Durban mart helps sell African movies

Filmmakers show off pics, raise coin for new projects

The Durban Film Market, aimed at raising the visibility of projects from Africa and creating opportunities for the continent’s filmmakers, has positioned itself as a pan-African business base for regional filmmakers.

Unspooling during the Durban Intl. Film Festival along the picturesque South African coast, the mart is a joint venture between the Durban Film Office, the film-industry development arm of the eThekwini Municipality and the fest.

The mart, now in its second year, has already proven its value to regional filmmakers.

Egyptian filmmaker Ibrahim el Batout attended the inaugural mart last year to raise funds for his third feature, “Hawi,” the story of Youssef, a prisoner who is released from solitary confinement after five years and told by his jailers to collect some important documents.

Shooting the film himself using non-professional actors and an unpaid crew, El Batout managed to raise his small budget from the Hubert Bals Fund (Netherlands), Doha Film Institute (Qatar) and Aroma Film Labs (Egypt). “Hawi” went on to win the top prize at the Doha Film Festival, and is in competition at the Durban fest.

El Batout has a new project, “Ali, the Goat and Ibrahim,” at the mart this year.

This year’s selection of 20 projects from 127 entries has roots across the continent, from Algeria, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt and Kenya to Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda and Tunisia. The mart ends July 25, and runs in conjunction with the Durban fest. The filmmakers behind the 10 features and 10 documentaries will have pre-arranged one-one-one meetings with potential financiers like Claire Launay, Arte France’s head of projects; Matthew Plouffe of Focus Features, who is also involved with Focus’ Africa First Short Film Program; and Cynthia Kane, senior program manager for ITVS and ITVS Intl.

Not only does the mart attract outfits looking for African content such as South African funding body the National Film and Video Foundation, local cinema circuits Ster Kinekor and Nu Metro and the World Cinema Fund, it also draws commercial shingles such as Fortissimo Films and Canal France Intl. The fest features a variety of funding awards, including $7,500 for the most promising fiction project from the Hubert Bals Fund, and Videovision Entertainment’s award of $10,000 to the best South African film project.

The Durban mart has also worked closely with the Intl. Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam to launch Doc Circle, where participants will pitch to a panel of commissioning editors, including BBC Storyville.

“(The Durban market) gets all the participants under one roof, so they can exchange ideas and do business together,” says El Batout. “It is also important because it places African filmmakers and producers with the right industry contacts in Europe and North America, which opens doors for international co-productions with Africa and better distribution possibilities for African films across the globe.”

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