You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

South Africa Searches for Its Groove in World Cinema

Producer Steven Markovitz to launch 'African Metropolis' at Durban fest

Steven Markovitz is a South African a feature and documentary producer, whose films have been co-produced with nearly a dozen countries around the world. His latest pic, “African Metropolis,” features seven short films from seven African directors, shot in seven African cities. Before the film premieres at the Durban Intl. Film Festival this weekend, Markovitz spoke with Variety about crucial next steps for the South African film industry.

What kinds of projects are getting the most interest in the South African market right now?

There seems to be a lot of support for genre movies, but I think we need to find our own style and voice in cinema.

What sort of challenges do you see South African filmmakers facing?

There is funding for low-budget South African films available. We still need to find our voice, our groove, as a filmmaking country, then international audiences will notice our work more readily. Distribution is still a big challenge. Most cinemas are still in former white areas. Until we have a broad spread of cinemas across the country, it will be difficult for filmmakers to find large audiences in South Africa.

In other markets, film is yielding to TV. Do you see that happening in South Africa?

Not in South Africa. TV is not very well funded here and hence most TV products tend to be of lower quality and don’t travel very well. We need TV stations to start co-producing or financing feature films or TV movies like HBO and the U.K.’s Channel 4, and in Germany and France. We need television to come to the party.

Who’s your target audience? When you make a documentary, are you thinking primarily about the local South African audience or the global one?

I produce feature films and documentaries. We generally think of global audiences. If the film is well crafted, has a good narrative arc and is compelling, surprising, I think it has a fighting chance in the international market.

As VOD skyrockets, do you see moviegoing as an endangered species?

Not in South Africa. VOD is still in its infancy here. Cinemas have not peaked here. We have a growing middle class, if there is investment in exhibition spaces in South Africa and the rest of the continent, I think there is good room for growth in cinema.

What’s the key element in funding a project?

If you have a brilliant script or a great treatment for an engaging documentary with unique access, it becomes a lot easier to fund. No one has the answers of what will work or won’t work, you have to trust your instincts, have huge amounts of passion for your project and a thick skin. Eventually you will find the money.

So much of the global perception of South Africa has to do with race and politics. Do local audiences want those topics addressed, or do you believe they prefer escapism?

I think audiences prefer entertainment or they prefer films that are artistically brilliant. We have a painful past that has to be dealt with but there are many avenues besides cinema to do this. We need to make compelling films that touch audiences emotionally, regardless of their subject matter.

More Film

  • Apollo 11

    Film News Roundup: 'Armstrong' Doc Set for Release on 50th Anniversary of Moon Landing

    In today’s film news roundup, a Neil Armstrong documentary and “The Invisible Man” get release dates, “Forrest Gump” and “Saving Private Ryan” get re-released and Patrick Fugit gets cast. RELEASE DATES Gravitas Ventures has bought worldwide rights to the Neil Armstrong documentary “Armstrong” and will open the film on July 12 in theaters and on [...]

  • Inside Goop's Wellness Summit With Gwyneth

    Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop Summit Proves Hollywood Retirement Is Working for Her

    Across the country on Saturday, movie theaters sold over $12 million in tickets to “Avengers: Endgame,” helping it amass $771 million in the U.S. since its release in April. On the same day, in a stunning urban greenhouse complex in DTLA, the film’s supporting star Gwyneth Paltrow counted tickets of her own — pricey, perk-loaded [...]

  • Johnny Depp

    Johnny Depp's Ex-Lawyers Claim He Owes $350,000

    Johnny Depp was hit with a $350,000 lawsuit on Monday from a law firm that claims he has not paid his bills. Depp retained Buckley LLP in the fall of 2017 to sue his former entertainment law firm, Bloom Hergott LLP, which he accused of pocketing $30 million in fees without a written agreement. Three [...]

  • Keanu Reeves stars as 'John Wick'

    'John Wick 4' Confirmed With a 2021 Release Date

    John Wick will be back in exactly two years and a day. Lionsgate announced Monday that it has scheduled “John Wick 4” for May 21, 2021. The studio made the announcement via a text message to fans: “You have served. You will be of service. John Wick: Chapter 4 is coming – May 21, 2021.” [...]

  • Krysanne Katsoolis Sets Up Viewpark With

    Krysanne Katsoolis Sets Up Viewpark With $200 Million Fund

    Veteran film industry executive Krysanne Katsoolis has launched Viewpark, which will finance, package and release high-end film and TV content. Viewpark has partnered with former Wall Street executive Keith Price’s Obsidian Asset Management to create a multi-million dollar fund for the production and marketing of its slate, Katsoolis told Variety. Obsidian, based in London and [...]

  • Elle FanningChopard Trophee dinner, 72nd Cannes

    Elle Fanning Faints at Cannes Dinner Party

    Elle Fanning, a member of this year’s Cannes jury, had a brief scare Monday night when she fainted at the Chopard Trophee dinner. Festival director Thierry Fremaux had just introduced actor Francois Civil onstage when Fanning, star of “The Beguiled” and “Maleficent,” collapsed and fell off her chair nearby. Fanning was sitting at a table [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content