Selling South Africa

A 33-strong contingent of South African documentary professionals descends on IDFA 2012 with twin objectives of promoting the country's generous tax incentives for international producers and persuading Dutch counterparts at the Netherlands Film Fund to agree a formal co-pro treaty. by Nick Cunningham

The South African team will be led by producer Marc Schwinges, also a central figure within the South African Documentary Filmmakers Association, and Terrence Khumalo of the National Film & Video Foundation (NFVF).

"We have an exceptional support mechanism from our government at present for trade missions," commented Schwinges on the eve of the festival, "and another exceptional support mechanism in the form of a tax rebate which is 35% of what is spent in South Africa, in what they call 'qualifying expenditure', as a formal co-pro or as a South African production. It's quite a hefty percentage of money spent in the country that comes back as a VAT-free, tax-free incentive, and can be cash-flowed as well. This has made it a lot more interesting to do business with South Africa because we bring a serious amount of money to the table."

South African filmmakers currently benefit from eight international co-production treaties (Canada, Germany, Italy, UK, France, NZ, Australia and Ireland). Given the historical and cultural ties with the Netherlands, it is perhaps surprising that such an agreement hasn't been inked before. "Yes, it would seem that the Netherlands would have naturally been one of the first treaties we embarked upon, but we are working on rectifying that", agrees NFVF's Neilo Khunyeli. "The reason is we have had a lot of positive interest from Dutch producers. If you have a treaty in place, it makes it a whole lot more lucrative and a whole lot more attractive for both parties involved. There is a lot of room for co-operation. We are looking to a more cohesive and progressive discussion about what exactly the conditions would be and what each party is looking to get from the treaty."

Netherlands Film Fund CEO Doreen Boonekamp responded: "The Netherlands and South Africa share a fruitful co-operation in the field of feature film and drama production. We greatly appreciate such a large delegation of South African film professionals visiting the Netherlands now to take a closer look into the possibilities of expanding co-operation towards documentary film. I trust we can intensify our relations and exchanges with South Africa, resulting in an array of many interesting, challenging and creative films. I also trust the 2005 Memorandum of Understanding between both countries can be replaced by a true co-production treaty''.

The Meet the South Africans panel (16 November, hosted by IDFA's Adriek van Nieuwenhuijzen) will present an overview of the South African doc-pro landscape to industry attendees. Other SA activities at IDFA include a stand at Docs for Sale, where 11 projects will be on offer to buyers, commissioning editors and festival programmers. One SA project will be presented at the Forum (Neil Brandt's The Devil's Lair, image above), while Brandt and Francois Verster's The Dream of Shahrazad will screen as a Forum Work in Progress.

The NFVF invested 4.5 million Rand (EU402,000) in doc development and production in 2012. This will rise to at least 7.8 million Rand (EU697,000) in 2013 and 8.5 million Rand (EU760,000) in 2014. A separate fund for archive will be launched in 2013.

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