DURBAN — Fresh off the success of their inaugural partnership in 2017, the Durban FilmMart and CaribbeanTales – a group of companies dedicated to the production, distribution and promotion of content from the Caribbean region and its diaspora – have re-upped their agreement for CineFAM – Africa 2.0, a training and mentorship program during this year’s Durban FilmMart that looks to build capacity and create leadership opportunities for South African women of color working in TV.
Coming at a time of increased scrutiny of racial and gender inequality in film and TV industries around the world, CineFAM – Africa provides six South African producers with an intensive training course while offering “the knowledge and the tools and the opportunity” to bring their developing projects to market, according to CaribbeanTales Worldwide Distribution VP Nicole Brooks. “We really wanted to emphasize film and television content by…diverse women,” she said, calling the incubator “a launching pad” for its participants. “People of color, especially in South Africa, were not given the opportunity or the training or the understanding to be able” to produce content in the past.
Rather than offering a handout, said Brooks, the incubator looks to open previously closed doors. As she tells participants, “We know you have the ability. We’re giving you the tools. Go forth and conquer.”
Founded in 2001 by Frances-Anne Solomon, a U.K.-born producer-director of Trinidadian descent, CaribbeanTales has grown into a global enterprise that includes a Toronto-based charity, an annual film festival, a production arm, a VOD platform, and what the group describes as “the largest full-service distribution entity dedicated to the monetization of Caribbean content.”
For its first edition last year, the CaribbeanTales and DFM partnership selected six South African women of color to take part in its Durban workshop, developing their ideas, fine-tuning their pitches, and “ensuring that they’re internationally industry-ready,” according to Brooks.
The workshop was a huge success. “I’d produce all of them,” Brooks said, of the six participants. With South Africa and Canada celebrating the 20th anniversary of their co-production treaty in 2017, she decided to take the partnership a step further by “develop[ing] something that demystifies what co-production is [and] makes it accessible to these producers.”
She added, “This is another stream of income. This is another stream of opportunity. And I don’t know too many people of color…that really know how to take the plunge into co-production.”
With the second edition, six producers have been selected to develop serial TV projects in the early development stage: Zikethiwe Ngcobo, with “Birth of A Queen”; Rethabile Molatela Mothobi, with “Hope”; Mary Ann Mandishona, with “Mambo+Kazi”; Buisisiwe Ntintili, with “Royals”; Jacintha Timothy, with “Singled Out”; and Layla Swart, with “The Summit Club.”
The two-day CineFAM – Africa Accelerator Program will culminate in a pitching session with broadcasters and funding bodies from South Africa and Canada, including Nicole Mendes, of Canadian pubcaster CBC, and Gosia Kamela, of Canada’s Bell Media, whose family of channels includes CTV, Space, Bravo, CraveTV, and TMN/HBO Canada.
One winning project will be selected to participate in the CaribbeanTales Incubator in Toronto, which is now in its ninth year. A year-round development and production hub for producers from the Caribbean region and the diaspora, the incubator is focused on boosting the capacity of women of color to produce compelling content for the global market.
While the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements have sparked a conversation about the gender gap in film and TV industries around the world, advocates of the movement are now looking to turn the conversation into tangible gains. The hurdles are high. In a jarring, decade-long study of the Hollywood gender gap, Women and Hollywood found that just 4.3% of the 1,100 top-grossing films from 2007 to 2017 were directed by women, and just four of those by black women. In South Africa, which is still struggling with the legacy of apartheid nearly 25 years after its end, access for women of color has been particularly vexing—in film and TV, as well as across professional life more broadly.
All the more reason, said Brooks, to expand the reach of CineFAM, which takes its name from the Haitian-Creole word for “films by women.” “I think it’s very timely—the fact that we have the #MeToo movement, and Time’s Up. There is an outcry in mainstream media for women’s voices,” said Brooks. “What we’re doing now is flipping the script [in South Africa], and also giving power and access” to women in the industry.
“We understand that our mission, though it’s very daunting, is we’re building an industry…from the ground up. How do we do that? It really comes down to the content creators, and giving them what they need,” she said. “These stories matter.”