16 feature films and documentaries funded

11th June 2004 By: Steven Chiaberta

The motion pictures side of the Industrial Development Corporation’s (IDC) media and motion pictures unit is dedicated to facilitating growth in the South African filmmaking and motion picture industry.

Headed by Sonja Loggenberg, the division funds movie and documentary projects, and has financed 16 feature films and 12 documentaries since its inception in 2001.

“Our first film came out in 2003 and we are extremely satisfied with our portfolio so far. We manage it very carefully, because, even though the South African film industry is growing steadily, film is always risky,” Loggenberg explains.

Because it takes 48 months to show a return on investment, it is still too soon to judge the success of the unit’s investments, at least in a commercial sense. However, Loggenberg stresses that profit is not the sole goal.

“The IDC and the NFVF (National Film and Video Foundation) put cash into development, and we also measure our success by the number of jobs that are created and by the level of skills transfer that takes place. It is not only about making money,” she states.

When looking at some of the films it has funded, all indications seem to suggest that the media and motion pictures unit is indeed making sound financial and developmental investments.

Hotel Rwanda is the most recent project it has been involved in.

As a tripartite production between South Africa, Italy and the UK, the value of the production was estimated at $170-million.

The movie, which was filmed mainly in Alexandra and Soweto, created 9 000 jobs in two weeks of filming, and almost 10 000 jobs over an eight-week period.

The film was produced by an Oscar-winning producer, and its release will coincide with the commemoration of the horrific Rwanda genocide. “There was an overwhelming response to Hotel Rwanda at its promotional screening at the recent Cannes film festival. It is an extremely moving film, and many tears were shed,” Loggenberg says.

Another recent project, Stander, has been picked as a feature release in the US, and is currently experien-cing excellent video sales after a somewhat disappointing run on the cinema circuit. Country of My Skull, meanwhile, is a film based on SABC radiojournalist Antjie Krog’s account of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The film picked up a peace prize at the Berlin film festival and was lauded at the Cannes festival.

It will be distributed by Sony andis due for release in South Africa shortly.

Red Dust is the story of a South African man breaking through South Africa’s apartheid system.

A coproduction between Anant Singh’s Durban-based production company Video Vision and the BBC, Red Dust also enjoyed a promotional screening at Cannes. Finally, Story of an African Farm is a Gauteng Department of Education schools prescribed set-work that, with funding from the IDC, has been made into an entirely South African production.

It is due for release in South Africa in August.

Upcoming productions financed by the media and motion pictures unit also look destined for a bright future.

Currently known by its working title, Platinum is the story of thelife and times of Hans Merensky, the geologist who first discovered platinum in South Africa. The film is currently in the post-production phase and will be released this year. Other forthcoming attractions include Out on a Limb, a South African comedy about a chef, and Tsotsi, which started production in May.

According to Loggenberg, the IDC aims to invest in high-quality films, while focusing on rural shoots in its commitment to assist in the development of the local film industry and to create employment that uplifts the lives of previously-disadvantaged South Africans.

If word-of-mouth at Cannes is anything to go by, its mission is by no means impossible.

“Everyone spoke so highly of South Africa and its film industry. It wasreally amazing,” Loggenberg enthuses.

Indeed, the media and motion pictures unit has brought back from Cannes four or five scripts from world-renowned producers who are interested in filming in South Africa. “Our purpose at Cannes was to promote the South African film industry and to show the world that the IDC is a huge organisation that backs South African producers. Discussions with big-name producers went extremely well,” she hints, saying that it is too soon to divulge the names of theinterested producers. She adds that the NFVF has also done a great deal of work to boost the local film industry. “South Africa winning the World Cup 2010 bid also seems to have helped a lot. There is now so much interest in South Africa. Hopefully, such an opportunity to promote the country will translate into foreign money being spent in our film industry,” she concludes.

Meanwhile, the IDC’s media and motion pictures unit seems to be enjoying similar success with its investment in local documentaries. Recently-funded projects include: The life and story of Dr Chris Barnard, The trial of Nelson Mandela, andThe life and times of Sophiatown, while Dali Tambo and the SABC co-produced its most recent documentary, The history of political parties.

Finally, the upcoming Shark Divers is expected to cost about R3-million and will be produced by South African producers working in tandem withone German and one French pro-ducer.

Thus, although still in its relative infancy, it is clear that the IDC’s media and motion pictures unit is already making a significant contributionto the local film industry, and to the lives of previously-disadvantaged South Africans.