Home Authors Posts by Gezzy S Sibisi

Gezzy S Sibisi

Gezzy S Sibisi
Gezzy S. Sibisi is a senior journalist at Screen Africa. She is experienced in print, broadcast and digital media. Her portfolio of work includes working as a lifestyle reporter as well as contributing business and education articles to The Times, Sowetan, and Daily Dispatch publications. As a freelancer, she has worked on content development for corporate newsletters, community newspapers, blogs and educational websites.

Meet DIFF’s new manager Chipo Zhou

“I want to build on the past success of DIFF and bring on board some new collaboration that will see the festival showcase more African productions to a larger international audience.” – Chipo Zhou

Turning the spotlight on women making great strides within the film industry, the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) recently announced the appointment of Chipo Zhou as the festival’s new manager.

“After such a vigorous search, we are grateful that we finally found a rounded candidate of her calibre, with whom the festival is bound to have a refreshed face. We welcome Chipo to the Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) team and we are confident that she will steer the festival to a better future,” said director of the CCA, David wa Maahlamela in a press statement.

It’s no secret that DIFF has, in the previous year, made headlines within the local film industry for the wrong reasons as much publicised internal disputes led to the resignation of the 2016 DIFF manager, Sarah Dawson. Despite this, Zimbabwean-born Zhou has boldly accepted her role in the hot seat and is confident in overseeing her vision which includes giving a voice to women within the film industry.

“I started acting in a local soapie and this inevitably led to my involvement with International Images Film Festival for Women (IIFF) and the Women Filmmakers of Zimbabwe (Wofz) which exposed me to a different kind of woman, a voiceless woman. It was in that moment that I decided that no woman should ever be without a voice and if I can help contribute to that in any way, then I would certainly give it my best,” says Zhou.

Zhou has fortunately had a great headstart in being moulded by powerful voices and striving leaders throughout her life. Her father, who is a teacher of English literature, imparted the narrative seed in her through African folklores and books by sterling female authors such as Tsitsi Dangarembga, Yvonne Vera and Jane Austen. “His love for storytelling inspired my love for literature, which eventually steered me to filmmaking,” she said.

Other positive female influences include her mother’s business acumen as well as her love for education and current affairs which inspired Zhou’s love for film research. Her headmistress from school Miss Dumbuchena, who later held the role of Ambassador for Zimbabwe, played a pivotal role in young Zhou’s school career through her valued leadership and encouragement.

Zhou holds a B.A Honours Motion Picture Medium degree (cum laude) from AFDA, and is currently completing her MFA Motion Picture Medium. She has been passionately involved in woman advocacy through film festivals around the world, including being the assistant festival director of IIFF and steering the gender wheel in her home country as a board member of Wofz for five years.

“A lot has been done to bring women to the fore and that can be seen by the work that organisations like SWIFT and WIFT have done to significantly  increase the number of women-led films over the years. As with any system born from traditions that have been cultivated over centuries, the battle is far from being accomplished. What is unique about the film industry is that the platform allows for a global audience and any voice we give to the struggle of women empowerment in any industry is a strong voice. The importance of our role cannot be undermined and I’m glad to say that this year DIFF has a special focus on women, and some of the stories coming out of this are very powerful and will hopefully inspire and motivate others to action,” said Zhou.

Zhou has also made positive leaps in order to diversify her knowledge by thriving in other complementary roles such as coordinating the South African Communication Association (SACOMM) conference as well as being a media consultant for DERT-SA, an NGO servicing issues of human rights and education within Southern Africa.

“Working with academics who write papers and very often review the work of filmmakers, was an important learning curve for me, in placing what their role is within the industry, something I found very often overlooked and taken for granted. Operating within the human rights community gives you access to the human face of some stories that are made as well as potential audiences for these stories that may not have previously been exposed to the film industry. It has unquestionably expanded my world view and has contributed immensely to my current vision for the future of DIFF,” she says.

DIFF has been a long-standing annual calendar event in the African film industry and this year’s edition is scheduled to take place from 13 to 23 July at venues in and around Durban. Zhou and her team believe that they have a solid team and support system to see to it that the festival becomes a phenomenal experience and a great success.

“I am a fresh face with a new, creative and industrious young team working with me. That in itself is quite significant in that we are a clean slate. This year will be ‘DIFFerent’, we would like to reinvent what it is to be a film festival within our African context and so it will be interesting to see what this process will bring about over the next few DIFF editions. The advantage is that DIFF is already on the international calendar, the challenge  we are enthralled to be tackling is to see it grow beyond being the biggest in Africa and see talent that is coming through our programmes attain international recognition and advancement.”

DIFF is organised by the University of KwaZulu Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts in partnership with the Durban Film Office, eThekwini Municipality, National Film and Video Foundation, KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission and other valued funders and partners.

Zhou’s appointment will also be announced to the international fraternity as she attends the 70th Festival de Cannes in Paris, France next month. This will be her first international appearance promoting the DIFF brand and she is excited to utilise the opportunity to elevate the image of the festival and enrich her vision.

“I want to build on the past success of DIFF and bring on board some new collaboration that will see the festival showcase more African productions to a larger international audience. We are fortunate to be placed in an environment with so much potential for further development and as a female in the industry, I hope to contribute to creating a future, in which it will no longer be necessary to point out that I am a woman,” Zhou concluded.

BBC Worldwide’s Africa focus

The BBC World Service has through the years manifested itself as one of the leading news corporations in TV, radio and digital. Moreover in 1998 it became the first international broadcaster to establish a news production bureau in Africa by relocating its London office to Nairobi, Kenya, as a strategic move to reinforce itself on the African market. Since then, the news service has enjoyed more audiences in Africa than anywhere else in the world.

So when BBC Worldwide – an extension of BBC’s other channels besides its news service – established an office in Johannesburg, in the hopes of bringing more diverse content and channels to the South African audience; it also had plans to blossom across the African continent at large.

“In September 2015, BBC Worldwide introduced three new global brands to South Africa: BBC First, BBC Brit and BBC Earth alongside the already established BBC Lifestyle and CBeebies channels. South Africa became the first country to host all five BBC global brands following the successful European debuts of BBC Brit and BBC Earth in Poland, the Nordics, Hungary, Romania and Turkey,’ comments BBC Worldwide Africa’s vice-president and general manager, Joel Churcher.

BBC First features gripping British drama in all its forms; BBC Brit offers entertaining reality sitcoms and talk shows; while BBC Earth gives viewers insight to the greatest human discoveries as well as the magnificent wonders of the universe.

Churcher confirmed that all the channels are “brimming with premium and award-winning content.’ In addition BBC First is said to be doing exceptionally well and has been ranked as the number one channel for international drama on DStv based on the average time spent by viewers glued to their screen.

“The content hosted on these channels is designed to reach a diverse pan-African audience, reflecting a wide range of voices, ages and cultures. Our African viewers clearly have a deep affection for BBC programming, and as a leading content distributor, we will continue to deliver high quality, premium content to our channels for many years to come,’ says Churcher.

Churcher confirmed how the move to Johannesburg has also led the broadcaster to partner with a local production company, Rapid Blue and as a result BBC Worldwide has since commissioned several programmes which were either specifically filmed in South Africa or across the African continent.

BBC viewers have come to enjoy localised formats of the broadcaster’s best-selling shows which include The Great South African Bake Off, Come Dine With Me and Strictly Come Dancing.

Besides these adaptations, the country has also gained favour as a film location of choice not only based on its scenic views but also because of the great value of shooting here. BBC Brit has seen increased ratings after Top Gear series 23 showcased some breathtaking African landscapes in Durban and Lesotho. BBC First’s Call the Midwife drama series has also made a point of using actors from South Africa when it shot its Christmas episode on the outskirts of Cape Town, while BBC Earth’s show Planet Earth II also featured the African continent. African countries that have also enjoyed the spotlight in other BBC programmes include Ethiopia, Namibia, Kenya, Zambia and Botswana.

While the brands are doing very well in South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa through MultiChoice’s digital satellite TV service, DStv; Churcher highlighted how the growth in the television sales business has seen other brands reaching further into the African continent such as the CBeebies brand, which was launched as a 24-hour channel on the Zuku TV platform in East Africa last year.

There has also been recent news of other new buyers from Africa including NET2 TV, a free-to-air channel in Ghana and the Econet Media Group, which recently established a new pay-TV platform.

“The African continent has become one of the fastest growing economies in the world. To ensure that BBC Worldwide taps into its growing audience base, it is important that our channels host a well-executed balance of international and local content, which feature local voices and faces,’ Churcher says.

The brands success in making these great executions were awarded with South African wins at the 2016 Loeries for shows on BBC Brit and BBC Lifestyle as well as another award at the Pendoring Advertising Awards for a Zulu radio advert made for BBC Brit. The team also bagged gold at the PromaxBDA Africa Awards for their drama and reality promos.

“We are extremely proud of our accolades and look forward to producing more award-winning campaigns that capture the hearts and enthusiasm of our audiences on the African continent,’ comments Churcher.

During the recent MipTV market in Cannes, BBC Worldwide announced that its reach in Africa has led to the licensing of over 400 hours of programming across Africa in just the first part of 2017.

Shows that have been reported to be most popular to the South African market include, War and Peace, Doctor Who and Luther on BBC First while BBC Brit’s motoring show Top Gear has been the biggest show ever since the channels launched.

“We’re very excited by the rise in local African programming especially the popular shows coming out of Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa, and are focused on localising our popular formats to appeal to a wider audience across not just South Africa but the entire continent,’ concludes Churcher.

– Gezzy S Sibisi

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Pin It on Pinterest