Film Markets A Vital Cog In The Development of Independent Films

Five Fingers for Marseilles (DFM 2013)

The recent report released by the NFVF on the state of the South African film industry, reveals that the industry contributed approximately R5.4 billion to the local economy in 2015/2016 creating some 21 626 jobs along the way. There is no doubt that filmmaking is on the rise.

But the report also shows that much transformation still needs to take place. This also highlights the need to further develop collaboration between African filmmakers. It also implies that more work needs to be done to connect African filmmakers with funders/financiers/investors and commissioning editors. Simply put, connecting filmmakers to the money. And this is where the world’s film markets can play a vital role in providing a platform for the industry to connect and develop relationships with each other as creatives, as well as with the people who have the funds to get these projects from the page to the screen.

There are countless examples of films that have come through development within markets around the globe. Locally the Durban FilmMart now in its 8th edition, is no exception. The Mart continues to play a pivotal role in supporting projects to get off the ground, and consequently has its own success stories.

The DFM, a joint film industry programme of the eThekwini Municipality’s Durban Film Office (DFO) and the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF), provides a professional springboard for African filmmakers to build valuable business networks during the four days of masterclasses, seminars and industry events. It also includes the important Finance Forum, which provides opportunities for directors and producers to pitch to leading financiers, broadcasters and other potential funders.

Every year, about 20 African projects are pre-selected for this Finance Forum programme. In 2017 10 documentaries and 12 feature fiction films in development are pitching to invited guests, providing them with valuable opportunities to fine-tune and further consolidate their ideas for the market place. This Finance Forum programme is supported by main sponsors, Industrial Development Corporation SA and the National Film and Video Foundation SA, and attended by a number of key international partner markets, including Cinemart Rotterdam, International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, Hot Docs Canada, Produire au Sud France, Sundance USA, Restless Talent UK, Berlinale Talents Germany, Sørfond Norway, Afridocs, as well as local programme partners, Realness and VideoVision Entertainment. “These strategic partners provide invaluable connections for these filmmakers out into the market,” says Toni Monty, of the eThekwini Municipality’s Durban Film Office, who heads the DFM. “By having these partners well represented at the DFM, delegates also have access to engage with them in the various sessions, networking functions and meetings, enabling them to forge their own relationships going forward.”

Over the years the DFM alumni’s films have caught the attention of other markets and festivals as well as securing independent releases and good distribution deals and winning significant awards.

Success stories include films like John Trengove’s award-winning The Wound (DFM 2014) produced by Urucu Media, which will have its SA Premiere at DIFF this year and will have its theatrical release in 2018; The South African Western Five Fingers for Marseilles (DFM2013) by Michael Matthews produced by Sean Drummond, which went into production in July 2016 will have its world premiere later this year and will be released on circuit in SA next year; Alison (DFM 2014) directed by Uga Carlini and produced by Amy Nelson premiered last year at the Encounters Documentary Film Festival, screened at DIFF, had its theatrical release later in the year, and still continues to enjoy screenings globally.

Meg Rickards’ Tess (formerly Whiplash DFM 2013), also premiered at DIFF in 2016, playing to critical acclaim and winning the Best SA Film, Best Editing and Best Actress awards at DIFF. Other alumni include The Train of Salt and Sugar (DFM 2014) directed by Licinio de Azevedo and produced by Pablo Iraola, Pandora da Cunha Telles, and Urucu Media, which won Best Film at last year’s Johannesburg International Film Festival; Jenna Bass’s Flatland produced by David Horler, which won numerous awards at DFM in 2012 and went into production this year; Khalo Matabane’s 28s (formerly The Number) from DFM in 2012 was filmed in KZN last year; Rehad Desai’s seminal Miners Shot Down (DFM 2013) continues to provide a wave of consciousness around the Marikana massacre of 2012, also winning countless awards over the years; including the FESPACO Jury first prize award, SAFT Best Documentary, Britdoc Impact award as well as an International Emmy Award amongst many others.

Then the Egyptian film Jeanne d’Arc (DFM 2014) directed by Iman Kamel and produced by Talal Al-Muhanna ) which will be screening at the Eurasia International Film Festival later this year. Durban director Madoda Ncayiyana is preparing to go into production on his second feature film, Hhola Hhola, (formerly Mobile Muthi DFM 2010),  a comedy-drama produced by Vuleka Productions and Videovision, which stars the award-winning young actors he discovered in casting his first film, Izulu Lami, which opened DIFF in 2008.

In 2015, the DIFF had a bumper year with projects that had their genesis at the DFM including Sara Blecher’s Ayanda (DFM 2013), which opened the 2015 edition of DIFF.  Since then the film has opened six festivals around the world in cities as diverse as Switzerland and Maputo and played in more than 50 cities.

Others on the DIFF programme in 2015 included the acclaimed Boda Boda Thieves (DFM 2011) from Ugandan co-operative Yes! That’s Us films; and producer-director Joel Karekezi’s Imbabazi: The Pardon (DFM 2011), a personal account of the Rwandan genocide; the South African gangster documentary Devil’s Lair (DFM 2012); Unearthed (DFM 2013) which explored the dangers of fracking; and The Shore Break (DFM 2012), which unmasks the attempt of an international mining company to mine for titanium in one of the world’s last untouched natural areas. The Shore Break went on to premiere at IDFA in 2014 and was the only South African feature length documentary selected for Hot Docs 2015 in Toronto. The film won Best Feature Length Documentary at the 2015 Festival International du Film d’Environnement (FIFE) in Paris and the Backsberg Audience Choice Award at Encounters South African International Documentary Festival in 2015.

Other success stories include the Nigerian film Confusion Na Wa (DFM 2010) directed by Kenneth Gyang and starring Ramsey Nouah, which went on to win best film at the 2013 African Movie Awards, Durban-based Janet van Eeden’s Shot at the Big Time (DFM 2012) was made into a short film winning numerous local awards, and was selected for the Cannes Court Metrage, the short film corner of the official Cannes Festival 2014. South African director Mayenzeke Baza’s short documentary Ndiyindoda (I Am a Man) produced by Andy Jones, won Most Promising Documentary at DFM 2011, and then premiered at the Encounters documentary festival and went on to be nominated for two South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTA) in 2014.

Producer Neil Brandt and director Riaan Hendricks’ Devils Lair which chronicles the life of a convicted murderer and gang leader, premiered at Hot Docs and became one of the highlights of DIFF 2013, and then went on to win Best Feature and Best Editor at the SAFTA’s in 2014.

Other films, amongst many others coming out of the DFM process, include The Dreams of Shahrazad (DFM 2010) directed by Francois Verster and produced by Neil Brandt, Shameela Seedat and Wael Omar; the fiction-documentary hybrid Black President (DFM 2011), produced by Anna Teeman and directed by Mpumi Mcata; as well as the remarkable I, Afrikaner (DFM 2011), produced by Lauren Groenewald and directed by Annalet Steenkamp; and Khalo Matabane’s Mandela: The Myth and Me (DFM 2012).

Some 140 projects have been supported through the DFM over eight years, many making it onto the big screen, after a period of development – some going via other markets, festival programmes, script-doctoring and incubation. For some the journey is a long one, but each time filmmakers engage and discuss and pitch their work, they are provided with opportunities to fine-tune their thinking, and focus on how they can move their ideas through this seemingly complex process.


Which brings us to “The Pitch”. Many filmmakers are terrified to pitch their creative ideas to potential partners and investors or funders. The art of the pitch certainly takes some practice and honing of specific skills. There are techniques that can certainly be learnt.

So to support emerging filmmakers in honing these skills, the DFM and Produire au Sud, Nantes, have partnered to bring in well-known producer director, Stefano Tealdi, to SA to present a pitching workshop for DFM official fiction projects and DFM’s “Jumpstart” projects. The Jumpstart programme was created in an endeavour to support emerging filmmakers to bridge the gap from self-funding projects to investment/funded ones, this year’s Jumpstart programme offers ten young South African filmmakers an opportunity to develop their pitching skills.

The 2017 DFM edition will also see Nicole Brooks, vice president of CaribbeanTales Worldwide Distribution facilitate the CaribbeanTales Market Incubator Programme. Brooks will be presenting “CineFAM – Africa, an Accelerator programme for serialised content for African women filmmakers” for pre-selected filmmakers. Again a brilliant opportunity for those with projects in development to fine-tune their skills.

Networking, developing relationships and building bridges

Around 500 delegates, from South Africa, the continent and abroad, gather in Durban for the DFM to engage in the “business” of film.

Central to DFM’s objectives is to offer a stimulating environment for collaboration between African filmmakers and international producers and financiers. This year, key speakers include film distributor Tilane Jones (ARRAY Now), audience development specialist Moikgantsi Kgama  (ImageNation), film executive Charles Hopkins (Shoreline Entertainment), writer-director Shmerah Passchier, virtual reality expert Ingrid Kopp, distributor Nicole Brooks (CaribbeanTales Worldwide Distribution), editor-director Karen Harley, editor-producer Sabrina S Gordon, producer Mila Aung-Thwin, screenwriter Busisiwe Ntintili, filmmaker, playwright, poet and activist Tsitsi Dangarembga, producer-director Stefano Tealdi and producer, director and writer Alby James.

Topics covered by these speakers include “Women Led Film – Disrupting the Status Quo”, “Ten Questions to ask yourself before making your Pitch”, “Virtual Reality: What’s Happening in Africa and What Can We Make Happen?”, “Making Socially Impactful Documentaries”, “From Novel to Script”, “Interpreting the Script for the Screen”, “Understanding German Film Funds”, “Co-producing with Canada”, “Film Finance: State of the Industry” and “African Distribution” amongst others.

Women Led Film

With the thematic focus of “Women Led Film – Disrupting the Status Quo”, the DFM and DIFF, together with the Durban Film Office, the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), the lobby and advocacy organisation Sisters Working in Film and Television (SWIFT), and international partner CaribbeanTales Media Group, are focusing on the role of women in the industry. The programme will present a number of workshops, roundtables and panel discussions with leading women in film.

Parallel to the DFM focus, the DIFF will be highlighting films made by and about women within its screening programme. Festival manager, Chipo Zhou says, “The festival has this year taken considered strides to ensure that the inclusivity of participation by women is measurable across the board from selection, jury and facilitator panels throughout the different facets of our event. This is a conscious move towards making this a permanent feature of the festival as our contribution towards the redress that is urgently required within the film industry.”

“The objective of our women-focused programme is to bring a variety of voices together to discuss and unpack the challenges women face in the industry and to find useful and tangible ways to make the change needed and desired,” says Toni Monty.

“In a world of vast gender inequalities, it is inevitable to reflect at such bitter reality, and more importantly start working towards their redress: which starts with creation of platforms. The Women Led Film Focus becomes one of the many attempts in securing platforms to acknowledge, deliberate, and celebrate woman excellence in the film milieu.” David wa Maahlamela, director of UKZN’s Centre for Creative Arts, hosts of the Durban International Film Festival.

Sara Blecher, well-known South African filmmaker and co-founder of SWIFT (Sisters Working in Film & Television) which aims to nurture and redress the inequalities faced by women in the South African audio-visual industry, echoes these sentiments, “As the women’s struggle in film begins to finally garner the attention it needs around the world, we need to look to achieving some concrete results. We have to really start looking at the local film landscape and our status within this. The focus on women at DFM, will help shine the spotlight both on the representation of women on the screen, but also more importantly on the women behind the screen.”

The NFVF has been working within this space for some time, and will be presenting the successes of their Female FilmMaker Project at the DFM. “The decision to focus on women for the NFVF is a deliberate one. The objective is to break down the barriers to entry faced by women in the industry, especially black women who are the most marginalised. If the industry is to grow, thrive and become sustainable then all South Africans need equal opportunity to participate and contribute. Programmes focused on women will continue to be prioritized and we are encouraged and proud of the success witnessed by the previous female project funding recipient”, said Zama Mkosi CEO of the National Film and Video Foundation.

“Fostering collaboration between African filmmakers is vital for the future growth of African cinema,” says Toni Monty, head of the Durban Film Office. “The Durban FilmMart aims to provide an effective platform in Durban, to raise the visibility of African cinema, act as a stimulus for production and facilitate project collaboration between African filmmakers.”

The 8th Durban FilmMart takes place in Durban, at the Tsogo Sun Elangeni from 13 to 17 July 2017, during the 38th edition of the Durban International Film Festival (13 to 23 July 2017).

For more information on the Durban FilmMart, visit For more information about the Durban International Film Festival go to

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By Sharlene Versfeld


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