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South Africa’s Black Production Service Sector Makes Push for Projects at AFM

Number 37,” a Hitchcockian crime thriller set in the gritty Cape Flats outside Cape Town, hits U.S. theaters Nov. 2, opening in New York and L.A. ahead of a wider theatrical release.

For producer Bradley Joshua, who’s part of a delegation of filmmakers brought by South Africa’s Dept. of Trade & Industry (DTI) to the AFM this week, the movie’s North American rollout wouldn’t have been possible without the support of a government body widely considered to be the lifeblood of the local industry.

“Without [the DTI], it would have been infinitely more difficult to even get this project off the ground,” said Joshua. Dark Star Pictures is distributing; XYZ Films is handling sales.

South Africa’s incentive schemes have helped the country become a global player in the production services industry and offered vital support to local producers. But the DTI has put special emphasis on the emerging black filmmakers incentive, which was introduced in 2014 to promote diversity in the film biz. The scheme offers a 50% rebate on all qualifying local spend, with the DTI removing the cap earlier this year in an effort to bring even more support to black filmmakers.

That support extends to overseas missions like the DTI’s delegation to L.A., which will be comprised of emerging black production and service companies. Along with bringing a slate of fresh South African content to the AFM, the group will visit Hollywood studios and meet with potential co-production partners.

Such missions are vital to plugging emerging black filmmakers into the global marketplace. According to Deputy Minister of Trade & Industry Bulelani Magwanishe, the delegation will also look to attract more foreign investment into the South African film and TV industries while showcasing the country’s infrastructure and service offerings for foreign shoots.

“The AFM is a great networking platform for South Africa to … foster closer ties with partner countries we have co-production treaties with, and garner increased involvement from large film markets such as the United States of America,” said Magwanishe. “We feel that the revised incentive, compounded by excellent film servicing experience, will make it more attractive to film in South Africa.”

According to the DTI, 99 film and TV productions were approved under a range of incentive schemes for the 2017-18 fiscal year, which are projected to create more than 9,000 jobs while injecting nearly R2.9 billion (around $198 million) into the economy.

That will certainly give a boost to a country that’s been grappling with recession in recent years. But the broader task of leveling the economic playing field nearly a quarter-century since the end of apartheid remains a challenge.

“The reality is that the industry is not transformed as we would expect,” said Joshua. “When you take into consideration [we’re] almost 25 years since our freedom, the [talent] pool is not big enough.”

Still, he credits the DTI with “pushing this transformation agenda” and creating a roadmap that can help to propel the South African creative sector forward. “As an organization, the DTI is putting their money where their mouth is,” he said.

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