At the 27th Annual News & Documentary Emmy® Awards presented by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences on 25 September at a black-tie ceremony at the Marriott Marquis hotel in New York, the South African documentary, A Lion’s Trail won the Emmy for “the most outstanding cultural and artistic programming”.
Duncan Irvine, Francois Verster
Brian Wengrofsky and Mark Kaplan
The film’s Director, Francois Verster, producer Mark Kaplan, US associate producer Brian Wengrofsky, and Duncan Irvine of Rapid Blue who are co-producers, were on hand to receive the award, which is the first time a South African film has won in this category. Produced by Verster, Dan Jawitz and Mark Kaplan, A Lion’s Trail tells the story of how Solomon Linda’s “Mbube” was transformed into “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and follows attempts to redress injustices around the song’s copyright. Earlier this year Linda’s heirs scored a major victory when Abilene Music, which administers the copyright to “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” in the United States, agreed to settle out of court for an undisclosed sum.
The Emmy nomination was put forward by PBS’s “Independent Lens”, the series on which it was broadcast last year in the US. The film was funded by the IDC, the South African National Film and Video Foundation, the SABC, RTBF (Belgium), NOS (Netherlands) and the BBC, and has been broadcast in 17 countries. Undercurrent Film and Television, ICE Media and Rapid Blue produced it.
Francois Verster concluded his acceptance speech by saying, “The fact that a film with this topic has won an award on American soil is significant in that it reflects a growing acknowledgement of broader global injustice a€” and that Africa is in various ways beginning to reclaim its rightful place in the world.”
Eddie Mbalo, CEO of the NFVF said “There are those who say that Tsotsi’s Oscar win was a one-off fluke, but this award proves that the South African industry is capable of sustaining its achievements at the highest levels. We congratulate Francois, Dan and Mark and all their team for reaping this accolade.”
Moses Silinda, head of the IDC’s Media and Motion Pictures Strategic Business Unit, congratulated the filmmakers for reaching this milestone and said “the fact that it beat three other US networks to win, means that the quality of the film speaks for itself”.
Dan Jawitz, on behalf of the producers, thanked the IDC, SABC and NFVF for their vision and confidence in the project, and said “This was a tough film to make a€” financially, creatively and physically – but clearly it has universal appeal. People seem to enjoy it, and this award proves it”.
Joel Phiri of ICE Media, said “It’s great to win, but the ultimate winners are the Linda family – the Emmy is just the icingon the cake. I am very proud”.