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Gezzy S Sibisi

Gezzy S Sibisi
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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.

FibreCo to boost broadband connectivity in Kroonstad

Internet connectivity in Kroonstad will benefit from a substantial enhancement as FibreCo Telecommunications completes its roll out of fibre in the town, making reliable high-speed broadband connectivity more accessible to the community.

Given that only 5.4 per cent of households in the province have access to the internet at home, while only 9.9 per cent have access at work, it’s clear that there is an urgent need to hasten access to high-speed broadband connectivity. The third largest city in the Free State, Kroonstad is the first city along the FibreCo national fibre route between Johannesburg and Cape Town to have fibre rolled out in the town.

The FibreCo Kroonstad connectivity project, is the first in FibreCo’s town connectivity strategy which plans to connect many more towns along its 4000km national fibre route.  The biggest challenge to universal broadband is infrastructure cost. “FibreCo’s open access model in Kroonstad allows any number of service providers and operators to buy connectivity without the large capital outlay, making it significantly more affordable than if they were to build the infrastructure themselves,” explains Simon Harvey, CEO FibreCo.

True to its open access wholesale model, FibreCo works to enable ISPs, WISPs and Mobile Operators to provide high-speed broadband services to their customers.  Access Global is the first ISP to partner with FibreCo in Kroonstad and their first customers are already benefiting from access to reliable high-speed fibre broadband services. It is a great honour to be the first ISP associated with FibreCo in Kroonstad. We are driven to maintain client satisfaction with all our products and services. We strive to ensure that all our clients are treated with integrity while being efficiently and effectively serviced,” says Hennie Roets, executive director, Access Global Communication.

In support of our Government’s National Development Plan; e-Services Strategy and recognising the need to provide high-speed broadband services to underserviced areas in line with government’s SA Connect Policy, FibreCo contributes to socio economic developmental areas such as e-learning and e-health through working with provincial and municipal partners to connect them to the FibreCo network.

“FibreCo has already provided high-speed broadband connectivity services to clinics in Kroonstad, one of which is the first clinic to ever receive direct fibre through a fixed fibre termination,” says Sammy Mafu, business development executive, FibreCo. “Together these clinics service over 30 000 people monthly which is central to national government efforts to get the National Health Insurance off the ground.”

FibreCo has also installed a fixed fibre node at the Moqhaka Municipality, making it the first Free State municipality with its own dedicated 1Gbps ready fixed connectivity node.

Click here, for the 2016 STATS SA General Household Survey.

Inside the making of 3D-animated TV series Munki and Trunk

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: Sunrise Productions is a Cape Town-based computer animation company known for its popular production, Jungle Beat, a 3D-animated series that has been shown in over 180 countries around the world.

With the international success gained from the show, Jungle Beat creator Brent Dawes decided to create a spin-off series titled Munki and Trunk, with director Sam Wilson at the helm. “For years, the Sunrise shows were all written and directed by Brent Dawes… As the company expanded, they needed another writer and director who understood Brent’s style, so they brought me in. I worked with Brent writing Munki and Trunk, and I took over directing the series when Brent went on to new Sunrise projects,” shares Wilson.

Much like Jungle Beat, Munki and Trunk is a dialogue-free, 3D-animated television series catering for kids aged 4 to 7. The show features various animals and is centred on the unusual friendship between an energetic monkey and an endearing elephant, aptly called Munki and Trunk.

“The series actually started out as Season 4 of Jungle Beat. After we began production, we realised that we were limiting ourselves, because every Jungle Beat episode has only one character. To make the show really appealing, we knew we had to have multiple characters, and show their personalities and quirks and give them real friendships and make a real world. So we took two of our most beloved characters and turned their relationship into the heart of the show.”

Munki is described as a vine-swinging force of nature; he is impulsive and full of energy. He is also always hungry for bananas as well as awesome adventures with his best friend, Trunk.

Trunk, on the other hand is a lovable, optimistic, big-hearted elephant who loves to play and support all her jungle buddies.

“The biggest discussion we had at the start of the show was around the friendship between Munki and Trunk. We were working with some very experienced writers from the UK, and they were pushing for some conflict between the two characters because conflict is the heart of all drama. To his credit, Brent insisted that Munki and Trunk would never fight. Whatever the world threw at them, whatever misunderstandings they had, the two main characters would stay firm friends. I think that was the right decision because it became the anchor of the show. Munki and Trunk is about friendship, and having someone around that you can always trust,” Wilson explains.

Munki and Trunk was created and animated using Autodesk Maya. Fur, dust and liquid effects were done in Houdini and rendered using Mantra. “We wanted to create a world that viewers could really immerse themselves in. So we have characters with detailed fur, visual effects, and complex lighting and rendering. It’s not photorealistic, but it’s much closer than almost any other animated TV series,” says Wilson who also credits their unique camera angles and lighting set-ups in effectively capturing the story. “We also have an in-house recording studio, so we were able to create a detailed foley for every episode, which really helped the immersion,” he adds.

It took Wilson and his team just over two years to complete the series. “The biggest overall challenge was the mammoth scale of the project, and catching all the necessary fixes and aesthetic tweaks within the tight production schedule.”

Overall, Wilson describes producing the series as a labour of love that he is truly proud of and hopes that it shines through to all young viewers and their parents. “The series has been an epic production. Look at any episode, and you can see how much work we’ve put into every detail, and because we care so much, we’ve had to make tough decisions. We re-animated two completed episodes because although they were funny, they didn’t have the sweetness and the heart we were looking for. But it’s been worth it. The highlight of the production for me was working with so many talented and dedicated people, at both Sunrise and our production partners Infinite Frameworks,” Wilson shares.

Tasania Parsadh from Nickelodeon saw a clip of the show while on a studio tour at Sunrise Productions during the first Cape Town International Animation Festival. She immediately fell in love with the concept and remained in touch with the Sunrise Productions team. Since then, NickToons has clinched a deal with the production and made Munki and Trunk, Sunrise Productions’ first South African animation acquisition.

The series consists of 52 episodes, which run for seven minutes each. The first episode aired on 2 April, and the show has since been screened across Africa.

“So far, Munki and Trunk has been shown in around 30 territories, including across North Africa, which is fantastic news, and now that the full series is complete we’re expecting it to spread a lot further,” Wilson concluded.

TECH CHECK

Munki and Trunk was created and animated using Autodesk Maya.

KEY CREW:

  • Director: Sam Wilson
  • Producers: Tim Keller and Matt Brown
  • Executive producers: Phil Cunningham, Jacqui Cunningham, Hugo Day, Rupert Day
  • Animation directors: Greg Murray and Denis Deegan
  • Sound designer: Matthew Gair

Tulips and Chimneys brings new Hendrick’s Gin TVC to life

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: It is 5pm after a long day at work and the routine task of travelling home in peak hour traffic leaves one feeling even more exhausted. If only we could escape the ordinary and set out on a journey so unusual and refreshing, that it feels utterly enchanting.

‘Undeniably peculiar, utterly delicious’ is the tagline for the new Hendrick’s Gin spot – a phrase that Cape Town-based animation studio Tulips and Chimneys brought to life in a visual fantasy that embodies Victorian surrealism and dreams.

Director Ree Treweek and her team have been great admirers of the Hendrick’s Gin brand aesthetic over the years and being approached by their company’s UK representatives, Strange Beast, to pitch on the campaign was an exciting opportunity and a great achievement for the Tulips and Chimneys brand.

“When we first started our company one of our first goals was to craft a campaign for Hendrick’s Gin as we’ve long been admirers of their Victoriana Surrealist aesthetic which is so aligned with our own style and creative ambitions. You can imagine how delighted we were when our representatives in the UK approached us to pitch on the campaign,” says Treweek.

After a successful pitch, Tulips and Chimneys worked with American creative agency Quaker City Mercantile (QCM), to create the animated spot for the Scottish brand. The team brainstormed a few ideas which led to the conceptualisation of the spot’s main theme of Escape – an invitation to escape the conventional and embrace the delectable.

“The client wanted us to depict how a mundane necessity like commuting could become a fantastic adventure should you go against the stream and approach it in a different way. This concept was so much fun to work with and since the Hendrick’s brand lives in such a surreal space we really had a lot of freedom in terms of how we wanted to tell this story,” explains Treweek.

The team reworked Hendrick’s existing animated material which is rooted in Victorian surrealism and 2D animation. “Hendrick’s existing animated material, is beautifully designed, and relies on a particular 2D cut out technique. We decided to work with that and enhance it by incorporating a greater sense of depth between layers so that we can move through space. We focused on producing bespoke 2D animation, rather than puppeteering still images, which differentiated it slightly from previous spots. The combination of all of this with atmospherics and beautifully composited lighting really pushed the mystery and mood of the spot,” Treweek explains. “When compositing, we added a subtle grain to the film. An overall colour grade using muted blue tones, red highlights and green shadows gave the film a vintage look. We made use of vignettes, dust and scratches, film burn, light leaks and other imperfections common in old film stock. Making use of the depth of field added a ‘real world’ feeling to our shots, and helped us to create a seemingly limitless Hendrick’s environment.”

Two main characters stand out in the spot – a gentleman and lady who both make a great transformation during their journey. We follow their journey home, which turns out to be quite the adventure as the different creatures they meet along the way bring wonder, surprise and great delight. “It was important that our two hero characters stood out against the other commuters, so we spent a lot of time crafting the moment when they shed their ‘work skins’. I love the colouring of our heroine and the string of butterflies that pull her along. They were animated in such a way that they had some interaction with other commuters,” Treweek says. “In our brainstorms we also wanted the environments and architecture to be characters in the spot… You’ll notice a building that behaves as a clock while others behave as pistons, our lead characters are swallowed by their homes, an alligator and a swordfish. We wanted to add subtle surprises that the viewer would only see on repeat viewing.”

Throughout the journey the lead characters follow a mischievous winged Hendrick’s bottle, bringing the two main ingredients, roses and cucumber into the mix. “We weaved their leading botanicals; roses and cucumbers into our designs in such a way that they complimented the environments and the personalities of our characters. We liked the idea that the botanical elements can also be portrayed in such a way that they have personality: a cucumber for instance is dressed in a suit and hops through our cityscape,” explains Treweek.

The Escape Hendrick’s Gin ad first aired in early May and has received rave reviews from leading commercial review sites including Ads of the World, Best Ads on TV and Adeeve to name a few. The spot can be viewed on YouTube, Vimeo and on the Tulips and Chimneys website.

Cape Town filmmaker wins inaugural SundanceTV Shorts Competition for South Africa

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: We all have a secret hope that when the time comes, our funeral will draw a large crowd of loved ones, who mourn and share heartfelt sentiments about the valuable contribution we made to their lives and the world.

However, this is sadly not always the case; when no one is there to mourn your loved one, Ted – the professional mourner – is there to assist.

Good Mourning is a dark comedy that looks into the life of a professional mourner who loves his job. However, one day Ted is challenged by a disbeliever, Sandrine, who questions his morals and ethical standpoint, and the conversation takes an unlikely turn.

The self-funded short film, created by Ian Morgan, recently won the inaugural SundanceTV Shorts Competition in South Africa and will have its premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival in London, which takes place from 31 May to 3 June 2018.

Morgan comments: “After coming from advertising, where it has predominantly been about creating beautiful images, the film was originally intended to be a project to prove to myself that I still could direct characters in highly dialogue-driven scenes. To have it selected as the South African SundanceTV winner is a massive honour. It is great to know that there are people out there looking for the type of narratives I create. I love the dark comedy genre, and I think it is a genre that South Africa needs to start exploring more.”

Morgan’s journey with SundanceTV began earlier this year when his pal and the lead actor in his short film, Paul Snodgrass, informed him about the competition. The pair had been entering the film into a number of local and international festivals and thought they’d try their luck with the SundanceTV Shorts Competition.

Submissions for the competition were open from 1 March to 15 April 2018 on the South African SundanceTV website. To enter, films had to be submitted by the producer or director of a film, who could provide proof of residency in South Africa. Films were to be no longer than 15 minutes and had to be delivered with English subtitles if English was not the language spoken in the film.

The Jury Prize was judged on a number of criteria, including creativity, entertainment value, original storytelling and production values. The jury was headed by Mike Plante of Sundance Institute and included Harold Gronenthal from SundanceTV Global; Aletta Alberts, executive head of Content and Third Party Channels at MultiChoice; and Helen Kuun of Indigenous Film.

Amusingly, Morgan received news of his win via an email, which he accidentally trashed, while busy on his current projects. “As I was super busy in post-production on a few adverts I had directed, I got to work early to check my mails and started deleting the ones that were not job-related. I then stopped and thought to myself did I just see the word SundanceTV. I went into my trash, and there was the mail that said my film, Good Mourning, was selected. I went into a little bit of a shock. I didn’t even have time to process that there was a prize until my producer said, ‘Hey dude you are going to London’,” he laughs.

Commenting on the film, Mike Plante, senior programmer for the Sundance Film Festival and president of the competition jury said: “Good Mourning is funny and compelling yet unexpectedly poignant. It makes great use of a very creative story idea and a pair of immediately engaging characters.”

MultiChoice came on board as an exclusive partner for the inaugural Shorts Competition in South Africa and as a result, Good Mourning will be broadcast on SundanceTV (DStv channel 108) later this year.

Marketing director at AMC Networks International, Victoria Spitalieri had this to say: “We’re incredibly excited to broadcast Ian Morgan’s film on SundanceTV Global later this year as well as to premiere Good Mourning at an event during the upcoming Sundance Film Festival in London. We’d like to thank all of the South African filmmakers who submitted entries as well as our partners who generously supported this exciting initiative.”

“At this point commercials fund my passion for narrative storytelling, and it would be great to be able to make more films in the future. As mentioned I have a number of ideas in the pipeline, but ultimately it all comes down to funding. It is not a case of if it will happen, but more of how soon,” Morgan concludes.

Ksazobalit music video looks at the bright side of land reform 

“I wanted to tell a positive message on the topic of land, from seeing so many negative tweets based on fear and uncertainty, I wanted to explore another side of the coin, which is positive and uplifting where different races break together.” – Thabang Moleya

Land reform has been a hot topic in South Africa for some time now. While the subject is often met with fear and uncertainty undercut with hope by many, the Ksazobalit music video gives us a glimpse into what this might look like – when done right.

Hip-hop artist Cassper Nyovest takes on the role of a successful black farmer living harmoniously with his white neighbour.

Director Thabang Kagiso Moleya has developed a good working relationship with Nyovest through the years. The pair recently worked on a KFC commercial together and after hearing the Ksazobalit song, Moleya decided to pitch his idea for the video to Nyovest. Nyovest was completely sold on the unique and impactful message and agreed to the project.

Talking about the creative concept, Moleya says that he is often interested in the conversation that South Africa is having and he tries to find ways to lend his voice to it. “This is one of those current and on-going conversations, and I wanted to make a video where people can imagine themselves being land owners and not just having a big celebration on the land but also being prosperous on that land, together.”

The video was shot in Hartebeespoort in the North West Province, over two days. Aerial shots make up a large part of the visual, aptly capturing the abundance of land and the beauty of the vast farmland. Nyovest takes on the persona of a proud, wealthy farm owner donning the distinctive khaki attire while carrying out traditional farm errands. Animated farm workers in blue overalls are seen dancing and rhythmically moving in celebration.

Television personality and choreographer, Somizi Mhlongo makes an appearance as a truck driver delivering goods at the farm.

“I wanted to tell a positive message on the topic of land, from seeing so many negative tweets based on fear and uncertainty, I wanted to explore another side of the coin, which is positive and uplifting where different races break together,” shares Moleya.

Besides Mhlongo, other well-known celebrity friends of Nyovest can be seen throughout the video. In another scene when Nyovest hosts a lavish lunch on the farm, the rapper and his mates are seen enjoying a meal outdoors, while his nosy neighbour is spying on them. Nyovest then invites the neighbour over and they all feast together and enjoy each other.

Media personality, Pearl Thusi makes a grand entrance in the final scenes. Thusi comes in riding a horse while wearing a striking red, flowy dress. She later holds a triumphant fist up in the air, and the video ends with the words, ‘We Are Ready’ appearing on screen.

“I wanted to reflect a future where women are in power, one of the most striking images is a woman on a horse, so when I pitched the concept to Pearl Thusi, she loved the messaging behind it. Pearl’s red dress, in the video, is symbolic of the bloodshed from the lives lost when the land was taken,” Moleya expresses.

The video is shot on the RED Dragon with Arri Master Prime lenses. “I wanted to capture a beautiful summers day. We maximised on early morning and late afternoon sunlight for the epic wide shots, and of course, for the horse riding sequence I wanted a strong back light on that scene, to make it feel dreamlike.”

Post-production duties were handled by Upstairs Ludus.

The video was strategically released on Freedom Day and received over a million views on YouTube in its first week online, while also skyrocketing to number one on iTunes SA.

The music video concept has been highly-praised by several political figures including former Minister of Police, Fikile Mbalula; South African Minister of Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa; and EFF leader Julius Malema.

“The response has been amazing. I also set out to tell a narrative which was not just entertaining but impactful, and I am grateful to have had the platform to tell a narrative that made people talk about something important,” Moleya concluded.

TECH CHECK

EQUIPMENT:

  • Camera: RED Dragon
  • Lenses: ARRI Master ºPrime lenses

The Ksazobalit video was shot on the RED Dragon with Arri Master Prime lenses

KEY CREY:

  • Production company: Studio Space Pictures and Seriti Films
  • Director: Thabang Kagiso Moleya
  • Producer: Alessio Bettocchi
  • DOP: Jitem Ramlal
  • Production manager: Shanell Sutra

Inside the making of SA crime thriller, Nommer 37

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: The South African crime thriller, Nommer 37 was first introduced to audiences as a short film in 2014, when it competed in kykNET’s Silwerskermfees short film competition.

“The concept was originally one of my colleagues at Gambit Films, Daryne Joshua, and when we wanted to submit it for KykNET’s Silwerskermfees, all of us at Gambit began to work on the story. This is how we work on almost all of our projects. I then co-wrote the script with Daryne and subsequently completed the next few drafts of the short with my co-directing partner, Travis Taute,” shares filmmaker Nosipho Duma.

To their great surprise, the film received the most nominations during the 4th annual Silwerskermfees Awards and went on to win the Best Script and Best Director awards.

After its successful reign as a short including winning the SAFTAs Best Short Film award in 2016, Duma decided to rework the narrative into a full feature film. “Well, the short film was really proof of concept for the feature in that it was a skeleton. The feature film is fleshed out, and we’ve introduced some new storylines and characters that feed into Randal’s journey. I really also wanted to ground the narrative in Randal and Pam’s turbulent relationship. So I’ve spent a lot of time developing their story. Tonally, I wanted to tell a much darker version of this story,” shares Duma.

“It doesn’t explore the same themes or even the same plot after the premise. It’s about a paraplegic named Randal Hendricks, who, being deeply indebted to a sadistic loan shark, embarks on a crazy blackmail scheme when he witnesses his drug lord neighbour committing a crime through the use of binoculars.”

South African actor, Irshaad Ally plays the role of Randal Hendricks, a depressed and bitter young man whose life gets twisted upside down when the deal goes wrong. Another local favourite, Danny Ross, plays Emmie, the sadistic loan shark.

Randal lives with his supportive and devoted girlfriend Pam, played by Monique Rockman, who in good faith decides to buy Randal a pair of binoculars. “It was really important to me that this story was about Randal and Pam, a story of their broken yet worth-fighting-for love. I wanted to create a sense of hope for Randal’s redemption. Randal is a man in despair and feels stuck in his life, in his world and in the wheelchair, while Pam is hopeful and optimistic. I went about working on layering these through art direction, symbolism and narratively, we experience the story almost completely inside Randal’s apartment. He feels stuck, so we feel stuck and therefore begin to empathise and root for his survival,” Duma expands.

Randal, feeling stuck and isolated from the real world, uses his new gift as an opportunity to spy on his neighbours, and soon finds himself witnessing a deadly crime being committed by a dangerous gang lord known as Lawyer, played by David Manuel.

“From the beginning of my discussions with the DOP, Zenn van Zyl, and my editor, Simon Beesley, we knew that the film’s visual DNA would shift as Randal’s world tumbled further into chaos…So the choice was to use a lot of wide shots and observe Randal from a distance,” explains Duma. “There’s a lack of movement that creates frustration, similar to Randal’s own frustration. But when he receives the binoculars and finds his way to the window, he begins to have a sense of purpose. As that happens, our visual style changes and we can allow him to dictate our movements. As he moves, we as the camera can move. Instead of observing him, we are coming into his space and gaining control. We go from all of these high angles and wide shots to tighter shots, where we’re in his face and almost in his mind.”

When Randal finds himself as the only witness to a high-stakes, top crime case, he confides in his well-connected pal, Warren played by Ephraim Gordon.

The pair sees this as an opportunity to solve Randal’s money problems and plot an ill-advised blackmail scheme. The scheme does not go as planned and Randal ends up in even more trouble as he finds himself caught between Emmie, Lawyer and detective Gail February (Sandi Schultz), who enters Randal’s world in search of her missing partner.

Nommer 37 was shot using the Arri Alexa Mini with anamorphic lenses. The film was shot over four and a half weeks, beginning in April 2016. “Because we were shooting in such confined spaces, we needed a relatively smaller-sized camera and grips that would still allow us to compete on an international level. So, we shot on the ARRI Alexa Mini. We needed to do it that way. We divided the film into acts according to Randal’s journey and decided that our lensing would change with each. We also mostly used anamorphic lenses so that we could make Randal feel much smaller in his space – reflecting his state of mind, especially at the start of the film.”

Heading up post-production duties was editor and co-owner of Gambit Films, Simon Beesley. Visual Effects were done by Jason Human at Altered States, with the original score composed by James Matthes and Daniel Matthee at Pressure Cooker Studios.

Post sound was handled by Sound and Motion Studios and the film was graded at Refinery Post Production.

Nommer 37 has made history by becoming the first South African film to have a world premiere at the South by Southwest Conference and Festival (SXSW) in Texas, United States, during March this year. “It was also selected for the Windy City Horrorama and had its market screening at Cannes where several sales were made. It has been selected for the Sydney Film Festival as well as the Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival, which will take place in July,” added Duma.

Nommer 37 recently had its local premiere on 21 May at Cape Town’s Tygervalley Centre. The film will release in America later this year. “Nommer 37 was sold to Dark Star Pictures for North American distribution and will be out in cinemas in the States starting with L.A. and New York over our Spring season. This acquisition, as well as others to follow, is an affirmation that we’re on the right path. I can’t even begin to share how humbling and encouraging that is. I’m eternally grateful,” concluded Duma.

TECH CHECK

Camera: Arri Alexa Mini

KEY CREW:

Writer/Director: Nosipho Dumisa

Producers: Bradley Joshua and Benjamin Overmeyer

D.O.P.: Zenn van Zyl, SASC

Editor: Simon Beesley

Sound supervisors: James Olivier, Simon Ratcliffe, and Richard West

Encounters South African International Documentary Festival turns 20

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Encounters South African International Documentary Festival. The very first edition of the festival successfully ran with just 24 films.

Two decades and many stories later, this prestigious festival receives over a thousand film entries each year from across the globe, and hosts world-renowned industry speakers as well as hoards of emerging and renowned filmmakers who come together each year to hone their skills, tackle relevant issues and most importantly share the stories that are currently shaping our reality.

Reginald ‘Reggie’ Khanzi is this year’s guest festival director. A former director of the Apollo Film Festival in Victoria West in the Northern Cape, Khanzi currently holds the title of project director at the Apollo Development Association.

Encounters has a long, successful history with Apollo, having assisted Khanzi and his team with the programming and planning of previous editions. After a seven-year stint in government managing events, Khanzi is once again working in the film festival world and intends on improving the Apollo with the experience he will gain while serving as guest festival director for Encounters this year.

Khanzi expands: “They [Encounters] have a 20-year track record of providing opportunities for people like me, look what they have done for the status and production of documentary in this country; they’ve worked with four different broadcasters, securing commissions for local filmmakers, promoting their work and their international reputation! We have five international guests who are flying themselves here, paying for themselves nogal, because they want to be here at Encounters! I’ll leave here with a wealth of information, and I’ll have had the opportunity to connect with ‘new’ filmmakers and reconnect with filmmakers that I met all those years ago at the Apollo.”

Khanzi says that he started working on this year’s Encounters South African International Documentary Festival in April and has so far viewed countless film entries from local and international filmmakers for the 2018 edition.

“A long-list had been drawn up, and I’ve watched about 100 films, sat in meetings discussing the merits of each, devising a wide-ranging programme looking for tenderness, laughter, sadness, greatness, compassion, intrigue, our current affairs, our history, and a reasonable spread of films from around the world. It’s been hard – some films I really wanted we could not afford, as we’re working on a shoe-string budget, and we had to pass them up. I’ll say it again; it’s sad that Encounters does not have the support it deserves. I hope that it will not be as hard for the Apollo,” he says.

CELEBRATING WOMEN FILMMAKERS

For the 2018 edition, Khanzi and his team have deliberately selected and scheduled more films made by women, as well as more films about women with ‘The Power of Womanhood’ as this year’s focused theme. This spotlight on women’s issues is driven by the global #metoo campaign, as well as by the need to tackle the issue of male-dominance in the film industry. Over half of the 40 films selected are by female directors, the selected films also focus on women who have made an indelible mark on history. Notable films in the 2018 line-up include:

The HotDocs Special Jury winner, Whispering Truth to Power, by Shameela Seedat, which chronicles Thuli Madonsela’s final year as our Public Protector.

Xoliswa Sithole’s Standing On Their Shoulders is a powerful relook at the 1956 Women’s March and what it means for women today.

Sisters of the Wilderness, directed by Karin Slater, focuses on the cultural and spiritual journey of five Zulu women who explore the bush for the first time.

In the South African shorts section Hannah Rafkin and Meg Robbins’ In Stitches, as well as Suzanne Moody’s Kill or Die, both tickle the funny bone while raising two very poignant issues – that of vernacular stand-up and the struggles of comedians.

WORLD PREMIERES

With an impressive 70 titles, 43 features and nine world premieres; this year will see seven local filmmakers have their productions screened on the Encounters’ stage for the first time. These world premieres include Michael Cross’s The Fun’s not Over: The James Phillip’s Story; Freedom isn’t free: The Freedom Charter Today by Martin Jansen; Pluck: A film not just about Chicken by Joëlle Chesselet and Lloyd Ross; Rian Hendricks’s Ramothopo: The Centenarian; Sisters of the Wilderness directed by Karin Slater; Paul Myburgh’s The Story of Little Foot; and When Babies Don’t Come by Molatelo Mainetje.

Survivors, a film set in Sierra Leone, which tells the extraordinary account of a community’s response to the Ebola outbreak, will also be having its much-anticipated world premiere at Encounters 2018.

COMMEMORATING NELSON MANDELA

While 20 years is an exceptional milestone for the festival, a greater milestone is the centenary of the father of our nation – Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. “We are pleased to honour uTata by screening the Oscar-nominated Mandela by Jo Mennel and Angus Gibson. It focuses on Mandela’s early education, personal relationships and the activism which led to his 27-year imprisonment for sabotage. Our guest, Sir Nick Stadlen will present Life is Wonderful: Mandela’s Unsung Heroes which celebrates the robust and intricate defence mounted by Bram Fischer and George Bizos,” Khanzi shares.

As always, several workshops and masterclasses will also take place during the course of the festival.

The HCI Foundation and the City of Cape Town will be partnering in a project to provide transport and tickets for previously disadvantaged individuals, organisations and students. Bertha Movie House at the Isivivana Centre in Khayelitsha has been a long-standing partner of Encounters and will continue to provide free screenings at the centre as well as local transport to and from the screenings.

“I commend Encounters for the great work they have done over the years to reach this milestone, still standing and pushing hard. I can only imagine the number of challenges the festival has been through, I am really excited to be part of the team at this juncture and say to all the funders, the board, filmmakers and staff past and present – Halala Encounters Twenty!” Khanzi exclaims.

The 2018 Encounters South African International Documentary Festival takes place from 31 May to 10 June 2018 in Cape Town at The Labia Theatre, Cinema Nouveau V&A Waterfront, Bertha Movie House – Isivivana Centre in Khayelitsha, The Bioscope Independent Cinema in Johannesburg, as well as Cinema Nouveau in Rosebank.

Script2Screen Africa: Igniting positive transformation across the continent

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: The Script2Screen filmmaking project has revamped and refocused in an impactful way. Now titled Script2Screen Africa, the annual workshop programme is now also a prime-time reality TV show, bringing aspirant actors and filmmakers from across the African continent to compete in a series of workshops while standing a chance to produce their own film.

Bright Obasi, the founder and president of High Definition Film Academy and pioneer of the Script2Screen initiative, launched the project in 2011 and decided it was time to raise the standard in 2017.

A call for entries took place last year, whereby 60 finalists were selected from auditions across three continents and seven countries – including Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, USA, UK, and Canada (for Africans in diaspora) – to be part of the reality TV project.

“We wanted to have workshops where we bring in veteran filmmakers, actors and celebrities to come together and impact the next generation of actors and filmmakers beyond the regular film school we have. People across the continent can come to intensive workshops and work directly with these veterans,” informed Obasi.

This year marks the sixth edition of the project, with the main theme being, ‘Film as a catalyst for revolution!’ Another modification to the Script2Screen offering is a focus on the plights of different countries and the positive transformational effect that filmmaking can yield.

“With the pan-African reach of the programme, it was important to have a particular focus for each country, and we decided to tackle Nigeria first, under the theme #CorruptionFreeNigeria,” Obasi said. “We have looked at the African continent and the country of Nigeria, and we asked ourselves, what is the greatest challenge that our country is facing, and we realised if corruption was solved, then half of the problems will be solved. For us Scrpit2Screen Africa is not a show designed for leisure or laughter; these are elements of a bigger picture to create positive change in the country and continent by exploring the transformational effect of film.”

The Reality Show

The show started with 60 hopefuls, from 24 March to 21 April participants underwent a series of workshops and tasks that encouraged them to use their skills for positive change, while tackling issues related to the themes.

Veteran actors and filmmakers including Steve Gukas, Teco Benson, Stella Damasus, CJ Obasi, Pascal Amanfo, Niyi Akimolayan, Majid Michel and Kalu Ikeagwu were called in as mentors and jury members to set daily and weekly tasks for the participants, and to hold topical discussions.

“We have a theme that is strong, and things could get very serious, but we are not approaching the project from that perspective. We want to create great entertainment for our audience and then embed a message within that entertainment. We have very controversial and engaging topics presented in a very entertaining manner so that our audience can enjoy being part of the project but also get the message that we have to raise and create this change we seek,” said Obasi.

Each week the group got smaller, as viewers voted for their favourite contestants and to save those who had been selected for eviction.

The jury and audience measured 50 per cent of the votes respectively, and as the competition intensified, five groups were left to compete for the ultimate prize of 1 million naira and a chance to produce a feature film titled, If I Am President.

Final Teams

The final test for the group came when the teams were tasked to create their own short film. Teams were instructed to touch on different aspects of corruption including: The Power of Corruption, The Power of Exemplary Leadership to Overcome Corruption, The Power of Empowering Young People to Deplete Corruption, and How Corruption Can Be Reduced by Quick Execution of Judgement.

“Through the films, we want to repaint the picture of what Nigeria is, we want to reconstruct the headlines, and we want to change the narrative,” Obasi expressed.

The final teams produced five films, namely: The Catalyst, The Anonymous, Torn, Idam, and Isidore. On 19 April at the Silverbird Cinema in Lagos, the short films had their official premiere which was followed by an awards ceremony.

The winner of the Best Screenplay award went to Anita Abada, Best Filmmaker went to Oghenetejiri Idogho, while the Best Actor/Actress award went to Lydia John. The much-anticipated Overall Best Short Film award went to the fourth team for their film, Isidore, directed by Nuhu Dalyop.

“The winning team will be working with veteran filmmakers and trailblazing Nollywood actors and actresses to produce a film that will be showing not only in Nigeria but across Africa as well as internationally in the USA and UK,” concluded Obasi.

 

Rafiki is the first Kenyan film invited to premiere at Cannes

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: Banned from its country, Rafiki – a film that tells the love story of two women – is the first Kenyan feature film to be invited to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in France.

Adapted for the big screen by Kenyan director-author Wanuri Kahiu and South African writer-director Jenna Bass, with Kahiu directing, Rafiki (‘Friend’ in Swahili) is based on the Caine Prize-winning short story Jambula Tree by Ugandan author, Monica Arac de Nyeko.

Producer of the film Steven Markovitz comments: “It is a beautiful love story and we don’t see many of those stories being made in Africa. I’m not talking about romantic comedies. I had worked with Wanuri before on her science fiction short film Pumzi (Sundance), and I believed in her as a talented director. I approached her with the view to develop African literature into film, and she came back to me with Monica Arac de Nyeko’s Jambula Tree.”

Markovitz  is a South African film and television producer, founder and owner of Big World Cinema – a film production company based in Cape Town – who co-produced the recent award-winning documentary Winnie, which also stirred much controversy. “I look for originality and a unique voice or point of view,” he comments. “I also look for material that challenges the dominant narrative of Africa in general and the African country in particular. I also look to work with people who I like and that I feel we could have a mutually respectful working relationship.”

Markovitz shares that after struggling to secure financing from South Africa and Kenya, he decided to look to other countries. The film is therefore a co-production between Kenya, South Africa, France, Lebanon, Norway, Holland, Germany and USA. However, in addition to Kahiu and Bass, the remainder of the film crew are predominantly Kenyan, with a few South Africans.

“There are now eight countries involved! It took seven years to make this film, I went all over the world looking for finance, and we picked up pockets of money and wonderful co-producers along the way… The film is a co-production between Kenya, South Africa, France, Lebanon, Norway, Holland, Germany and USA.”

Rafiki made its debut at the Cannes Film Festival on 9 May 2018. Markovitz confirms that they have already signed with two sales agents, Orange Studios and MPM Premium, to distribute the film internationally. He is hopeful that the film will sell to other territories after its Cannes showcase.

“The film is a lesbian love story; we hope the film will contribute to bringing these stories out of the shadows in Africa. For too often officialdom have tried to suppress these stories, but we know they are part of our society and therefore should be reflected in the cinema we make and watch,” he expressed.

Sadly, Rafiki is currently banned for distribution, exhibition or broadcast in Kenya. The film’s ban was announced in a statement by the Kenya Film Classification Board (KCFB), for its “homosexual theme and clear intent to promote lesbianism in Kenya, contrary to the law.”

So far, Markovitz and his team have been very vocal in the media regarding their stand against the banning of Rafiki and will be challenging the ban through the appeal process.

“We are very disappointed about the banning of the film in Kenya. We believe artists should have freedom of expression to reflect society through our cinema. We will not take this banning lying down and will be announcing our plans in this regard soon,” he concluded.

 

Creating a film community in the Southern Peninsula

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: The Southern Peninsula in Cape Town is quite a distance from the buzzing film hotspots that the Mother City is well-known for. So when film practitioner Bryony Roughton – who, for more than 15 years, provided youth development programmes in the Eastern Cape through SAY Media Education – moved back to her hometown in the Southern Peninsula, she decided to relaunch SAY Media, and later the ForwardFund Academy.

In the spirit of collaboration, Roughton paired up with women’s rights activist and non-profit fundraising expert, Tina Thiart to launch the ForwardFund Academy. “This is a community-based initiative. South Peninsula also represents the tip of the African continent, the far South. The world needs more media from Africa, and the developing world, we need creators of content, we need our people telling their own stories, it is vital we equip our communities with the skills to do this and to offer their voices to the wider world! Launching something like this from the tip of the continent is a great strategic place to create some momentum for the idea of ‘Stories from the South’, and ‘Visions and Voices from the South’,” explains Roughton.

On 10 April 2018, the Academy was launched at the Solaris Office Park on Kommetjie Road, Sunny Acres. The inaugural affair was attended by the DA Shadow Minister of Women in the Presidency, Denise Robinson; and programme manager of Business Development for the Department of Social Development, Nomvume Ralarala, among other distinguished guests as well as community members. At the grand opening an impressive twenty film bursaries were awarded.

“We have been actively recruiting from the community since March and have selected twenty students who are studying film for the first time. We have another six students who already have one year of study from other film training institutions and are joining the programme as senior students,” shares Roughton.

The SAQA Accredited National Certificate in Film and Television Production is a one-year certificate course that enables previously disadvantaged students the opportunity to acquire film and television skills. Furthermore, the course gives students the necessary expertise to be able to freelance and work within the film and television industry, while still actively studying. Guest lecturers who will be providing practical workshops for the duration of the course include: Alison Coetzee, Meg Rickards, Marius Boden, Julan Briant, Di Davis, Gerald Peterson, Mark Roughton, Claire Ryan, Lydia Plaatjies, Tim Spring, David Barkham, Goeff Hookins, Jennifer Carbutt, Gwen Meyer, Simon Tatt, Alison Geduldt, Omar Dick, Greg Copeland, Lee Otten, Clair Titley and Judy Sole.

In addition to providing film studies, the academy is working with schools within the Southern Peninsula in order to relaunch the School Film Festival, as well as to commemorate 100 Years of Fish Hoek.

Roughton expands: “The School Film Festival, under the theme of ‘One in a Hundred’, invites short film scripts from Grades 10 and 11 learners from any school in the South Peninsula. Learners can interpret the theme however they like. Selected screenplays will be produced with the writer directing their short film, and gathering a team of learners to support as crew – who will receive training. Casting of acting roles happens from within the school. Our film students will assist the learner crew during the production phase. Our industry team mentor the crew throughout the process, so it is not necessary to know anything about filmmaking before writing a screenplay or joining the crew. This is the model we used with the Nab’Ubomi Film Competition in the Eastern Cape, except this time we have film students in the mix as well.”

Only five of the chosen submissions will be developed and filmed by students of the ForwardFund Academy. To see how the competition was rolled out in the Eastern Cape, head over to SAYmeTV on YouTube to view some of the submissions.

 

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