Seven documentary projects with strong social justice messages were pitched to an assembly of over 200 participants at Good Pitch² at Atlas Studios in Johannesburg, after which representatives from the selected organisations responded on how they could either help the project or use it as part of their work.
Setting the scene at Good Pitch² chief executive of the Channel 4 BRITDOC Foundation Jess Search said that everyone gathered at Atlas Studios in Johannesburg for the event needs each other.
“Filmmakers need partners in civil society and organisations need powerful documentaries to help them spread their messages. It’s about pooling resources,’ she noted.
The first project pitched to the audience was The Dawn of a New Day by Ryley Grunenwald of Marie-Verite Films. The documentary, which premiered at the recent Durban International Film Festival, focuses on access to healthcare and volunteerism.
According to Grunenwald she was at Good Pitch² to find partners and funding to start an outreach programme to mobilise youth for volunteerism.
Frank Meintjies, who represented Mandela Day, promised to keep in touch with regard to a partnership. “It’s always a challenge to explain to people what to do and how to get involved. There’s a number of ways that this film can be utilised,’ said Meintjies.
Director Mike Hutchinson and producer Sharon Farr’s Guardian of Uganda’s Gentle Giants is a documentary that looks at Uganda’s first appointed veterinary officer Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka as she tries to protect Uganda’s mountain gorillas.
“It’s a character-driven piece that looks at a sustainable conservation model,’ said Farr. “We’re looking for production funding, as well as partners who will be able to use the film. We hope her work can be applicable all over the world, and her story needs to be told.’
Dominique Young from Al Jazeera was interested in the story. “There are a number of things we can do, of which the most obvious is providing co-production funding. The film would have to be cut shorter to fit Al Jazeera slot length, but I think there is a huge audience that would be really interested in this.’
Ntsika, by director / producer Alette Schoon and producer Johanna Mavhunga, is a film about a white, female principal who moves from a privileged Grahamstown school to a township school.
Mavhunga said the documentary will follow the principal’s journey, and viewers will meet the learners and their parents. “Whether she fails or succeeds, we hope it opens up dialogue and shines a light on why so few people in South Africa are going to university.’
While many pledged support for the project, Media Monitoring Africa’s William Bird commented that Ntsika was the kind of thing that should be viewed on South African screens. “One issue with the way our education system is portrayed in the media is that everyone knows it’s a disaster, but no-one unpacks why it is so.’
He promised to use the MMA’s good relationships with the South African media to get the right publicity for the project.
Devil’s Lair by director Riaan Hendricks and producer Neil Brandt exposes on the challenges convicts face when they are released from jail, and the lack of prisoner rehabilitation. Hendricks grew up with gang leader and ex-convict Bryan, which gives him unique access to tell the story.
“Although they are criminals, we fail these people. They need to be rehabilitated. I need to find people who may have been in jail and were rehabilitated in some way. I need to create heroes,’ said Hendricks.
Nicki Naylor from the Ford Foundation of South Africa was really moved watching the video clip from Devil’s Lair because she grew up on the Cape Flats. “It’s hard to find funding for a project like this, because donors don’t find it a sexy subject, but this film is important because it’s easy to demonise prisoners and not take into account the role and responsibility of communities and the state.’
Producer / writer / director Peter Goldsmid and producer / visual artist Jacki McInnes pitched the documentary Dirty Money which explores the “human emotion’ behind the world of informal street recyclers.
Paul Meyer of game development company Luma Arcade talked about a possible education partnership. “I think game development has a long history of not being taken seriously enough as a tool for change and education,’ he noted.
One of the films to receive the most attention was The Dream of Shahrazad by director Francois Verster and producer Neil Brandt. It promises to use four people in Egypt and Turkey to locate the events of the Arab spring and the politics of revolution within a context of storytelling and music. More specifically it will use the famous Arab stories of 1001 Nights.
“It will combine music, fable and politics, showing the connection between art and freedom, and revolution and storytelling,’ said Verster.
Of the participants gathered for the pitch, Spier Films, has already provided funding and Al Jazeera has commissioned the filmmakers to do a half-hour programme on one of the characters.
The last project pitched was director Jo Higgs and producer Jacky Lourens’ project, Men from Atlantis. It follows a group of men who make a dramatic stand against the abuse of women and children in Atlantis in the Western Cape.
According to Lourens the film is finished, but they need funding and partners to organise community screenings, followed by collaborative conversations between men and women in Atlantis. They also want to raise more funds for a shelter featured in the documentary.
Founder and CEO of Bozza, Emma Kaye suggested creating a “mobihood’ using shorter cuts from the film. “We can create a Men from Atlantis channel on Bozza and create a community around it, which can hopefully touch the lives of people living in Atlantis.’
SCREENAFRICA Print Magazine – October 2011 (view here)
By Linda Krige