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South Africa Launches Black Filmmakers Fund

Exactly two decades after the first democratic election in South Africa, programming at the Durban Intl. Film Festival has included retrospection and introspection on the gains made over the last 20 years and problems that still need attention.

Both the Durban Film Mart and the talent development focus have focused on emerging filmmakers, developing ideas and setting up pitch forums. And on July 21, the country’s Industrial Development Corp. announced an initiative targeting the new generation of black filmmakers.

The Emerging Black Filmmakers Fund is set up by the IDC in cooperation with the National Film and Video Foundation, and the Industrial Development Corpn. Financial and other support systems will be put in place to allow for the production of low-budget features.

The plan has grown out of a previous low-budget pilot project that, according to the head of the Media Motion Pictures business unit, Basil Ford, did not materialize because it failed to get a broadcaster on board.

The new plan intends to transform the industry by allocating budgets of R5 million ($455 500) to six projects a year, over three years. Included will be a marketing budget of $445 500.

The plan will be reviewed annually with the potential to increasing production to 10 films per year, in the future.

Eligible parties include black directors supported by black producers who hold at least 51% of the film rights.

Each film will be fully funded by the IDC with the NFVF and the DTI. “What this means is that a black filmmaker who enters into this particular system will not need to raise one cent,” Ford said.

In addition, the legal structure and all agreements that will be required to make the films will come with templates of agreement. Ford said that all the filmmakers will have to do is make sure they are satisfied with the legal agreements and sign them. “There will be no need for them to go and hunt for a lawyer, there is no need for them to set up documentation, it will all be there.”

Further supervision and mentorship will be supplied by the NFVF.

Ford said, “Conceptually, what we want is for a filmmaker to enter into this system – and all they have to really do is focus on making the film. We have to work together in order for us to get to a sustainable film industry. All our interests have to be aligned. If we can do that, ultimately we will get what we want: films made on a sustainable basis.”

He is hoping the program will get the local industry rolling to the point where “we are making 30 or 40 films a year.”

While distribution problems in South Africa still which plague filmmakers, the new scheme is aimed at removing the element whereby filmmakers themselves have to obtain sales estimates.

The difficulty of obtaining local and international projections will be sidestepped when projects are assessed by the institutions with the help of distributors. This will give some sense of what the commercial value of the film will be, and, according to Ford, that will need to be affordable and recoverable.

As for those who are eligible for entering into the scheme, it will be open to producers, previously disadvantaged, who have not produced more than three films. After having produced five films individuals will be considered experienced.

Filmmakers will be able to access the fund at least five times in their burgeoning careers.

According to the NFVF analysis, those presently telling the South African story include less than 8% of black directors and producers.

“The figure may have gone up to 10% recently,” according to Clarence Hamilton, head of production and development at the NFVF. “But it is quite sad that 20 years into the democracy so few of the feature films in South Africa are being made by black people.”

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