SA’s filmmakers make a stand at Toronto festival

Almost 30 South African film makers and producers are in Toronto, as part of the Association for Transformation in Film and TV, an initiative made possible by the Department of Trade and Industry's Export Marketing and Investment Assistance Scheme. by Nadia Neophytou

The scheme is supported by the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), the KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission and the Gauteng Film Commission.

While South Africa has consistently maintained a presence at the Cannes Film Festival for more than a decade, up until now there has not been a substantial one at the Toronto International Film Festival. This year a stand stacked with flyers and business cards serves as an invitation to find out more about what South Africans have to offer.

The association's spokesperson, independent producer Sifiso Kanyile, says the idea was to take "proper advantage" of the platform the festival presents.

More than 70 countries screen films as part of the festival's official selection, and more than 300 films are shown over the 10-day event.

"Toronto is the fastest growing film festival," Mr Kanyile says. "It's considered one of the 'big five', and it's really an exciting space to be in. It's the first time we're here, as a collective, and the first time we've come as a delegation, so we're very excited about it, and hope that a lot will come of it."


South Africa's absence at Toronto in previous years has been an issue for several local film makers. Cape Town-based producer Steven Markovitz of Big World Cinema, who has been attending for years, says Toronto is an important stop on the festival circuit.

Mr Markovitz is trying to find more ways to bring African film makers together, and there have been good reviews for Beats of the Antonov, a documentary he co-produced with Sudan, which has been selected by the Toronto festival for screening.

Mr Kanyile says the aim of the delegation of South Africans is to get emerging film makers to understand the value chain.

"We hope that by coming here, film makers will not only understand the value in making films but the value in selling them too. By coming here you see the films that are being made and sold at the market and you get to understand the quality of what is being created," he says. The delegates will have opportunities to meet role players, from commissioning editors to sales agents, who help fund and distribute films, Mr Kanyile says. "It's important to start becoming a part of their world and not just make films in isolation."

It is going to take time to increase South Africa's profile in Toronto, says Mr Kanyile, who is working on a documentary about Rivonia Trialist Andrew Mlangeni.

"It's all about establishing relationships and creating an international network of buyers. It starts by knowing these people. You don't just come here once and it happens," he says.

"Sometimes it takes several markets to find people you can make distribution or co-production deals with. It comes with a bit of understanding of how the market works, and it's important to learn how to do this as independent film maker and producer."


The delegation has been participating in networking events, co-production sessions with Canada, panels and workshops.

The NFVF helped to fund Jyoti Mistry's Impunity, the only South African feature film in the festival's official selection, which premiered on Saturday night. A South African short film, Ibhokhwe, is also part of the festival's selection.

"There's such an excitement here," says Mr Kanyile.

"You can see it in how the public comes to the films. I hope eventually we can encourage more South Africans to appreciate the films we are creating."

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