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Durban and SA Film Industry Presence at the European Film Market and Berlinale International Film Festival

09 Apr 2018

Following excellent networking and strategic meetings at the Berlin International Film Festival, and European Film Market, and observing the focus around this year’s Academy Awards where much was said about the #MeToo campaign, South African filmmakers can take a bow in being in the forefront of shifting the consciousness of the local industry, ahead of their global peers.

 

So says Head of the Durban Film Office, Toni Monty, who attended the European Film Market, during the Berlinale International Film Festival in February this year alongside a significant South African representation. She reports that the role and treatment of women was very much on everyone’s lips, heralding a positive shift in the industry.

 

“On South Africa’s front, the Department of Trade and Industry and the NFVF working together with Sisters Working in Film and Television (SWIFT) – an advocacy and lobbying group which addresses the inequalities and sexual harassment issues within the industry, supported 20 female South African film-makers in getting their projects to the European Film Market. That in itself shows the commitment our government has to effect significant change in the industry, and should be applauded,” she says.

 

Zoe Chiriseri, spokesperson for SWIFT says “I have received feedback from delegates that SWIFT was a huge hit in Berlin and that it really made South Africa a talking point for people. Individual and group meetings were held with funders, agents, distributors, investors and producers and the experience enriched all. The generous spirit, which existed within the group, meant that each woman knew what projects the others had and so would pass on networks, information and contact information if they met someone relevant for another project. It’s a reflection of what happens when women work together and not alone.”

 

“What was particularly interesting was to see how well SWIFT was received as a concept, and it was so encouraging when we were approached by other national film commissions to assist in starting up similar organizations in their countries for their women.  This gave us an opportunity as SWIFT to put the organisation on the international map and it was useful for women to see Africans tackling some of the same issues as them.  We have been invited to collaborate with women's groups in India, Morocco, Zanzibar, Sweden, Austria and Germany.  And we are pleased to announce that our next chapter is Namibia. Big thanks to the DTI and NFVF for their support with getting the delegation there.”

 

For the second year in a row, the EFM set up an Africa Hub where various stakeholders were able to present ideas, new concepts, details on festivals, programmes, funding and other related presentations to those interested in African content.

 

“The Africa Hub generated much more African focussed activities - with presentations, discussions, and happy hour get-togethers every day of the market,” explains Don Edkins, Executive Director of AfriDocs, the online platform for the African continent for top African and international documentaries, which also has a close association with the Durban International Film Festival.“For those of us involved in the Hub, it meant more networking possibilities which resulted in new contacts and deeper conversations with previous contacts. For AfriDocs, looking for African documentary content, it meant that we could meet with distributors and sales agents personally, as well as filmmakers with completed films or with films in development. This is crucial for building the programme for the coming year and for reaching new audiences. The film school network organised by the Goethe Institute between a number of training initiatives in Africa and the Film Academy Baden-Württemberg in Ludwigsburg, introduced the African participants of the Berlinale Talents programme to the Hub. Away from the Hub, the Heinrich Böll Foundation, focused a discussion on the current political situation of the DRC through the documentary of Dieudo Hamadi, Kinshasa Makambo, which was screened in the Panorama section of the Berlinale. Across the many activities of this year’s Berlinale, the Hub provided a central space to focus in on the African film industry and its people. 

Theresa Hill, Acquisitions Manager for AfriDocs said “We had very productive meetings with European distributors but also met interesting filmmakers from Burkina Faso, Kenya, Nigeria. Presentations were interesting and well attended with a lot of audience engagement. It felt like audiences were hungry for more of this kind of discussion about industry issues, particularly issues that affect African filmmakers. The hub is a great opportunity to make connections / possible partnerships across the continent that are often difficult to find in a huge festival environment.”

 

Katarina Hedrén, Project Coordinator of the Film School Network, Goethe-Institut South Africa said “We enjoyed our participation at the Berlinale Africa Hub this year. The platform provided an opportunity to inform others in the industry of our ongoing projects, learn about the projects of other institutions as well as to learn from and be part of thoughtful discussions regarding African film industries.”

 

The SWIFT delegation included Durban film-maker Bonie Sithebe who pitched her project The Lotus to international producers and networks. “I was there thanks to SWIFT, DTI and the KZN Film Commission, and was able reconnected with old networks made at the Durban FilmMart. All my objectives were achieved and I am happy that I have made contacts that will help me take my project forward.”

 

“It was fantastic to reconnect with filmmakers who have previously had film in our Durban FilmMart like Tsitsi Dangaremba, Katarina Hedrén, Neil Brandt, Dylan Voogt as well as Westgro’s film and media person Monica Rorvik, all using the opportunity to network on an international level, looking for opportunities to collaborate and connect. There is no doubt the value of these kinds of markets to the filmmakers with projects in development, and it is important for Durban and our unique African market to be part of this global network,” says Toni Monty, Head of the Durban Film Office and the DFM.

 

The SA Ambassador to Germany Mr Stone Sizani, along with the DTI, NFVF, Durban Film Office and Westgro, hosted guests at a networking session at the SA Embassy in Berlin. Here well-known SA producer Michael Auret and German producer Giselher Venzke offered their own case studies of making film and collaboration in SA, while DTI’s Nelly Molokoane who gave an overview of the DTI’s SA Film and TV Incentives.

 

The Durban International Film Festival, Acting Director Chipo Zhou, presented the DIFF vision for 2018 alongside Toni Monty, who gave an overview of the DFM. Zhou said that the Africa Hub at the Berlinale offered a great space to connect with other African counterparts, discuss collaborations and synergies. “This, I believe, is the beginning of the development of a stronger cinema space on our continent. As DIFF is the flagship film festival in South Africa and an important one for the continent, making connections and being an active participant in the growth of the industry is quite significant for us. The take away for me was a conscious decision by filmmakers to move towards a reimaging of the continent. This shows in the kind of films that are currently on the market coming from not only within the continent but the African diaspora. We were also pleased that the Berlinale Talents, the programme for intermediate and professional film-makers, also saw some of our Durban Talents alumni selected into the programme, solidifying the partnership between the two festivals. We were able to select a number of films from the Berlinale and are looking to showcase them at the coming edition.”

 

Other South Africans with presence at the Berlinale included director Jyoti Mistry who was on the short film jury, as well as Anant Singh’s VideoVision, producers of the latest Gale Bernal Garcia film Museo which won ‘Best Script” in the festival.

 

Going forward the DTI will be supporting SWIFT in getting members to the Durban International Film Festival and the Durban FilmMart, which take place from 19 to 29 and 20 to 23 July , respectively.

 

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