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Durban FilmMart Taps Funds for African Filmmakers

Sixteen fiction and documentary projects to take part in annual finance forum

DURBAN — With the four-day Durban FilmMart building a bridge between African filmmakers and the international market, 16 projects from across the continent arrive in South Africa this week for pitching sessions with potential co-producers, broadcasters, sales agents, investors, and other industry experts from around the world.

“The projects are at various stages of development. We do each year attempt to create a balance between what presents as strong projects, as well as new emerging talents,” said Toni Monty, head of the Durban Film Office, which jointly organizes the DFM along with the Durban Int’l. Film Festival and the eThekwini Municipality. “This is important to ensure that we not only present filmmakers that have a fairly established profile and need to get their next project out there, but also to tap into the undercurrent and ensure we are bringing new talents into the marketplace.”

Here’s a look at the eight fiction projects being presented in Durban:

Mohamed Siam completes his trilogy examining the role of authority in Egypt with “Blood & Honey,” about a low-ranking official who suffers acute panic attacks brought on by the repression of his fellow townsmen, in which he often plays a part. Siam’s last film, “Amal,” opened IDFA in 2017. The film’s producer, Canal Plus and France 2 veteran Guillaume de Seille has produced more than 50 non-French features that have screened in Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Sundance, and other festivals.

Adapted from the Zulu novel, “Insila KaShaka” is a period drama set in 19th-century South Africa, about the most-wanted fugitive in the Zulu kingdom. Director Brian Khawula, who has a number of TV movie credits, drew inspiration for the film from his parents, who translated the novel on which the script is based. Sibongile Nene is producing her first feature film.

A game park ranger in Zimbabwe tasked with protecting the reserve’s last white rhino faces a life crisis in “Nyanga” (The Horn”), by South Africa’s Brett Michael Innes. Writer-director Innes is a multiple winner at the South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAs) and the author of a best-selling book. Emerging filmmaker and producer Sue-Ellen Chitunya’s short films have traveled around the world.

In the psychological thriller “Snake,” by South Africa’s Meg Rickards, a luminous stranger arrives on a farm, bringing joy to a troubled family until secrets from his tragic past turn the place into a battleground. Rickards’ first feature, “Tess,” won Best South African Feature in Durban in 2016. Producer Paul Egan is a frequent collaborator of Rickards’. Producer Mustapha Hendricks has written more than 200 scripts for animated TV shows and produced his first feature documentary in 2017.

In “Streams,” Tunisia’s Mehdi Hmili explores the themes of family, guilt and redemption through the story of a factory-worker who betrays her principles to help her talented son find success as a soccer player—a betrayal that upends their lives. It’s the second feature-length film by Hmili, a popular poet. Producer Moufida Fedhila is an acclaimed visual artist, director and producer whose latest production, “Aya,” won the prize for best first feature at the Carthage Film Festival.

“Of Virtue,” by South Africa’s Imran Hamdulay, tells the story of a quiet and devout Muslim man whose life falls apart when his wife dies during childbirth, driving him toward radical Islam. The film marks the feature directorial debut for the Berlinale Talents alum. Producer David Horler has produced and collaborated on more than 15 long- and short-form features and documentaries, exploring high-brow genre conceits.

Nigeria’s Didi Cheeka delves into the murky world of child trafficking in “The Plunderer,” a gritty, documentary-style drama that unfolds after the mysterious disappearance of a one-year-old child. Cheeka is the writer and director of several feature films and documentaries. Producer Ikechukwu Omenaihe has worked across radio, film and TV for more than a decade.

“Porta-Retrato” (Picture Frame), by Mozambique’s Orlando Mabasso, Jr., explores love and resistance through the lens of an unemployed man trying to recover from a friend’s death. It’s a story that grew out of a meditation on the responsibilities of artists for Mabasso, Jr., who makes his feature debut. Producer Aldino Languana was an accomplished painter before turning to the world of film.

Eight documentary projects in development will also take part in the FilmMart finance forum. They are:

“Cheese Girl,” by South African director Milisuthando Bongela, contrasts an idyllic childhood spent in Transkei, an illegitimate state within apartheid-era South Africa, with the messy realities of the country today, nearly 25 years after the fall of apartheid. The award-winning writer, blogger and editor is making her directorial debut. Marion Isaacs is a curator and producer who’s worked extensively across media, including documentary film and exhibitions. Producer Batana Vundla has worked for acclaimed production company Urban Brew Studios, and recently co-produced the Oscar short-listed
drama “The Wound.”

“Fitrah: To Be As God Created You,” by South Africa’s Richard Finn Gregory, is a portrait of Cape Town’s Inner Circle mosque, an inclusive place of worship at the heart of the local LGBT Muslim community. Gregory’s debut documentary feature, “The Boers at the End of the World,” won three SAFTAs and traveled around the globe. Producer Kelly Scott worked on award-winning advertising campaigns for eight years before joining Gregory’s production company, Good Work.

In “How To Steal a Country,” acclaimed filmmakers Mark Kaplan and Rehad Desai follow the trail of corruption around former South African President Jacob Zuma, uncovering evidence that the scale of the crimes committed by his cronies was even greater than they’d feared. Kaplan’s award-winning career has produced incisive commentaries on social and political issues. Desai won an International Emmy for his 2015 documentary “Miners Shot Down.” Producer Zivia Desai, who was raised in apartheid-era exile along with her brother Rehad, has produced a number of critically acclaimed films.

“The Master’s Plan,” by Cape Verde’s Yuri Ceuninck, tells the story of a modern-day, self-proclaimed prophet in the small island nation, examining a series of startling revelations by the spiritual leader’s followers to bring viewers on a search for truth. TV veteran Ceuninck is making his feature debut. Producer Hanne Phlypo has years of experience as a location scout, production manager, and assistant director in her native Belgium and beyond.

In “Mother City,” South African director-producer duo Pearlie Joubert and Miki Redelinghuys examine the work of activists fighting for land and housing rights in Cape Town, where poverty, lack of housing, and rising property prices create a stark divide in one of the most unequal societies in the world. Joubert is an acclaimed investigative journalist who’s spent years as a news producer for ITV, Sky News and the BBC. Redelinghuys’ latest documentary, “This Land,” told the story of land dispossession in rural South Africa.

In “Searching for Kikhia,” the half-Syrian, half-Libyan director Jihan Kikhia uses interviews, archival footage, investigative research and animation to try to unravel the mystery of her missing father, an opposition leader during the regime of Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi, who disappeared when the filmmaker was six years old. Kikhia is making her directorial debut. Producer Christina Carvalho has produced numerous TV documentaries and has a scripted comedy series in development.

In “Zinder, the Seeds of Violence,” Niger’s Aicha Macky explores the roots of gang violence and radicalism in the city where she was born and raised. Macky’s 2016 debut, “The Fruitless Tree,” won over 40 prizes at film festivals around the world. Producer Clara Vuillermoz participated in the Eurodoc producer’s training program in 2014 and previously collaborated with Macky on her first feature. Ousmane Samassekou has been producing since 2010.

No information is available for “At Dawn,” by Nigeria’s Michael Adeyemi, whose breakout film, “Sodiq,” premiered at the Sheffield Int’l. Documentary Festival in 2013.

The Durban FilmMart runs July 20-23

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