SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: Little One, His Majesty’s Building, The Shore Break, Taxi Ride and a slate of eight low budget comedy films from Sello Twala Movies were the projects that received financial support from the Gauteng Film Commission (GFC) in the second quarter of the 2012/13 financial year.
The projects were announced at a GFC-hosted industry gathering held at The Venue in Johannesburg’s Melrose Arch on 28 September.
Said GFC marketing manager Zizi Kodwa: “This event serves to popularise the GFC’s programme and highlight the opportunities that we offer to filmmakers. Film plays an important tool to communicate and tell our stories. The projects we support tell stories that resonate with us. However, there are certain criteria that each application must meet in order to be eligible for GFC funding.’
GFC CEO Mzwandile Masina stressed the Commission’s need for transparency. “If you are open and transparent then people will trust you more. We have created an appeals committee on the advisory body of the GFC to ensure that the CEO is not super-powerful. If you’re dissatisfied with the treatment of your application then you are free to take it up with the appeals committee.
“When you submit an application it’s important to know that we might not agree to give you funding not just because we don’t have money, but because your film may not fit in with the mandate of the country. We have to evaluate and consider other matters beyond just the story of the film. For instance, look at the violent global controversy caused by the anti-Islamic short film, The Innocence of Muslims.
“It is the function of our projects committee to ensure that each project is evaluated fairly and transparently. The committee has a turnaround time deadline for evaluating the applications because we realise that any delay affects production.’
Masina announced that the GFC will host functions on a quarterly basis to announce its projects and interact with local stakeholders.
Just minutes before the event started, Darrell James Roodt, the writer and director of Little One, was informed by the National Film and Video Foundation that his film had been selected as South Africa’s official entry into the Oscars’ Best Foreign Language Film category.
An elated Roodt said: “I’m so excited that Little One has been selected for the Oscars. It proves that you can make a tiny film with heart and get noticed. During the shoot I got the feeling that we were making something special even though we had the smallest budget and crew and were in desperate need of more money. The GFC were incredibly helpful – not only did they give us substantial financial support but they facilitated the crew’s entry into the police station and hospital as well.’
As he made his way to the podium, producer of Taxi Ride, popular comedian David Kau, quipped: “I’m used to speaking in front of thousands of people, not small gatherings like this. While I’m a comedian by profession, I make films on the side.
“Taxi Ride was commissioned by pay-TV channel Mzansi Magic but I spent extra money on the film because it’s impossible to make a film for R100,000. I found out that I could apply to the GFC for help in the distribution phase. They helped fund the manufacturing of the DVDs.
“My distribution plan for Taxi Ride is to find unemployed youths in each municipality in South Africa to sell the DVDs. There are about 300 municipalities in the country. I don’t mind putting the DVDs in my boot and selling them myself. That’s how I sell my stuff.’
Kau stressed that it’s important for filmmakers to decide who they are making their film for. “My film has four or five official languages in it with English subtitles – so that’s my market. I’m not trying to show my film on the big screen at Nu Metro or Ster-Kinekor.’
He admitted he had reservations about going to a government agency for financial aid. “But, if you have patience, give yourself time and make sure you have your tax clearance certificate, then don’t be afraid of the GFC.’
Sello Twala revealed that he’d signed “a unique deal’ for his slate of comedy films, with the Daily Sun newspaper.
“The official announcement will be made at a later stage but I can tell you that 500,000 copies of my DVDs will be distributed, for free, in the newspaper. This means that 20 million people will see my films,’ said Twala.
In closing, Masina noted that apart from the support it gives to films, the GFC also gives back to the community with skills and development training. In partnership with the Film and Publication Board the GFC will host 50 film workshops all over Gauteng in October.
Here are synopses of the GFC’s supported projects:
Little One: This human drama explores the growing problem of child abuse in South Africa. It follows the relationship between a victim and the policeman who finds her. The policeman goes beyond the call of duty to track down the perpetrators of this hideous crime. Along the way we are introduced to a rich variety of secondary characters who illuminate this tragedy that befalls over 30% of South Africa’s children.
His Majesty’s Building: The GFC supported post-production of His Majesty’s Building, a feature film about Freddie who falls to his death from a high-rise building in Johannesburg. Lieutenant Fitzpatrick’s detective unit finds a note in Freddie’s loft, and the case is closed as a suicide. But Freddie’s lover, Maria, hires private eye Dicke Dibe to investigate what she believes is a case of murder. A post mortem reveals a gunshot wound to Freddie’s head. Dicke suspects Freddie was shot, then thrown off the building, and is determined to find the killer before he, or she, strikes again.
The Shore Break: Set in the beautiful Wild Coast, The Shore Break is a documentary feature about Nonhle, who wants to protect her land and titanium-rich beaches from an Australian mining company. The foreign dune miners have no road access to the beaches, so a national highway is approved that will cut through her community’s homesteads, subsistence farms, and ancestral graves, dividing them with a high fence. Nonhle’s king and queen publicly protest against the mining, only to be dethroned by the government. The developments leads to divisions in the community and Nonhle’s own cousins partner with the Australian mining company, believing that Nonhle is standing in the way of progress.
A slate of eight films: The GFC has supported eight low budget comedy feature films by Sello Twala Movies that will be aired on DStv’s Mzanzi Magic channel and distributed by Daily Sun through its Woza Month End initiative. Support for these films is in line with the Commission’s priority of promoting appreciation of local content in indigenous languages.
Taxi Ride: This low-budget film commissioned by Mzansi Magic is produced by David Kau and Disadvantaged Background Productions, which has all the DVD distribution rights for two years to exploit to its benefit anywhere in the world, from 2 April 2012 to 2 April 2014. The production company intends to sell a minimum of 100 000 copies of Taxi Ride in the first two to three months, not only in South Africa but in other parts of Africa, including Kenya and Nigeria, where it is already in talks with local distributors. GFC supported the distribution of Taxi Ride in line with its mandate of audience and enterprise development.
Media Career Guides: Media Career Guide is an educational TV show broadcast on SABC 1. It is in its third season. The TV show takes viewers behind the scenes of the film, TV, advertising, music and radio industries in South Africa. Each episode features interviews with professionals from different industries, giving an insight into their various careers. Educational institutions that offer courses for specific careers and helpful tips on how get into this creative industry are also visited. In the new season, the show aims to identify companies that are willing to give internships to graduates.
Sins: Directed by Akin Omotoso, Sins is a drama-thriller in the mould of international successes like City Of God (Brazil), Ameros Perros (Mexico), Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (both United Kingdom). Sins is a homeless writers’ empowerment project that is an answer to the need for transformation in the film sector and the country as a whole. The project consists of three separate plots with separate characters that intertwine to form a single story. The three intersect in surprising and interesting ways, but without the characters actually ever meeting each other. The story ends with all of the characters’ lives changed forever. The film commission supported this project through its Talent Management and Mentorship Programme.
GFC Training and Development supported project: Women’s Seminar: The inaugural Gauteng Women’s Seminar was designed to strengthen, promote and increase the participation of women in the film and TV sector. A key objective is to help set up a network or association that will represent the interests of women in film in Gauteng. It is envisaged that the association will initiate and implement programmes for the empowerment of women. More than a hundred women working in the audiovisual sector attended the event, where they heard from various industry leaders, government representatives and institution professors. The GFC supported this project through its Talent Management and Mentorship Programme.
Report by Joanna Sterkowicz