South African Film Topper Takes ‘Holistic’ Approach

Ramagoshi: Gov't should fund 'the whole filmmaking journey'

Mmabatho Ramagoshi

Mmabatho Ramagoshi, council chairperson of South Africa’s National Film and Video Foundation, is a woman with a mission.

The government set up the NFVF in the mid-90s, and gave it the task of spearheading the growth of the local biz in an equitable manner. Ramagoshi now intends to shift up a gear in order to turbo charge the org’s progress.

“Our efforts have always been toward redressing past imbalances of S.A., but our limited funding means that no matter how much financial assistance we give first-time filmmakers, it still does not cover their studio costs, and five years later they are still on our ‘books’ because they can’t raise additional funding,” she says.

In order to address this issue, Ramagoshi aims to feed the filmmaking value chain “holistically.”

“If we approved their start-up funding, based on a good script, we need to design a mechanism to fund the whole filmmaking journey,” she says.

The agency’s chief remit of transformation is complex as it straddles both the issues of commercial and personal empowerment, but Ramagoshi believes that the commercial arms of government, such as the the Department of Trade and Industry, and the Industrial Development Corporation, a government bank, should carry the cost “after the NFVF has given them the gems.”

“Our focus isn’t on commercial viability. We don’t expect to make a profit from the projects,” she says. “Our imperative is to develop talent and that will happen when South Africans can tell stories in their own languages.”

That is no easy task as South Africa, a vastly multi-cultural nation, has 11 official languages.

A big picture thinker, Ramagoshi has a vision to create “film cities” throughout the nine provinces of South Africa. Acknowledging the steep bill for such an undertaking, she says, “This will have to be fully-funded by government, or a PPP (public-private partnership).”

Another option would be to use mobile cinemas to reach far-flung communities, and that could become a reality by plugging into programs that other government departments already operate, she says.