DURBAN–Female-driven narratives and daring portraits of queer culture around the continent were the big winners at this year’s Durban FilmMart (DFM), the industry program of the Durban Intl. Film Festival, which handed out awards at a ceremony Monday night at the Southern Sun Maharani Hotel.

Among the prize-winners were the story of a Zimbabwean woman grappling with her country’s traditions and customs as she tries to reconcile her difficult relationship with her husband; a teenage sexual-assault survivor in South Africa forced to make a difficult decision that will affect her fate and the fate of her community; and an alternative perspective on what it means to live and identify as LGBTQ in the Democratic Republic of Congo.    

“This is the 10th edition of Durban FilmMart, and we wanted to ensure that we celebrate this milestone with the birthing of new initiatives, new conversations and new directions,” said Durban Film Office and DFM head Toni Monty. “We wanted to create a stronger sense of community amongst all of you, and with that, a stronger sense of responsibility, accountability, and an understanding of the power you possess as filmmakers to make this world a better place.”

This year’s edition of the DFM Finance Forum featured 20 projects that were pitched to an international audience of producers, funding bodies, festival programmers, broadcasters, and other industry reps. In addition, six CineFam Africa TV projects were mentored by Canada’s Caribbean Tales; Jumpstart (Produire au Sud, France) and the Realness Script Writing Residency hosted a scriptwriters labs for an additional 10 projects; and the Hot Docs Canadian Intl. Documentary Festival, together with Don Edkins of Afridocs, mentored 13 documentary projects.

Supported by Berlinale Talents and the Goethe-Institut, Durban Talents also hosted 18 young filmmakers, as well three journalists in its Talents Press program.

“DFM is a place for African filmmakers to forge their own path in this complex industry,” said Monty. “We understood when we first started that the industry was rapidly changing, with new funding and financing models, and new ways of telling stories.”

She continued: “We believe that filmmakers needed to be at the forefront of these changes, leading the way into a new dimension of filmmaking and the business of film. Our core focus over the last 10 years has therefore been to enable filmmakers to connect with the global markets, build strong networks and share experiences.”

The following awards were handed out Monday night:

The CineMart Award, sponsored by the co-production market of the International Film Festival Rotterdam, went to the fiction project, “Sunflowers in the Dark” (Zimbabwe), produced by Ben Mahaka and Tapiwa Chipfupa and directed by Chipfupa. The project is given an opportunity to attend the Rotterdam Lab, a five-day training and networking event for producers from all over the world.

Produire au Sud of Festival des 3 Continents (Nantes)/IFAS also awarded “Sunflowers in the Dark,” giving Mahaka and Chipfupa an opportunity to attend its developmental workshop program, PAS, where they will be given tools, expertise, and opportunities to develop European networks.

Carthage Film Festival awarded “Pieces of Salma” (South Africa), produced by Khosie Dali and David Horler and directed by Imran Hamdulay, who will have an opportunity to participate in the Carthage Festival program in Tunisia.

Sørfond awarded the project “Mami Wata” (Nigeria), produced by Oge Obasi and directed by C.J. Obasi, who will be able to pitch at the Sørfond Pitching Forum in Oslo later this year.

The NFVF CineFAM-Africa Incubator Accelerator Program Award of a ZAR50,000 ($3,600) development grant went to Sylvia Vollenhoven for “Buckingham Palace.

Videovision Entertainment awarded the Best South African Film Project to “The Bursary” (South Africa), produced by Brett Michael Innes and directed by Nomawonga Khumalo. They receive a prize valued at ZAR75,000 ($5,400), which guarantees the film’s release once it is completed. The prize also includes marketing and distribution support from Videovision Entertainment. 

The Stage 5 Films Award for the Most Promising Narrative also went to “The Bursary,” which will receive a ZAR50,000 ($3,600) cash prize accompanied by an additional ZAR25,000 ($1,800) worth of script coverage, production support, market analysis and packaging for further finance.

The Durban FilmMart TalentsAward for the Durban Talents Project selected as a project for DFM was awarded to “Twelve Pangas” (South Africa), directed by Xola Mteto.

Communications consultants Versfeld & Associates awarded “Those Who Dwell in Darkness” (South Africa), produced by Dolly Mhlongo and Sithabile Mkhize and directed by Michael James; “The Home” (South Africa), produced by Justin Cohen, Jessie Zinn and Chase Musslewhite and directed by Zinn and Musslewhite; and Talents Durban project “And Who Will Cook?” (Cape Verde), by Samira Vera-Cruz. The projects will receive one-on-one publicity consultations.

The broadcast stream Afridocs,which screens African and other international documentaries across 49 countries of sub-Saharan Africa on a weekly basis, gave a €2,500 ($2,800) award, funded by the Bertha Foundation, to “Kongo is Burning” (Uganda/Congo), produced by Ali Musoke and directed by Arnold Aganze.

“Kongo is Burning” also received the Hot Docs Blue Ice Award, with a cash prize of CAN$2,000 ($1,500).

“Black Women and Sex” (South Africa), produced and directed by Godisamang Khunou, won the DoK Leipzig Award. It can now participate in the 2020 DoK Leipzig program in Germany.

The Durban Intl. Film Festival continues until July 28.