Monday, November 08, 2004

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."