbed four banks a day.

The other three South African films at the festival were funded domestically. Yesterday, the first international film to be scripted in the Isi-Zulu language, tells of a woman who is rejected by her husband when she discovers she is HIV-positive. Drum is about a jailed journalist. Max and Mona, which has already been shown, is a quirky tale of Johannesburg township life.

Sweet-Thorn is as gentle and tender

Sweet-Thorn is as gentle and tender as Gito Baloi’s death was violent. Riaan Wolmarans listens to Baloi's last project, co-written and co-produced with Nibs van de Spuy and Baloi, sadly, is with us no more. He was shot dead during an apparent robbery in Johannesburg in April this year. But he did leave us with this, a superb acoustic album he recorded, co-wrote and co-produced with Nibs van der Spuy.

In the sleeve notes, Van der Spuy pays tribute to Baloi, whom he first saw playing with Tananas in 1988, whereafter their musical paths crossed many times and a friendship came to be.

Baloi and Van der Spuy started playing as a duo in 2000: “Gito would send shivers down one’s spine; he had the voice of an angel, which was a musical instrument in its own right. So unique is his bass sound that after three notes you know it is Gito Baloi.”

And Sweet-Thorn (Greenhouse/ Sheer), which was ready for release just before Baloi died, stands alongside Van der Spuy’s words as a monument to Baloi’s musical gift.

The two musos’ gentle acoustic guitar rhythms blend effortlessly, with a minimal layer of vocals drifting in and out.

Opener Todos has a Spanish flavour, followed by Salaam with its vaguely Eastern tang and the African magic of Mountain Wind, and so it continues; eclectic, but not overpoweringly so.

Baloi also provides a touch of percussion, and Chris Tokalon (flute) and Kyla Thomas (violin) help out on a few tracks.

Sweet-Thorn is as gentle and tender as Baloi’s death was violent; it’s two African souls making music that is sublime in its simplicity.

Source M&G