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Durban FilmMart Press

Durban FilmMart Press
The co-production market for African filmmakers, a joint programme of the Durban Film Office & the Durban International Film Festival.

Buddha in Africa provides a unique perspective on Chinese soft power in Africa


Set in a Chinese Buddhist orphanage in Malawi – against the backdrop of China’s increasing influence on the African continent – Buddha in Africa documents Malawian teenager Enock Alu’s journey and the inner battle he faces as he is torn between the contrasting worlds of his traditional African culture and the Buddhist value system that he was raised within.

Through Enock’s journey and the orphanage he calls home, the film provides a unique perspective on Chinese “soft power” in Africa today. “I was actually living in Malawi when I first came across this story of the Chinese Buddhist orphanage. I had been working as a freelance video journalist producing video features for Reuters Pan-African magazine programme Africa Journal and this was the last story I did before returning to South Africa,” comments director Nicole Schafer. “I was working on a story about orphans at the time that Madonna was adopting her second child.”

China in Africa                                 

At the same time Malawi and other parts of Africa were experiencing a rapid influx of Chinese investment and Chinese nationals – following the formalising of Malawi’s diplomatic ties with the People’s Republic of China. Schafer says that she felt this story would be a fascinating lens through which to view and engage in the debates around the implications of China’s involvement in Africa.

“While most debates around ‘China in Africa’ at the time was focused on the so-called ‘colonisation’ of her economies and natural resources, this story showed a unique aspect of China’s cultural influence on the continent. I was struck by how this orphanage was strangely reminiscent of the Christian missions during the colonial era – only here African children had Chinese names and instead of learning about the West, they were learning about Chinese culture and history. I felt the orphanage would be the perfect metaphor to explore the growing relationship between China and Africa, but also as a mirror of Western colonialism.”

The Amitofo Care Centre

At the Amitofo Care Centre (ACC), where Buddha in Africa is shot, Malawian children are given Chinese names and taught to read and write Mandarin. There, these children wake up at 04:30 am to pray inside a Buddhist temple and they are masters of the art of Shaolin Kung Fu at a young age.

Our guide into the world of the Buddhist orphanage is Enock Alu – one of 300 children growing up at ACC. At the age of seven Alu was one of the first children to be recruited from his village and offered a place at ACC, when founder Master Hui Li – a Buddhist monk from Taiwan – opened it in 2003. At the time, Enock was living under the care of his grandmother after his mother passed away and his father had left and re-married another woman. While in his final year of school, Alu is torn between trying to hold onto his Malawian roots and the opportunities afforded to him by his Chinese upbringing.

“The first time I met Enock was when I was doing a short video feature and I asked them to identify one or two of the kids who I could profile and so they introduced me to Enock, who was one of the star performers and the top of his Kung Fu class. He was only 12 years old at the time, he was fluent in Mandarin, and I was captivated by the story of this young Malawian boy with dreams of becoming a Kung Fu film star like Jet Li,” explains Schafer.

Two Contrasting Worlds

About a year and a half after first meeting the young boy, Schafer returned to the ACC to start development on the film, and wanted to know more about how Alu and his friends were making sense of themselves between two very contrasting worlds: “I was surprised to learn that Enock knew very little about his personal history. He had never even seen a photograph of his parents before,” says Schafer, “and so the first part of filming very much involved initiating a process of reflection into his past… I always imagined that at some point some form of conflict would present itself between these two very different cultures and worlds Enock inhabited. And so I was very much focused on observing his shifting relationship between his community in the village, on the one hand, and his new Chinese family, on the other.”

Additionally, Schafer says that she was also interested in capturing the boy’s experience of feeling like an outsider in terms of his longing to belong to his village community as well as the challenge of fitting into Chinese culture – “and then the realisation that comes towards the end of the film that he will never completely belong to either of these worlds.”


Buddha in Africa was shot sporadically over a period of five years, with Schafer travelling to Malawi for two to three weeks at a time as she acquired funding. “Most of the footage used in the film was shot in the final year when I had more resources to shoot on my camera of choice and by then I had established a solid relationship with all the characters in the film,” she comments.

The film was financed predominantly through ‘soft funds’ from various local and international film grants, with development funding coming from The National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), IDFA Bertha and Hot Docs Blue Ice Funding. Production funding again came from the NFVF, IDFA Bertha and Hot Docs Blue Ice Funding, as well as Chicken and Egg Pictures, the KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission, the Alter Cine Foundation and AfriDocs. “It took seven years to secure all the funding from when I first pitched the film at the Durban FilmMart in 2011,” Schafer says.


Due to budget constraints, Buddha in Africa was shot on several different cameras, depending on the available budget at the time of shooting. “It was only in my final year that I was able to afford the Canon 5D Mark III, which was ideal for the low light conditions I was working in,” comments Schafer, who paired the camera with a combination of lenses – a 50mm prime, a 17-40mm wide and a zoom lens. “I also had my old video camera that I used for sound and could capture the radio mic feed on one channel and the rifle mic or, when I had a sound assistant, the boom, into the other. It was quite cumbersome spending 12-18 hour days with all these cameras, lenses and mics, but I got the hang of it. Well, I had no choice really!” Schafer adds.


Editing on the film was done by Schafer with the help of a team of assistant editors “and some input from editor Catherine Meyburgh, up to the rough-cut stage,” she says. “That took about three years after filming ended completely. At this point, I was able to secure the interest of a Swedish producer from Momento Film who came on-board as a co-producer to support the final stages of post-production. This enabled me to work with two very good international editors who refined the story and turned our rough-cut into a film.”

The final colour grade and online was done by The Monk and Priest Post in Cape Town: “This was an award that I received through the Cape Town International Film Festival Works-in-progress pitch. Without this, we would still not have a finished film,” comments Schafer.

Festivals and Awards

The film had its world premiere at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary film festival in April, and opened the Encounters Documentary Festival in Cape Town and Johannesburg in June, where it received a Backsberg Encounters Audience Award. It was also in the official selection at this year’s Sydney International Film Festival in June.

Excitingly, Buddha in Africa was awarded the coveted Best SA Documentary award at the recent Durban International Film Festival, which means the film automatically qualifies for Oscar consideration. “The journey of making and completing a documentary can be a long and challenging process and it is very meaningful to have this affirmation and recognition here, at home, at the Durban International Film Festival, where we first pitched the project several years ago,” comments Schafer. “With regards to the Oscar consideration – we are thrilled and immensely grateful to have the opportunity to be considered for an Oscar nomination.”

Still to come, the film will have its European premiere in the Official Competition at the Visioni dal Mondo, Immagini dalla Realtà International Documentary Festival in Milan and the Afrika Film Festival in Belgium in September. In October Buddha in Africa will open the Afrika Filmdays Festival in Munich, followed by the UNICEF Innocenti Film Festival in Florence. “There are several more local and international festivals pending for the rest of the year,” adds Schafer.

Buddha in Africa is an international co-production with Momento Films in Sweden. Paris-based sales company CAT and Docs is representing the film internationally, while AfriDocs is the African broadcast partner. Additionally, the documentary has already sold to several territories and been broadcast on NHK in Japan and ARTE in France and Germany.

Buddha in Africa will be broadcast on AfriDocs, the free-to-view VOD platform and broadcast documentary strand, across Africa in December.

Realness Institute confirms Sundance partnership: Creative Producers Indaba 2020 launched


In an exciting development for African producers, a long-hinted-at collaboration is finally official.

Realness founders and film producers Elias Ribeiro and Bongiwe Selane teased the announcement during the Realness Residency that took place recently at Cannes, but it is now confirmed that Realness Institute, EAVE and the International Film Festival Rotterdam are further partnering with the Sundance Institute to create the Creative Producers Indaba, a professional training programme designed to support emerging African producers on a global stage.

The confirmation of the partnership with the Sundance Institute, which took place at the Durban FilmMart in July, means that North American professionals and networks will now be included in this global professional training and development initiative.

The Creative Producers Indaba will bring together 15 participants to develop the capacity of producers on the continent and to create a global network of producing talent with the ability to bring African projects to the international market, as well as to grow local African creative economies.

Ten of the selected participants will be from Africa – with the organisers selecting five African producers with projects currently in development, who will be joined by five African participants drawn from government, institutions, sales companies and other bodies from across the continent – and five participants will comprise European or North American partners looking to co-produce in Africa.

Ribeiro explained the key aims of the Creative Producers Indaba during the announcement in Durban: “We decided to launch Creative Producers Indaba to make sure we have more producers that understand the international financing game, international distribution,  and who can help…African projects to move closer from the page to the screen.”

Realness Institute has recognised that, despite the recent global festival success and accolades for a number of creative and innovative films by African filmmakers, there is a need for support, specifically when it comes to development financing, infrastructure, distribution and marketing.

Realness is aimed at empowering producers across these various skill-sets not just to see a film through production, but also to become active developers of their local creative economies as both practitioners, policy activists and leaders within their fields.

Unlike many other short-term interventions and workshops, Realness participants work together for a full year in order to emerge as strategic-thinking professionals capable of enabling the entire creative economies of their regions.

As a producer-centric programme, Realness aims for more than simply packaging productions for the international market – although all participants will develop a thorough and marketable package ready to take to market.

Participants will attend a variety of workshops over the year-long period focused on script development, packaging, finance, distribution and ultimately pitching to the marketplace. With sessions led by industry professionals from across Africa, Europe and now North America, participants have an unparalleled opportunity to learn and engage with the global film community.

Realness has a collaborative approach that has successfully created global partnerships with key European institutions such as the International Film Festival Rotterdam and EAVE, the

European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs initiative, a well-established training programme that has been in existence for over 30 years.

The inclusion of the Sundance Institute as a Realness partner brings a number of obvious benefits to the project. The stamp of approval that such a partnership conveys will assist Realness as it continues to secure funding for its various programmes. As an African-based organisation in the film industry, funding is always a challenge, and the inclusion of these new partners will hopefully lead to increased funding opportunities and exposure for the project and its graduates.

Organisations such as Realness, as well as filmmakers themselves, often have to look to the global north, and primarily to Europe, for funding, an ultimately unsustainable approach. Projects like the Creative Producers Indaba will hopefully lead to a more independently sustainable African creative film economy.

Realness’ Elias Ribeiro explains further: “It is our intention to form leaders, producers, activists, who can go back home and engage with local government and institutions, lobbying for better policies for the audiovisual industry as well as implementation of new financial instruments which will enable international and Pan-African cooperation.”

Realness also confirmed that the first call for submissions is expected to be made in October, with a build-up to the first workshop in Kenya in September 2020, followed by a second workshop to take place at the Rotterdam Film Festival in January 2021.

Durban FilmMart 2019 finishes strong

After a bumper four days of meetings, networking, pitching and forums, the 10th Durban FilmMart (DFM), the industry development programme of the eThekwini Municipality’s Durban Film Office and Durban International Film Festival (Centre for Creative Arts, UKZN), closed in style with its awards ceremony at the Southern Sun Maharani Hotel in Durban, South Africa on 22 July.

Addressing the audience of 300 filmmakers from South Africa, Africa and across the globe, Toni Monty, head of the Durban Film Office and the Durban FilmMart, said, “We have enjoyed a packed programme, this year with a record number of more than 1000 delegates registered for the DFM, representing 40 countries, 19 of which were from Africa. This year we had 50 projects in our Finance Forum, Talents Durban, Jumpstart, Realness Writers’ Residency and CineFAM programmes who pitched their film projects in development to potential financiers, filmmakers, producers, partners, festivals, distributors and agents in hundreds of meetings.”

“As we reach our tenth anniversary this year, we are reminded of the value that the DFM provides the developing African industry,” says Monty. “The Mart acts as a springboard that enables film-makers to meet and network, benchmark themselves, gather information and learn. Of course this would not be possible without the support of development organisations, our partner markets, and other funding bodies, all of whom we graciously thank.”

“The DFM would like to acknowledge the eThekwini Municipality, the principal funder of the DFM for its involvement in supporting the market, which has become a vital cog in the engine of making film on the continent.”

This year 20 official DFM film projects were pitched at the Finance Forum through the sponsorship of the Industrial Development Corporation and the National Film and Video Foundation. Six CineFam Africa television series projects were mentored by Caribbean Tales, Canada; Jumpstart (Produire au Sud, France) and the Realness Script Writing Residency hosted scriptwriters’ labs for a total of 10 projects; and HotDocs Canada, together with Don Edkins of Afridocs, mentored 13 documentary projects.

Supported by Berlinale Talents and the Goethe-Institut, Durban Talents hosted 18 young filmmakers, and 3 Talents Press.

A number of delegations were hosted including the in-bound delegation from Canada with support from the Canadian High Commission and Telefilm Canada.

The Awards/Grants:

The CineMart Award, sponsored by the co-production market of the International Film Festival Rotterdam, went to the fiction project, Sunflowers in the Dark (Zimbabwe) produced by Ben Mahaka, Tapiwa Chipfupa and directed by Tapiwa Chipfupa. The project is given an opportunity to attend the Rotterdam Lab, a five-day training and networking event for producers from all over the world.

Produire au Sud of Festival des 3 Continents (Nantes)/ IFAS awarded the fiction film Sunflowers in the Dark (Zimbabwe) produced by Ben Mahaka, Tapiwa Chipfupa and directed by Tapiwa Chipfupa an opportunity to attend its developmental workshop programme, PAS, where they will be given tools, expertise, and opportunities to develop European networks.

Carthage Film Festival awarded Pieces of Salma (South Africa) produced by Khosie Dali and David Horler and directed by Imran Hamdulay, an opportunity to participate in their programme in Tunisia.

Sørfond awarded the project Mami Wata (Nigeria) produced by Oge Obasi, directed by C.J.  Obasi  with an opportunity to pitch at the Sørfond Pitching Forum in Oslo later this year.

NFVF CineFAM-Africa Incubator Accelerator Programme Award of a R50 000 development grant went to Sylvia Vollenhoven for Buckingham Palace.

Videovision Entertainment awarded the “Best South African Film Project” to The Bursary (South Africa) produced by Brett Michael Innes and directed by Nomawonga  Khumalo. They receive a prize valued at R75 000, which guarantees its release once it is completed. The prize also includes marketing and distribution support from Videovision Entertainment.

Stage 5 Films Award for the ‘Most Promising Narrative’ went to The Bursary (South Africa) produced by Brett Michael Innes and directed by Nomawonga  Khumalo. They receive a R50 000 cash prize accompanied by an additional R25 000 worth of script coverage, production support, market analysis and packaging for further finance.

Durban FilmMart Talents Award for the Durban Talents Project Selected as a project for DFM went to Twelve Pangas directed by Xola Mteto (South Africa).

Versfeld & Associates, communications consultants awarded Those Who Dwell in Darkness (South Africa) produced by Dolly Mhlongo and Sithabile Mkhize, and directed by Michael James; The Home (South Africa) produced by Justin Cohen, Jessie Zinn, and Chase Musslewhite, and directed by Jessie Zinn and Chase Musslewhite; and Talents Durban project And Who Will Cook? by Samira Vera-Cruz (Cape Verde) was awarded one-on-one publicity consultations.

The broadcast stream, Afridocs, that flights African and other international documentaries across 49 countries of sub-Saharan Africa on a weekly basis, gave a €2500 award, funded by the Bertha Foundation, to Kongo is Burning (Uganda / Congo) produced by Ali Musoke and directed by Arnold Aganze.

DoK Leipzig Award went to Black Women and Sex (South Africa) produced and directed by Godisamang Khunou who will be given an opportunity to participate in the 2020 DoK Leipzig programme in Germany.

Hot Docs Blue Ice Award, a cash prize of 2000 Canadian Dollars went to the documentary project Kongo is Burning (Uganda / Congo) produced by Ali Musoke and directed by Arnold Aganze.

The DFM ended on 22 July, but the Durban International Film Festival continues until July 28. 

FPB supports the development of the local film industry

The Film and Publication Board (FPB) is proud to be a partner of the 40th edition of the renowned Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) through its participation at the 10th Durban Film Mart (DFM) – a platform dedicated to the growth of local and African filmmakers.

“As a regulator of film content, we have a vested interest in seeing our filmmakers flourish”, says Acting CEO of the FPB, Dr Maria Motebang. “The focus of this festival on empowering the creative industry through workshops and Master Classes is a concept that we buy into whole heartedly from the perspective of our role in brokering a balance between creative expression and social cohesion,” she adds.

The FPB classifies the content of films released to the South African market with an emphasis on protecting children from content that could harm or impede their development. The parastatal takes its marching orders from the Constitution and laws of the country which, while engendering freedom of expression, also provides for the rights and dignity of all groups within society to be upheld. This delicate balancing act speaks directly to the National Development Plan (NDP) goal of nation building in a land of multiple identities, all of whom deserve protection.

“We are all fascinated by the power of films to reflect our lived reality – our human stories, our social stories,” Dr Motebang explains.” At the FPB we believe that the telling of African stories holds a special ability to create cohesion from diversity. It is our obligation, and equally that of the creative industry, to tell these stories in a responsible manner that builds instead of dividing.”

This is the dual message that the FPB took to filmmakers attending DIFF and DFM in 2019: “let’s push forward in telling our African stories” and “let’s do so within the parameters of our content regulation in a way that respects the social norms and values of all African countries”.

DIFF Manager, Chipo Zhou says: “The FPB is one of DIFF’s main programme partners and they have this year augmented their ongoing support by coming on board as the official sponsors of the Awards for Best Documentary and Best S.A Documentary for which the festival has an Oscar Qualifying designation, a testament to their commitment to supporting the film industry. We are grateful for their continued backing and their consistent participation in our various industry programmes.

Dr Motebang confirms: “We have a renewed focus in the organisation to work with our stakeholders in creating an understanding of the need and importance of content classification in films and games. This is becoming more crucial as our increasingly digital world breaks down the borders between cultures, and places pressure on the sovereignty of countries.”

Engage @ DFM announces partnerships with Awotélé, Carthage Film Festival and United Screens

Engage @ DFM, the new Durban FilmMart-curated think tank conversations and panels on the future perspectives of the African film industry announced a series of partnerships with other stakeholders that have convergent and vested interests in the continent’s screen sector. Spearheaded by industry programmers Themba Bhebhe, Tiny Mungwe, Russel Hlongwane and Mitchell Harper, the 3-day programme, which ran from 20-22 July, comprised closed-rank, moderated think tank discussions in the form of round tables in the mornings, followed by public-facing panels in the afternoons. The solution-driven conversations were articulated around three foci: Towards a de-colonial model for filmmaking and film; How can key African platforms work together create pan-African collaborations to grow cinema?; Strategies for growing documentary filmmaking and documentary audiences in Africa. Designed as spaces for the sharing and production of knowledge, these discussions were documented and their findings subsequently redacted into a report.

Engage @ DFM has sealed partnerships with the film journal Awotélé, the Carthage Film Festival (Journées Cinématographiques de Carthage) as well as the research project conceived by the Berlin-based art space SAVVY Contemporary, United Screens.

Through these strategic partnerships where all three partners actively partake in the conversations forming Engage @ DFM discursively, Awotélé will provide exclusive editorial coverage and a platform which will share the future reports, the Journées Cinématographiques de Carthage (Carthage Film Festival) will host the next edition of talks – Engage @ JCC – at one of the continent’s oldest and well-established festivals, and United Screens will not only document and archive but also exhibit interviews past and present at the DFM, the KZN SA Gallery and the non-profit organization, Art for Humanity, hosted by the Durban University of Technology’s Faculty of Arts & Design.

“We are really pleased that we are able to grow the African industry network through the Engage @DFM programme,” says Toni Monty, Head of the Durban FilmMart. “It is fitting in our 10th edition that these partnerships have been forged, and we look forward to building the network across Africa, through further Engage conversations.”

“Awotélé is also committed to pursuing similar conversations as those that are at the centre of the think tank conversations which is why we are pleased to partner with Engage @ DFM,” enthused Claire Diao, film critic and co-founder of Awotélé.

“Being the first established international film festival in the continent, the JCC’s mission has historically been to actively showcase and promote African and Arab cinemas and their talents, thus having a kinship with DIFF. Bringing together the northernmost and southernmost festivals in Africa follows the same spirit of stimulating and strengthening South-South collaborations, and allows us to think together on the future development perspectives of the industry,” stated Nejib Ayed, JCC General Director.

“DIFF and the JCC-Carthage Film Festival are two major, unmissable and complementary festivals with unparalleled industry platforms. This promising collaboration between Carthage Pro and Durban FilmMart will offer increased networking opportunities for film projects holders, and will bridge the gap between English, Arab and French speaking countries in Africa,” said Lamia Belkaïd Guiga, JCC General Delegate and Artistic Director, who, alongside her colleague Samia Labidi, travelled to Durban for the occasion.

“Carthage Pro and Durban FilmMart are linking their complementary platforms to reflect on cinema and also boost the local and regional industries. This collaboration will start at the 10th DIFF where the JCC will award a DFM project in development with an invitation to participate in CHABAKA workshop and pitching competition. The conversation of Engage @ DFM on the realities and challenges of documentary filmmaking will continue at the JCC 2019,” promised Samia Labidi, Carthage Pro Projects Development.

“Starting with Engage @ DFM, we are looking forward to walking with Engage, in their journey to bring together pan-African film practitioners in the face of vulnerable conditions in the film ecosystem on the continent,” said Abhishek Nilamber, curator. “We as UNITED SCREENS resonate with their passion and rigour to create and connect spaces for conversation, re-imagination and strategies for creating and screening cinema,” continued Laura Kloeckner, co-curator.

The making of musical documentary The Sound of Masks


Mozambique was under Portugal’s control for over four centuries before gaining independence in 1975. Since then, many stories have been told about the country’s past and post-colonial state, but none as visually entrancing as Sara Gouveia’s musical documentary film, The Sound of Masks. Screen Africa spoke to Gouveia about what went into the making of the film…

Gouveia spent most of her early years living in Portugal. As a creative and curious young girl, she enjoyed expressing herself through visual and performing arts. However, it was only later in life – while pursuing her studies in visual arts – that her interest in filmmaking surfaced.

“When I was 18 I moved to the UK to study visual arts and that’s when I started experimenting with photography and video. I instantly fell in love with both mediums… In 2007 I was invited to study for an MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography, so I took that opportunity, which took me to China for a year. In 2008, I moved to South Africa and I worked on a documentary film with Angela Ramirez and Calum MacNaughton called Mama Goema: The Cape Town Beat in Five Movements (2011). I would say it was after we finished that film that I decided I wanted to pursue filmmaking as a career and I haven’t looked back since,” Gouveia shares.

In 2013, Gouveia and some of her industry peers decided to open their own film and video production company – Lionfish Productions – in Cape Town.

Lionfish has produced a variety of projects over the past six years but the documentary film, The Sound of Masks, has been their biggest undertaking thus far. The idea for the film came about in 2011 after one of Gouveia’s many trips to Mozambique. “I was interested in working on a project that looked at colonial history, since I grew up in Portugal, so there was that historical connection,” she says. “I felt we had been told a narrative in Portugal that didn’t seem to reflect what I had seen in southern Africa or how people in Mozambique perceived the Portuguese, so I started to question that Euro-centric version of history.

“When I met Atanásio and his dance group they spoke of that history through their work, so it seemed fitting to make a film with them,” she explains. Atanásio Nyusi is a legendary Mapiko dancer, a compelling storyteller, a father and a librarian who Gouveia was first introduced to when Nyusi’s dance group, Massacre de Mueda, performed at the Out of the Box Festival in Cape Town in 2011.

“I was intrigued by their performance, which was a mix of traditional and contemporary dance, music and theatre, and I was particularly captivated by the way Atanásio directly addressed the audience, asking uncomfortable questions, kind of like saying, ‘Let’s not forget’,” expresses Gouveia.

In The Sound of Masks, Nyusi performs the enchanting Mapiko dance – the traditional masked dance of the Makonde that originates from the north of Mozambique and Tanzania. “The masks can represent anything the sculptor feels inspired to create, such as men, women or even animals and the lipiko (dancer) represents a spirit,” Gouveia expands.

The Mapiko dance has evolved with each generation. Nowadays it is used as a catalyst for social commentary and is also performed during initiation rites of passage, as well as in various celebration ceremonies.

In the film, Gouveia delves into Nyusi’s life behind the masks, revealing his beliefs, fears and aspirations as a father and a custodian of the Mapiko tradition.

“Atanásio’s journey is emotional. He’s trying to leave a legacy as an artist and his plight in promoting Mapiko in a contemporary context is inspiring, but he has also realised that he has perhaps failed to pass this knowledge down in his own home. That becomes clear when he says he feels indebtedness towards his son. This is the moment he realises the growing distance between the two of them and all the stories he could have shared with him; sometimes we don’t notice things until it’s too late. These aspects of Atanásio’s life converge to comment on the tension between past and present, tradition and modernity, in a radically shifting country.”

Through Nyusi’s journey, the film explores significant events in Mozambican history and what remains today. These stories are told by ex-combatants that Nyusi spends time with in the Zona Militar in Maputo – an old military neighbourhood.

“The neighbourhood was initially an area of Portuguese military headquarters and during the war it was occupied by Mozambican combatants. This was a central area of the city with access to hospitals, schools, supermarkets and other facilities that made life easier for soldiers. The group of Makonde combatants in the area made a point of keeping their traditions alive and, these days, one can still find Mapiko being performed under the large mango tree, usually during specific national commemorations or during the initiation rites, when the place comes alive,” Gouveia shares.

The area is also where Nyusi and his group hold their dance rehearses. Most of these dancers are descendants of the ex-combatants and use the dance to teach the newer generation to keep their heritage alive.


In 2013, Gouveia and her small team from South Africa commenced production on the film. She says that she imagined the film having two story-worlds: “the first was the vérité-world, where we see Atanásio in his day-to-day life, and the other was the oral storytelling world, where his art, memories and traditions come together to tell mythological stories that also teach.”

However, the team soon realised that the dances on location didn’t translate well on camera and opted for a studio set-up for the dance scenes. “Once that space had been established we could then have the dance sequences on location and it was easier for the audience to take meaning from the stories being told. Intercutting archive with the dance sequences allowed us to highlight the meaning behind some of the masks,” says Gouveia.

The archival material used in the film was obtained from different sources including INAC (Instituto Nacional de Audio-Visual e Cinema), ZIMMEDIA, Moving into Dance Mophatong, RTP and Notícia, as well as from the personal archive of both Atanásio Cosme Nuysi and Paolo Israel.

The film was shot on the Sony FS7 camera with some sequences shot in 4K. “(It) offered us great slow-motion options, which for the dance sequences was a must. You can also record sound into the camera, which is wonderful,” says Gouveia.

The studio sequences were filmed in Cape Town at the Höerskool DF Malan. The rest of the film was shot periodically on various trips to different parts of Mozambique. Additional scenes were shot on the Unity Bridge across the Ruvuma River, on the border between Mozambique and Tanzania.

In 2017, Gouveia partnered with a Portuguese production company named Ukbar Filmes: “I showed them a very rough cut of the film then and they saw the potential and jumped on board… They managed to find finishing funds in Portugal, which allowed us to wrap the film in November 2018, just ahead of its premiere at IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam).”

In terms of post-production duties, Khalid Shamis handled the offline edit: “I wanted to work with him for two reasons: firstly because he is a really talented storyteller, and secondly because he is familiar with Mozambique and I thought it would be beneficial to have someone who knows the energy of the place in the edit room,” says Gouveia.

Tiago Correia-Paulo, a Mozambican musician and songwriter, created the soundtrack for the film. Online was done in South Africa and Portugal by the respective production companies.


The Sound of Masks had its world premiere at IDFA and its African premiere at the 2018 Marrakech International Film Festival.

The film is screening at the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) – currently running until 28 July – where it is competing in the Documentary Film section, and all this after making its first appearance at the Durban FilmMart in July 2014, where it was awarded the Most Promising Documentary Pitch.

Most noteworthy, The Sound of Masks will make its way to Mozambique for the Maputo Fast Forward Festival happening in October later this year.

“The film really comes down to connecting past, present and future: knowing the past, to understand the present and to imagine the future,” concludes Gouveia.


Director and DOP: Sara CF de Gouveia

Editor: Khalid Shamis

Sound: Pedro Góis

DFM2019: ‘The Working Writer’ masterclass with Sean Drummond

At the 10th Durban FilmMart (DFM), running concurrently with the 40th Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) at the Tsogo Sun Elangeni Hotel in Durban, writer and producer Sean Drummond helmed a masterclass titled ‘The Working Writer’.

Drummond, who wrote and produced the award-winning feature film Five Fingers for Marseilles – which premiered at Toronto International Film Festival – is the co-founder of production company Be Phat Motel and the founding manager of the Cape Town leg of the well-respected shnit Worldwide Shortfilmfestival. An early lover of the written word, Drummond graduated from the University of Cape Town with Honours in Screenwriting. Additionally, he is a 2011 Talents Durban alumnus – a 5-day intensive development programme for emerging African filmmakers that runs during DIFF in collaboration with Berlinale Talents – making him a fitting host for this masterclass.

During the masterclass, Drummond discussed his 15-year journey as a screenwriter, encompassing many challenges, failures, wins and most importantly what he’s learned through it all. Drummond says that for him, in order to succeed in the industry, relationships are key as “filmmaking is the most collaborative art form – no film is made by just one person”. He continues: “It’s all relationships…because it’s about who you want to work with, who you want to go on a journey with, who do you know that’s going to open that first door, who do you know that’s going to keep opening those doors but most importantly, who do you want to work with for potentially 10 years on a project… If you don’t like each other, you have to at least respect each other.”

Drummond also shared some key insights on screenwriting through his personal process:

  1. Research: Think and learn about the world of your story as much as you can. Travel if you can, talk to people who know more than you do.
  2. Fill your story bank with all that you’ve learned during your research phase.
  3. Outline your script as much as possible: Outline the perspectives of all your characters. Outline character arcs – including each character’s hopes, dreams, desires and wants.
  4. Think on a logline. This will help you to talk about/pitch your film to people. It also acts as a beacon to come back to when you lose your way while writing.
  5. At this point, send what you have written to people you trust.
  6. Think seriously on their feedback and how to incorporate it if you agree.
  7. Write your first draft.
  8. Rewrite until you are happy: Be prepared to cut. Ask yourself “how can I make this better”.

DFM 2019 is currently running until 22 July, while DIFF will run until 28 July.




Celebrated director Mandlakayise Walter Dube announces Black Samurai One: Legend of Yasuke at DFM2019

Celebrated director/producer Mandlakayise Walter Dube (Rivonia Trial and the 2017 award-winning feature film Kalushi) presented his new film in development Black Samurai One: Legend of Yasuke to media and filmmakers at this year’s Durban FilmMart (DFM).

The film is the fourth instalment from the Legends of Freedom series, which includes the upcoming Silverton Siege shooting later this year.

The Yasuke screenplay is being written by novelist and screenwriter Sabelo Mgidi, who is currently on the second collaboration with Dube. The screenplay is being developed in partnership with the Kwa-Zulu Natal Film Commission, with the support of the Department of Arts & Culture (DAC).

“The project is another opportunity for the film commission to achieve its vision of positioning KwaZulu-Natal as a globally competitive, diverse and sustainable industry and choice film destination. It is also the objective of the film fund to invest in development of content which has commercial viability and content that will showcase local KZN content locally and internationally,” says analyst Teboho Petersen who is overlooking the script development process for KZNFC.

“Yasuke will not be like Kalushi, a rather historical drama. Yasuke is going to grab the youth like no other South African movie has before. The movie is meant to feed the hunger of our country that has so longed for a hometown hero to be celebrated in full view and accepted internationally,” says Walter Ayres who co-produced Kalushi.

The script is being edited by veteran filmmaker Ntshcavheni Waluruli of The Wooden Camera, Elelwani, and Chikin Biznis.

Professor Hiraku Kaneko is the history consultant on the screenplay and is based at the Historio-graphical Institute at the University of Tokyo specializing in the Sengoku era and historical materials of the time of Oda Nobunaga and Hideyoshi Toyotomi. Yasuke will be the first time that South African filmmakers co-produce a project with Japanese filmmakers.

“We are pleased that Mandla Dube has selected to attend the DFM to use this industry platform to showcase his new film in development, and to use the networking opportunities that the Mart affords delegates,” says Toni Monty, Head of the Durban Film Office and Durban FilmMart.

South African based Pambili Media is producing the film and seeking international sales representation and distribution. Locally the film is with Indigenous Film Distribution.

DFM2019: KZNFC talks micro-budget filmmaking – challenges and solutions

On day-one of the 10th Durban FilmMart (DFM) – currently running until 22 July at the Tsogo Sun Elangeni Hotel in Durban, South Africa – the KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission (KZNFC) presented a session on micro-budget filmmaking in KwaZulu-Natal and the challenges that local filmmakers face when making these films.

The major outcome of the session was the announcement of the KZNFC’s ‘Made for TV’ or micro-budget film programme. The initiative was launched after the commission conducted research on micro-budget filmmaking in the KwaZulu-Natal province.

The KZNFC’s research found that the made-for-TV/micro-budget film industry in KwaZulu-Natal faces the following challenges:

  • Poor story quality
  • Lack of reliable skills
  • Development and production delivery turnaround times
  • Lack of administrative capacity
  • Slow improvement in quality
  • Informal production process
  • Unreliable distribution methods
  • Flooding by Tier 5 practitioners

These findings led to the birth of the Made for TV initiative which is the brainchild of the KZNFC’s Film Fund. The objective of the Film Fund is to stimulate the growth of the film industry in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, solely targeting KwaZulu-Natal-based companies and companies producing films in the province. The Film Fund provides, Development Funding, Production Funding, Marketing and Distribution Funding, and Markets and Festival Funding.

KZNFC Production Development manager, Simphiwe Ngcobo said that the Made for TV programme is a “quality boost” initiative – on behalf of the KZNFC and its Film Fund – specifically targeting micro-budget films. With this in mind, the KZNFC has reserved an impressive 40% of its funding budget this year for made for TV/micro-budget films.

Scope of the Made for TV programme:

  • The initiative aims to empower KwaZulu-Natal-based filmmakers to create TV films of competitive quality.
  • The programme will address the issue of low-quality films produced through financial, structural, mentorship and resource support.
  • The programme will encompass a specific call for Made for TV film proposals.
  • Over a period of 12 months, successful applicants will refine their proposals, develop scripts, and produce and deliver TV films of 60min in length. This process will be guided by industry professionals, practitioners and the KZNFC’s production and development team.

Ngcobo said that all this couldn’t be done without the programme’s vital industry partners, namely the SABC, KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA), the National Film & Video Foundation (NFVF), and the Durban Film Office (DFO).

For more information visit the KZNFC website.

The DFM is the industry arm of the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF), currently taking place at various venues in and around Durban until 28 July.

Canadian Country Focus at DIFF and DFM

Supported by Telefilm Canada and the High Commission of Canada in South Africa, Canada’s film scene will present itself from a variety of perspectives at the 2019 Durban International Film Festival (18-28 July) and Durban FilmMart (19 – 22 July).

This “Country in Focus” initiative during the DIFF and DFM gives Canada’s film industry and filmmakers the opportunity to introduce themselves in greater depth and highlight certain aspects to their peers within the African and South African context.

A delegation of Canadian producers and other film professionals will be present in Durban to represent films in the festival and to participate in the industry programme. The aim of this initiative is to foster exchange between the Canadian and African FilmMakers and help grow South to North networks. Canada’s participation in the Durban FilmMart industry programme includes the CineFam Africa Incubator, the inaugural Durban Does Docs one-day conference with HotDocs Canada, and meetings with official projects in the Finance Forum.

Collaborations between South African and Canadian producers, unpacking the successes of the official co-production treaty between the two countries, and exploring future opportunities to enhance these collaborations, will be the special focus of this delegation.

Now in its third year the CineFAM-South Africa Co-Production Accelerator at the DFM  aims to develop films and television content  by African women and women of colour from the global Diaspora. The Programme takes the form of a series of workshops, in Canada and South Africa, that aims to kickstart original co-productions led by experienced and seasoned female producers, writers and directors from both countries.

The programme is co-led by Frances-Anne Solomon, Founder and Executive Director of CineFAM, and CEO of the CaribbeanTales Media Group, and South African Producer Zikethiwe Ngcobo of Johannesburg-based Fuzebox Entertainment. Solomon also has the African Premiere of her film Hero, in the DIFF programme, and will be in attendance at the festival and mart.

“We are honoured to have the spotlight on Canada this year. This provides a vital opportunity for filmmakers to cultivate and develop international relationships, and lead to co-productions between Canada and South Africa,” said Christa Dickenson, Executive Director at Telefilm Canada. “Partnerships like this allow us both to reach audiences on a greater international scale and help to ensure the sustainability of our creative industries. We are very proud of the diversity and talent represented by the films selected in the ‘Country in Focus’ programme as well.”

“The High Commission of Canada in South Africa is proud to support DIFF for its 40th edition and DFM on its 10th anniversary. DIFF and DFM are important events for both Canadians and South Africans today because South Africa and Canada’s relationship is based on the common shared values of equality, democracy, peace, security and prosperity. The union between South Africa and Canada continues to grow and form new partnerships while cementing and enhancing old ones.” – High Commission of Canada in South Africa.

“One of the primary objectives of the DFM and DIFF is to create business and creative opportunities for South African and African filmmakers to develop their own continental and global networks, and to review their own business and film-making processes,” says Toni Monty Head of the Durban Film Office and Durban FilmMart. “So we are particularly pleased that Telefilm Canada, the High Commission of Canada in SA, CineFAM and HotDocs are partnering with us in facilitating this coming together of industry peers to collaborate, connect and reflect.”

Manager of the DIFF Chipo Zhou says, “Canadian films are globally renowned for having strong scripts and unique narratives with high production values, and so we are delighted that we are able to present these diverse and powerful films to complement the overall Canadian presence at the DIFF this year.”

The Canadian films at the DIFF include:

Hero directed by Frances-Anne Solomon: 20 July 18:30 Musgrave, 24 July 10:00 Suncoast, 24 July 16:00 Gateway (Director will be in attendance).

Shot in Trinidad, Ghana, the UK, and Canada, Hero tells the story of Ulric Cross, who left his small island home in 1941 to seek his fortune, and became the RAF’s most decorated West Indian member. However, his life took a dramatically different course when he followed the call of history and joined the independence movements sweeping the world in the 1950s and ’60s. In the process, Cross became part of the fabric of history, his long life spanning key moments in the 20th century, including independence in Africa and the Caribbean.

Honey Bee directed by Rama Rau: 21 July 14:30 Suncoast & 25 July 20:00 Gateway

In Honey Bee, a teenage sex worker has to adjust to life with a new foster family. Natalie is a slightly built but forceful young woman who works as a truck stop prostitute for her boyfriend/pimp Ryan, who has given her the nickname Honey Bee and who clearly views her as a piece of property. When Natalie is arrested by an undercover detective, she is sent to live in foster care on a farm. Sensitively directed, Honey Bee is a nuanced and insightful character study of a young woman at the crossroads of her life.

Diane directed by Kent Jones: 20 July 16:30 Gateway &  23 July 20:30 Gateway

For Diane, everyone else comes first. Generous but with little patience for self-pity, she spends her days checking in on sick friends, volunteering at her local soup kitchen, and trying valiantly to save her troubled, drug-addicted adult son from himself. But beneath her relentless routine of self-sacrifice, Diane is fighting a desperate internal battle, haunted by a past she can’t forget. Built around an extraordinary, fearless performance by Mary Kay Place, this narrative debut from Kent Jones is a profound, beautifully human portrait of a woman rifling through the wreckage of her life in search of redemption.

Everything Outside directed by David Findlay: 20 July 12:00 Gateway & 24 July 19:15 Suncoast

Every autumn, Louise, an established Quebec painter in her sixties, moves into her friend Charlotte’s remote lake house to work in the peace and quiet and temporarily enjoy the life of a recluse. This year, however, unbeknown to her, one of Charlotte’s grandchildren has offered the house to his friend Ahmed, an aspiring Lebanese actor from Toronto, to rehearse for his first major role in a film. In a space belonging to neither party, the two strangers, initially startled by each other’s presence, develop an odd yet sincere bond that becomes highly vulnerable when exposed to exterior forces.

nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up directed by Tasha Hubbard: 22 July 20:30 Musgrave  &  25 July 18:15 Suncoast

In 2016 Colten Boushie, a young indigenous Canadian, died from a gunshot wound after entering Gerald Stanley’s rural property with his friends. The jury’s subsequent acquittal of Stanley captured international attention, raising questions about the racism embedded within Canada’s legal system and propelling Colten’s family to national and international stages in their pursuit of justice. Sensitively directed by Tasha Hubbard, nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up weaves a profound narrative encompassing the filmmaker’s own adoption, the stark history of colonialism on the prairies, and a vision of a future where Indigenous children can live safely on their homelands.

The Grizzlies directed by Miranda de Pencier: 22 July 16:00 Gateway & 26 July 18:00 Gateway

The Grizzlies is based on a true story about a group of Inuit students in the small Arctic town of Kugluktuk. When Russ Sheppard, yet another ignorant and unprepared white rookie teacher, arrives, the students are naturally sceptical.  With much to learn, Russ introduces his class to the sport of lacrosse in an effort to help lift the dangerous fog of trauma and apathy. Driven by remarkable performances and unassailable authenticity, this is an inspiring and deeply felt film about rising above adversity in Africa and the Caribbean.

The Body Remembers When The World Broke Open directed by Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers & Kathleen Hepburn: 20 July 14:00 Gateway & 28 July 17:15 Suncoast 7

When Áila encounters a young Indigenous woman, barefoot and crying in the rain, she soon discovers that the young woman, Rosie, has just escaped a violent assault at the hands of her boyfriend. Áila, who is also of Indigenous descent but lives a more privileged life, decides to bring Rosie home with her. Over the course of the evening, the two navigate the aftermath of this traumatic event. Inspired by a transformative moment in the life of co-director Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, The Body Remembers is not content to provide simple answers but acknowledges the complexity of abuse.

We Have Forever directed by Paul Barbeau:  21 July 19:00  Musgrave & 27 July 16:30 Musgrave

At the start of adulthood, Antoine has many options: to work in his mom’s restaurant or attend one of the top culinary arts school in the world, to join his friends in Montreal or stay and chill in a small rural village and work as a welder. Choices, detours, and at times setbacks – but there is no need to worry when you’re 20. We Have Forever is a film about time, a film that seems to slow down its narrative tempo in order to illustrate the fact that when you’re 18, eternity seems to lie ahead of you.

Quantification directed by Jeremy Shaw : 9 July 19:00 Gateway & 24 July 18:30 Gateway

Jeremy Shaw’s three recent films, Quickeners (2014), Liminals (2017), and I Can See Forever (2018), explore the potential of catharsis to simultaneously represent and effect states of mind, perception, ecstasy, belief, religious fervour, and extremes of subjective experience. Each individual film evokes a familiar context from a not-so-distant past: Quickeners feels like 1950s small-town America, Liminals like any western city of the 1970s, and I Can See Forever appears to be set in 1990s Berlin or an American metropolis. Seen as a trilogy, the short films present a remarkably visceral and complete cinematic experience.

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