S. Africa film mart booms

Event lures buyers from continent

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — A record 1,300 delegates attended the Sithengi film market in Cape Town last week, up about 30% on the previous year, organizers said.

Deals signed during the Nov. 16-19 market are expected to exceed the 400 million rand ($65 million) recorded at the 1998 market, according to Sithengi managing director Richard Ishmail.

“We had a strong contingent of buyers, particularly from the African continent,” Ishmail told Daily Variety.

African b’casters buying

“The market is booming,” he said. “For the first time, African broadcasters were not only present, but were also buying.”

Buyers from English-speaking territories also attended the market.

Ishmail acknowledged criticism from some buyers that there was a lack of independently produced finished product at the market.

“Sithengi should not be seen in isolation,” he said. “It is a meeting point for people in the industry. There were a lot of strong projects in development on show that created interest. Producers and buyers were doing a lot of interacting.”

He acknowledged, however, that it is “hard to attract buyers if there is not sufficient strong product.”

The market, which began in 1996 as a mainly white forum, has now taken on “a very definite pan-African character,” Ishmail said.

“That is the direction we will be pursuing in the new millennium. Africa needs a strong African market.”