The latest film from Fineline Prods., the shingle backed by producer/director Junaid Ahmed and Helena Spring, “Hard to Get,” opened the Durban festival to warm praise, and it’s the first fruit of a lineup of nine films was developed with coin from the National Film and Video Foundation.
Ahmed, pictured in center on set, says, “Each of these films would have a black producer, a black writer and a black director. And that each of these films would also then be done in the popular genre: comedy, romantic comedy, sci-fi, thriller, action adventure, and so on.
“We put out a national call for people to apply to our slate. We got about 200 applications in the first year in 2011. Within six months we whittled it down to 20. They pitched to a national panel and we whittled it finally down to 9 projects across the country.”
In developing scripts, Ahmed says, “we just have been so amazed at the kind of new visual language that is emerging from young people.” This was improvised in part using the African languages without restriction.
“I think one of the criticisms of many South African films is that they are shot so quickly without fixing the narrative holes in the script. And this is one of the reasons why I think South African films don’t do so well at the box, given all the other reasons of access.”
“Hard to Get” was made “in the range of R7 million ($657,000),” and, Ahmed says, “even before we shot a single frame, (South Africa’s major distributor) Ster Kinekor read the script and loved it. They immediately came on board as distribution partners, which is quite unique I think.
“In addition, M-Net (the Africa wide cable broadcaster) also read the script, loved it and we did a pre-sale for Africa with them, and that was another way we raised more money.”
On Aug. 29, “Hard to Get” will be released in South African cinemas in 44 theaters.
“I see a lot of assured debuts of filmmakers in this country who are making good films with small amount of resources. And the storytelling is getting much better. In the end I think if our story is strong it can cross boundaries,” Ahmed said.