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Durban FilmMart – Enabler for Film Projects on the Continent

23 Jul 2018


Durban, South Africa: The Durban FilmMart (DFM) is one of Africa’s premier film industry events. But it is far more than a glitzy annual showcase – while many of the items on the South African film industry calendar are all about celebrating the success of certain films and individuals, DFM is often the place where cinematic successes have their genesis. In fact, this four-day event, which takes place from 20 to 23 July 2018, is one of the most important cogs in the South African film industry, and fast becoming important to the continent as well, providing a space in which film projects can nurture, grow, and find the most appropriate production partners, funders and sales agents.

The Durban International Film Festival, in partnership with eThekwini Municipality’s Durban Film Office (DFO), the City’s film industry development arm under the Economic & Development cluster, has, for the last nine years, presented this important gathering for filmmakers from across the continent and beyond with the specific aim of growing the South African and African film industries. The market attracts a wide selection of film talents from all sectors of the industry and is globally renowned for providing an important springboard for African stories and ideas, collaborations, and investment in film projects.

As such, it is one of the key enablers in the South African film industry and has a significant impact on the economy of the creative sector, in the country and beyond. The success of DFM also points to the fact that government support is vital, both to grow the local industry and audiences, as well as providing a significant boost to films hoping to access the international market, thus exporting South African creativity in both financial and cultural terms.

The DFO aims to provide filmmakers support and advice and netowkring during DFM, and it is up to them to take advantage of the opportunities which the market offers. Speaking on behalf of the DFO, Toni Monty says, “As a government entity, we work on a highly professional level with filmmakers in order to ensure that we provide an environment which is enabling for them and which will prepare them for the international market. The FilmMart brings in over 500 experts, people, and organisations interested in potential film projects for further development. Here, they are able to meet film-makers from the continent and further afield. After that, it’s over to them to conclude their business independently.”


She continues: “We are very excited to see so many DFM alumni projects that have come to fruition and are doing very well on the local and international festival and cinema circuits. It is also very encouraging to see that many of these titles have clinched great distribution deals”. These include Rafiki, which is DIFF’s closing film this year, Inxeba: The Wound, and Five Fingers for Marseilles, as well as Silas, and Amal which are also screening at DIFF this year. Additionally, several titles from DFM alumni have also been submitted as their country’s nominations for the Academy Awards’ Foreign Language category. “This is exactly the strategy created by the DFO and DIFF nine years ago”, says Monty, “and it is extremely encouraging to see the long-term value it provides for the African film industry.”

A selection of DFM SUCCESS STORIES and REPORTS from Alumni

David Max Brown (Stage 5 Films)

Brown pitched Noem My Skollie at DFM in 2011 where it won the Videovision prize for most outstanding pitch. A deal was subsequently made with Mnet in 2013/14, with Ster Kinekor acting as the local distributor. With Mnet and Ster Kinekor onboard, the NFVF eventually followed suit along with the DTI. The film was shot 2015 and was released in September 2016. It was South Africa’s official selection for the foreign language Oscars in 2017 and won prizes at several major international film festivals. Skollie more than tripled Ster-Kinekor’s box office estimate for it, taking almost R4 million in 16 weeks on circuit, which, in South African terms, qualifies as highly successful for a serious drama that is more than two-and-a-half hours long.

Cait Pansegrouw & Elias Ribeiro (Urucu Media)

Urucu Media has had a stellar year, gathering attention from around the world for the award-winning Inxeba (The Wound) (DFM 2014). Directed by John Trengove, and produced by Urucu Media, the film had its SA Premiere at DIFF last year and its theatrical release earlier this year. Additionally, Inxeba wons 28 International awards and was screened at more than 50 festivals worldwide, as well as being South Africa’s submission for the Foreign Language Oscar. Most significantly, the film has been sold in over 40 territories. Impressively, Inxeba was not Urucu’s only country submission to the Academy Awards. The Train of Salt and Sugar (DFM 2014), directed by Licinio de Azevedo and co-produced by Urucu Media, was the official Oscar entry for Mozambique, and also won Best Film at last year’s Johannesburg International Film Festival. The film has also won 5 International awards and been screened at more than 20 festivals and sold to 10 territories. Abnormal Loads, from acclaimed South African writer Neil Coppen, is another Urucu project that was born at DFM. It is currently in development.

Steven Markowitz (Big World Cinema)

Big World Cinema have also been having a bumper year, with two Filmart projects from 2012 in the festival this year. Silas (originally Logs of War at the DFM) premiered at Toronto last year and was sold to Amazon, while Rafiki (Jambula Tree),  written and directed by Wanuri Kahiu, had the honour of receiving its premiere at Un Certain Regard in Cannes and has sold to 15 countries so far, including the USA.


Talal Al-Muhanna

Egyptian Jeanne d'Arc  (DFM 2014) is the second feature film from Egyptian filmmaker Iman Kamel. Co-produced with Kuwait-based Talal Al-Muhanna, the film also received a post-production prize at Carthage in Tunisia that awarded funds to the film for completion. Al-Muhanna also got acquainted with script consultant Miguel Machalski at DFM, later collaborating with Machalski on a feature film project from Iraq which is now in pre-production. Egyptian Jeanne d'Arc has travelled to all corners of the globe, premiering in competition in Dubai in 2016 and later making appearances in Germany, Sweden, Netherlands, Oman, Sudan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Kazakhstan. It was also selected for the Panorama section of the Cairo International Film Festival in 2017, which provided a welcomg homecoming for a project that was born on the other end of the continent.


Sean Drummond and Michael Matthews (Be Phat Motel)

The African Western, Five Fingers for Marseilles (DFM2013), directed by Michael Matthews and produced by Sean Drummond, went into production in July 2016, and premiered at Toronto in September 2017, before going on to play Fantastic Fest in Austin, BFI London Film Festival, and Busan International Film Festival, with its festival run still continuing. The film recently received it New York premiere at the New York African Film Festival where it was very well received, while it had its South African premiere at Rapid Lion Film Festival in Johannesburg earlier this year. The film opened in SA cinemas in April, running for nine weeks. It was released in France in June and will release theatrically in the US in September, with upcoming releases scheduled for various European and Asian territories.

Sara Blecher

Director Sara Blecher’s Ayanda was first pitched at DFM in 2013 and completed in 2015, when it was the DIFF opening night film.  Ayanda went on to open four more festivals and garner awards at festivals around the world, as well as the SAFTA award for Best Actress. Blecher’s earlier film Otelo Burning was also a DFM project and was the opening night film at DIFF 2011. It was also screened at festivals around the world and received numerous awards


Samantha Nell and Bongiwe Selane

Miles from Nowhere, from writer-director Samantha Nell and Producer Bongiwe Selane, was selected for DFM in 2017 and is still in development. Thus far, the project has participated at Produire au Sud Workshop in Nantes, the Rotterdam Producer Lab, and La Fabrique Cinema Du Monde in Cannes. Nell and Selane have secured a French producer, MPM films (who are also the French producers of Rafiki). The project is currently being developed through EAVE (European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs) and is scheduled for production in late 2019.

Luzuko Dilima

The South African-Kenyan coproduction Matigari was selected for DFM last year and is still in development, with a focus on financing in South Africa and abroad. Luzuko Dilima,  Balufu Bakupa Kanyinda and Fidelis Duker are producing and Balufu Bakupa Kanyinda will direct. Crimson Multimedia Limited has been attached as a theatrical Distributor, with VOD platforms across East and West Africa to follow. John Kani has committed to playing the lead, while Sello Maake Ka Ncube has also been confirmed.  Rosie Motene's Waka Agency is doing the rest of the casting in both countries, while Nelson Mandela University’s Department of Media and Communication is partnering with the project to train their students on video production, scriptwriting, photography, design, journalism, and public relations.

Nicole Schafer

Buddha in Africa (DFM 2011) is a feature-length documentary produced by KZN-based filmmaker, Nicole Schafer from Thinking Strings Media. The film received the IDFA Most Promising Documentary Award at the Durban Film Mart Doc Circle pitch in 2011. Filmed over several years, the film follows the intimate story of a boy growing up in a Chinese Buddhist orphanage in Malawi and the cultural challenges he faces between his African roots and Chinese upbringing. The film has subsequently been awarded funding from several international funds, including the Hot Docs Blue Ice Group Documentary fund and the Alter Cine Foundation in Canada, the IDFA Bertha Fund in the Netherlands, Chicken and Egg Pictures in New York, the South African National Film and Video Foundation, the KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission, and has a license agreement with Afridocs. Buddha in Africa is aimed for release at the end of 2018.


Janet Van Eeden

Director Janet van Eeden’s A Short at the Big Time (DFM 2012) was first produced as a short film and was screened at DIFF in 2013 and at Cannes Short Film Metrage in 2014. The short also won the eThekwini Award for Best Cine in 2015. The feature version of A Shot at the Big Time is currently in production, with funding from the KZN Film Commission.  

Wael Sayed El Ahl

Kiss Me Not (The Story of a Kiss) (DFM 2014) produced by Wael Sayed El Ahl  and directed by Ahmed Amer was released last March in theatres across Egypt, with a limited release in the Gulf and Lebanon. The film has also screened at numerous festivals around the world, including Dubai, Shanghai, Aswan, Miami, the Middle East Now Festival in Firenze, and the Malmo Arab Film Festival.

Akosua Adoma Owusu

Akosua Adoma Owusu (DFM 2013) has been awarded a 2018 summer artist-in-residence with the Goethe-Institut in Salvador-Bahia, Brazil, to continue developing her forthcoming debut feature Black Sunshine which was pitched at DFM in 2013. Selected for DFM 2013, the project won Arte France’s Arte International Award and received the 2015 Tribeca All Access grant. Produced by Obibini Pictures LLC and directed by Akosua Adoma Owusu, the project was also selected for the 2012 edition of Locarno Film Festival’s Open Doors co-production market.

The 9th Durban FilmMart takes place in Durban, at the Southern Sun Elangeni from 20- 23 July 2018, during the 39th edition of the Durban International Film Festival (19-29 July 2018).

For more information on the Durban FilmMart visit or for Durban International Film Festival