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Finance Forum Brings African WIP Into Focus at Durban FilmMart

The 10th edition of the Durban FilmMart, which unspools parallel to the 40th Durban Intl. Film Festival, will feature 10 fiction and 10 documentary works-in-progress taking part in its annual Finance Forum. The leading co-production market on the continent, the Forum brings together producers, distributors, sales agents, broadcasters, funding bodies, and other industry players from across the globe for four days of pitching sessions and networking opportunities from July 19-22.

“The DFM Finance Forum was always intended as a springboard platform for African filmmakers to access global markets,” says Durban Film Office and DFM head Toni Monty. “When we began 10 years ago, only a handful of the filmmakers submitting to DFM really understood how to prepare for the international market. Ten years on the applications have become much more sophisticated and competitive.”

Recent editions of the Finance Forum have helped launch the festival careers of films like Un Certain Regard selection “Rafiki,” by Kenya’s Wanuri Kahiu; “Amal,” Mohamed Siam’s riveting documentary about the Egyptian revolution, which opened IDFA; and “The Wound,” the Oscar-shortlisted LGBT drama by South Africa’s John Trengove. Monty calls the high-profile success of such DFM alumni “the most exciting development” she’s witnessed over the past decade.

“Over the years, there have been many filmmakers that find it difficult to tell local stories for global markets, but more and more we are seeing interesting growth in this space,” she says.

“We attribute this not only to the mentorship and publicity received by official DFM projects, but also the incredible network building that takes place for all filmmakers attending the four-day market.”

This year’s Finance Forum includes works-in-progress from South Africa, Nigeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Rwanda, Congo, Madagascar, Senegal, Ethiopia, Kenya and Burkina Faso. Another six projects will be presented in collaboration with the Realness Residency, a six-week mentorship program that takes place every year in South Africa.

The range of projects from countries with both venerable filmmaking traditions and upstart industries represent “complex and unique African stories that provide intimate insights into the continent’s consciousness,” says Monty.

“Over the past 10 years we have worked with hundreds of projects, and the question of what is authentic African storytelling remains,” she continues. At least one trend, however, is apparent.

“The female protagonist features in many of the storylines against the background themes of historical reflections, fragility, female activism, human rights violations and complex social intricacies in African culture,” she says. “The increase in women filmmakers submitting strong stories is a welcome development.”

Here are the projects selected for this year’s Durban FilmMart Finance Forum:

FICTION

Day of the Vow

Producers: David Franciscus, Nicki Priem

Producer/Writer: Marlie S. Jacobs

Director: David Franciscus

Country: South Africa

Synopsis: A travel vlogger intends to propose to his girlfriend during their Christmas holiday at her family’s farm. But after a mysterious disappearance, he finds himself trying to navigate the complicated social dynamics and racial tensions of modern-day South Africa.

Mami Wata

Producer: Oge Obasi

Director: C.J.Obasi

Country: Nigeria

Synopsis: When a spirit medium in a small West African fishing village is murdered by a mercenary, the village is thrown into upheaval. Only when two sparring women decide to set aside their differences to work together can the village return to its former glory.

Mkhulu Wase Next Door

Producers: Bongiwe Selane, Brendan C. Campbell

Director: Xolelwa Nhlabatsi

Country: South Africa

Synopsis: A boy going through puberty struggles with the fact that he has feelings for both sexes. His next-door neighbor, a lonely old man, twice tries – and fails – to kill himself. When fate throws them together, the pair form an unlikely bond, and an even more unlikely pact.

Pieces of Salma

Producers: Khosie Dali, David Horler

Director: Imran Hamduay

Country: South Africa

Synopsis: Ten years after the birth of South Africa’s democracy and the death of her husband, a teacher and former activist struggles to support her family. When she learns that her home is about to be repossessed, she resorts to desperate measures to keep her family together.

Sunflowers In The Dark

Producer: Tapiwa Chipfupa

Director: Ben Mahaka

Country: Zimbabwe

Synopsis: A woman struggles to reconcile her difficult relationship with her husband within the confines of the complex traditions and customs of Zimbabwean society.

The Bursary

Producer: Brett Michael Innes

Director: Nomawonga Khumalo

Country: South Africa

Synopsis: A young woman preparing to enter university is the victim of sexual assault, forcing her to make a difficult decision between her own preservation and that of her community and culture.

The Legend of the Vagabond Queen of Lagos

Producers: James Tayler, Megan Chapman, Andrew Maki, Mat Cerf, Joel Bolnick

Director: Know Your City Radical Co-creative Film Collective

Countries: Nigeria/South Africa

Synopsis: A young woman with a small child scraping by in the slums of Lagos is led to believe she’s nothing special, until the spirit of a great warrior-king marks her for a terrible responsibility. That sets off a chain of events that will change the woman, and her entire community, forever.

Those Who Dwell in Darkness

Producers: Dolly Mhlongo, Sithabile Mkhize

Director: Michael Van Niekerk

Country: South Africa

Synopsis: A community of British missionaries in 19th-century South Africa is divided by a plot to help a group of white settlers seize land already occupied by the local Zulu people. The dispute leads to a violent confrontation whose consequences upend the community.

Tunis-Djerba

Producer: Asma Chiboub

Director: Amel Guellaty

Country: Tunisia

Synopsis: When opportunity comes knocking for a young Tunisian artist, he and his lifelong friend embark on a wild road trip that puts their friendship to the test, while offering an opportunity to turn their lives around.

Yam and I

Producers: Hala Lotfy, Ruba Atiyeh, Nadine Salib

Director: Nadine Salib

Country: Egypt

Synopsis: A mute village girl living in a faraway land struggles to erase her dead mother’s memory. But when she breaks the rigid laws of the ritual to forget, her future is suddenly put in jeopardy.

DOCUMENTARIES

Africa Mother

Producer: Koussoubé Abdoul Karim

Director: Yssouf Koussé

Country: Burkina Faso

Synopsis: A female trucker plying the back roads of West Africa encounters danger, hardship, and unexpected friendships while harboring a hope to someday own a truck of her own.

A Suitcase of Memories
Producer: Engelbert Phiri

Director: Zinzi Nkenene

Country: South Africa

Synopsis: The surviving members of a heavy metal band that rocked the black townships of colonial-era Rhodesia search for glimpses of the men they used to be, offering a portrait of the healing power of artistic expression.

Black Women and Sex

Producer: Godisamang Khunou

Director: Godisamang Khunou

Country: South Africa

Synopsis: A journey through the lives of women scattered across the continent explores the many facets of sex and female sexuality in various African cultures, including stories of polygamy, pornography, sexual violence, and activism.

Kongo is Burning

Producer: Ali Musoke

Director: Arnold Aganze

Countries: Uganda/Congo

Synopsis: Inspired by the cult classic “Paris is Burning,” the documentary offers an alternative perspective and commentary on what it means to live and identify as LGBTQ in the Democratic Republic of Congo.    

Living Like a Shadow
Producer: Romeo Umulisa

Director: Claudine Ndimbira

Country: Rwanda

Synopsis: When photos leaked from the engagement party of a leading Rwandan actress and another woman, it became front-page news. Two years later, the women are still living with the consequences in a country whose LGBTQ community is fighting to define itself.

Murder in Paris – Why, Dulcie September? 

Producers: Liezel Vermeulen, Enver Samuel

Director: Enver Samuel

Country: South Africa

Synopsis: For the past 30 years, veteran Dutch investigative journalist Evelyn Groenink has doggedly tried to piece together why the political activist Dulcie September was assassinated in the heart of Paris. Three decades on, the murder remains a mystery.

The Home

Producers: Chase Musslewhite, Justin Cohen

Director: Jessie Zinn

Country: South Africa

Synopsis: Through the carefully observed lives of residents and caretakers at a Jewish old age home in Cape Town, the film takes a comedic look at themes surrounding death and a desire to find purpose at any age, while raising questions of who has the privilege to grow old in comfort.


The Last Survivor

Producer: Mark Lotfy

Director: Muhammad Taymour

Country: Egypt

Synopsis: A cinematic search for Aktham Suliman, the last man who survived the collapse of a residential building in Cairo, after being trapped beneath the ruins for 82 hours.


The Missing Middle 

Producer: Nomakhomazi Dewavrin

Director: Okuhle Dyosopu

Country: South Africa

Synopsis: Four young South Africans confront the challenges and contradictions facing countless post-apartheid youth, who aren’t rich enough to enjoy the privileges of the upper class nor poor enough to qualify for government benefits.

When Shadows Move (DFM 2018 Durban Talents Award)

Director/Producer: Jacqui-Lee Katz

Director/Producer: Aliki Saragas-Georgiou

Country: South Africa

Synopsis: A creative documentary at the intersection of power and sex.

REALNESS RESIDENCY

The Lunar Songbook
Filmmaker: Athi-Patra Ruga

Country: South Africa

Synopsis: Two women who share an intimate bond are thrown together on a revenge mission in a futuristic tale set in the year 2044.

The Tears of a Last Deceased
Filmmaker: Beza Hailu Lemma

Country: Ethiopia

Synopsis: A young Ethiopian Orthodox priest has a crippling fear of death which affects everyday life as a practicing cleric. He is forced to question his faith when he’s confronted with the devastating task of preparing his sister’s body for burial after she commits suicide.


The Spirit Guest
Filmmaker: Fanyana Hlabangane

Country: South Africa

Synopsis: A Johannesburg family is struck by tragedy with the sudden death of a beloved patriarch. When his two sons return home for the burial, they’re stunned by the arrival of their dead mother—setting off a chain of events that puts the estranged brothers on a collision course.

Coura+Ouleye

Filmmaker: Iman Djionne

Country: Senegal

Synopsis: Two estranged sisters, whose mothers are co-wives, race each other to find the will left behind by their father after his sudden death. Their quest will take them on a journey of self-discovery, where they will end up redefining themselves, and their relationship, outside of their complex family dynamics.


Miles
Filmmaker: Silas Miami

Country: Kenya

Synopsis: A young, perpetually anxious gay man struggles to negotiate his sexuality in Nairobi, a space that sets him up to believe that his value can only exist in the shadows. After the death of the grandfather who provided him with emotional support, his relationships begin to disintegrate.

Burned Land

Filmmaker: Firoza Zahir Houssen

Country: Madagascar

Synopsis: A 7-year-old girl lives with her family in Madagascar, where it hasn’t rained in a decade. As the United Nations offers emergency relief, the family struggles to cope with their dire situation.

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