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Durban: Netherlands and South Africa Strengthen Pic Production Bonds

A Dutch delegation was in Durban this week to meet with their South African counterparts, as the two countries look to build on the co-production treaty they signed in December.

At a gathering June 18 hosted by South Africa’s National Film & Video Foundation, industry professionals talked up the potential of a pact that could benefit both nations in terms of accessing financing schemes, reaching wider audiences, boosting technical capacities, and telling exciting new stories.

“We need South Africa in expanding our views on the world, as they might need us in getting more technical or industrial support,” said Frank Peijnenburg, head of Screen NL.

Filmmakers from the two countries have collaborated in the past on movies such as Paula van der Oest’s “Black Butterflies,” a biopic of the poet Ingrid Jonker; “The Price of Sugar,” Jean van de Velde’s period drama about slavery in the Dutch colony of Suriname; and Francois Verster’s “The Dream of Shahrazad,” an “Arabian Nights”-style spin on the Arab Spring.

For Peijnenburg, the partnership between the two countries builds on the “huge history” they share, dating back to the arrival of Dutch settlers in what is today Cape Town in the 17th century.

“The important thing is the cultural exchange between the two countries,” he says. “And of course, financially, it’s for both sides attractive as well.”

Projects eligible for the co-production pact will receive a minimum of 10% and a maximum of 90% of the production costs. At least two projects are reportedly already in the pipeline between the two countries.

While the treaty could pave the way for a host of opportunities, South African producer Marc Schwinges acknowledges, “Not every project will work for a co-production.”

Schwinges is currently partnering with Dutch producer Pieter van Huystee on “A Fools Paradise,” an autobiographical documentary by Dutch-South African helmer Saskia Vredeveld.

Born in Cape Town during the apartheid era before emigrating to Holland, Vredeveld plans to take an emotional journey across South Africa in “Fools” to explore both her own past, and the stain that apartheid left on the country of her birth.

Schwinges expects principal shooting to begin in three to four months. Pic will be entirely lensed in South Africa, while post-production will largely take place in the Netherlands.

According to Schwinges, the creative and technical synergy on “Fools” makes it the sort of movie that is a natural fit for the two countries.

“These stories are so true to our space,” he says. “It makes sense telling them together.”

For Laurette Schillings of Topkapi Films, which produced “Black Butterflies,” this week’s FilmMart in Durban offered a chance to look for new projects that might offer the same sort of synergy.

With close to a decade’s worth of experience on film and TV series shot in South Africa, Schillings has already gotten a taste of the technical skills that South Africa brings to the table.

“That’s why we keep coming back,” she says.

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