The Locarno Film Festival’s Industry Academy workshop is extending its global reach to Africa.

The prominent Swiss festival’s formative initiative dedicated to training young professionals working in sales, traditional or online distribution, theatrical exhibition and programming for festivals – which is an intergral part of Locarno’s Locarno Pro industry side – has forged a new partnership with the Realness Institute, the South Africa-based non-profit that promotes cultural understanding, open exchange and intellectual and artistic development of filmmakers on the African continent.

The Southern Africa-Locarno Industry Academy will offer a tailored program featuring masterclasses and meetings with internationally established professionals. The aim is to enhance participants’ understanding of the challenges facing the film industry, at the same time allowing them to expand their personal network of contacts and develop their professional skill set, Locarno said in a statement.

The program’s first edition will run online from September 26 to October 2 2021. It will host 10 to 12 participants from all over the African continent. Applications will open on April 20.

“We’re thrilled to launch the first industry academy in Africa. The Southern Africa-Locarno Industry Academy will allow us to introduce our program for young professionals in this region,” said recently appointed new Locarno Pro chief Markus Duffner in the statement. “Participants will be able to connect with Industry Academy alumni in Latin America, the Middle East, the USA and Europe, joining an international network of future industry players,” he added.

Mehret Mandefro, Director of Development and Partnerships at Realness Institute, noted how “the dearth of film sales agents, distribution professionals, and film programmers, is a glaring gap in the local media ecosystems in Africa and prevents those markets from operating efficiently” and added that “partnering with Locarno Industry Academy to fill this gap is an exciting opportunity to build strength where we need it most in the local markets.”

The Locarno Industry Academies offer a unique training program developed along common lines that are supervised by Project Manager Marion Klotz.

At the same time, the presence of a regional project manager ensures that issues specific to the region are addressed.

For the Southern Africa-Locarno Industry Academy the role of regional manager will be taken by Elias Ribeiro, Executive Director of the Realness Institute and Founder of South African indie Urucu Media, the company behind Sundance prizewinner “This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection.” Ribeiro said he is looking forward to “making this experience as localized and relevant to the African realities in distribution as possible.”

“We will become more independent as content makers once we figure out ways to reach audiences across the continent of Africa. It is a huge, complex and untapped market,” he pointed out.

Launched by the Locarno Film Festival in 2014, its global Industry Academy has since expanded considerably and now offers workshops in partnership with many major festivals and film institutions around the world. In Mexico with Morelia IFF; in Brazil with BrLab; in Chile with Australab; in Panama with International Film Festival Panama; in Greece with Thessaloniki IFF; in the U.S. with Film at Lincoln Center in New York; and in Lebanon with MC Distribution and BCP in Beirut. By its count the Locarno Industry Academy currently has more than 300 alumni from all over the world. 

The 74th edition of the Locarno Film Festival is set to take place as a physical edition – barring complications – August 4-14.