Beyond the Cannes curtain


NICO DEKKER of Cape Town Film Studios writes…..Try as I might I just couldn’t decipher the handwritten letters on the A4 size piece of paper stuck to my bicycle. I had locked the bicycle to the stairs in the foyer of the apartment building and somebody clamped it with a big chain. The only word that looked familiar was “Interdit”. My daughter Nina would have been disappointed especially after I claimed proudly that I can help myself with basic French and she really loves her French classes at school. The Concierge released a barrage of strict French words. His sign language was unmistakable: “Never bicycle inside – bicycle outside –humans inside”. Coming from South Africa, I’ve been taught that “bicycle outside” means not having bicycle anymore…  but fine, I was in France and tried to beat the system.

With all the roads around La Croisette blocked, I thought the best thing one could do was move around with a rented bicycle, while my colleagues were dragging their sore feet from meeting to parties to boats to screenings to functions. 

A fresh breeze lifted the spirits on the beaches of the Croisette. The Americans were back in full force. People trampled each other to see Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, Jude Law,  Penelope Cruz, Jody Foster, Owen Wilson, Woody Allen and many more of the mystical figures that normally only appear on the silver screen. Even Lady Gaga happened like a Fata Morgana…  The black hole that normally swallows everything, this time released a flurry of light. Deals happened, sales were made and in some cases prices were doubled and tripled.  Buyers were falling over each other to secure territories for films that would normally receive a yawn at most. Cannes 2011 made us feel that the recession is finally over and the good times are back. Let’s hope it is more than a Prague Spring. 

But the emergence of Cape Town Film Studios as a topic in the talk shops around the Grand Lumiere was no illusion. Even the Hollywood Reporter rated the new Studios built at the southernmost part of Africa as “one of the seven emerging state-of-the-art studios in the world” that gives the old guard a run for their money. 

For the first time we introduced South African wine during two events at the South African Pavilion. The wine was hailed as a major discovery and was lauded in lyrical terms.  Admittedly the enthusiasm reached its heights after the first hour of “tasting”. The South African company Distell provided a Fleur du Cap Sauvignon Blanc and a sparkling wine, Pongracz. The latter is made according to the “methode cap classique”. Vergenoegd, the wine estate on which Cape Town Film Studios was built, made their exclusive red wines available for the first time. I assured the dreamy- eyed tasters that the Vergenoegd wines formed a footnote in the “political miracle of South Africa” at a stage when negotiations between Nelson Mandela’s ANC and FW De Klerk’s National Party (NP) collapsed, the chief negotiators for both sides, Cyril Ramaphosa for the ANC and Roelf Meyer for the NP, had dinner in an effort to find a way out. It was clear to journalists waiting for the pair outside the restaurant that they had made a breakthrough based on their body language. Both were tight-lipped until a journalist asked them what wine they drank. Cyril beamed “Buitenverwachting” (the name of a wine meaning “beyond expectation”). Roelf Meyer speaking on behalf of the then- ruling party quickly countered: “But we finished with a bottle of “Vergenoegd” (meaning “far enough”).

Filmmakers ranging from first-timers to serious big-time producers approached me with projects for the Studios with budgets from US$200k to $20m and more. The reputation of the Studios after hosting the 3D action film Dredd seemed to open the way. In this regard it is important to remember the contribution of Michael Murphy from Kalahari Pictures, who was the co-producer on “Dredd” and the first one to fully believe in CTFS. Michael was convinced that we could handle the demanding production and his trust in our team and set-up has unlocked the production pipeline that has started to flow through CTFS. 

This article appears in the CTFS Newsletter.


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