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South African films storm Fespaco
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South African films storm Fespaco


By Vera Kwakofi
BBC Fespaco Live

South Africa boasts an advanced and well-funded film industry, yet for nearly four years the country did not send a single film to Africa's biggest film festival, Fespaco.

But this week South Africa stormed the Burkinabe capital, Ouagadougou - home of Fespaco - with a record four feature films short listed for the grand prize, the Stallion of Yennenga.

The hosts, Burkina Faso, are the only country to enter a similar number of entries at the festival.

Another five films plus six entries in the documentary and video categories of the competition are in South Africa's war chest.

Replacing the old


This is probably a reflection of what is happening back at home, where the country's film industry receives enviable support from its film council.

Teddy Mattera
Teddy Mattera

Pallo Jordan, South Africa's arts and culture minister, told the BBC's Africa Live programme his government was committed to the promotion of arts and had allocated some 40 million Rand ($7m) to support filmmaking in South Africa.

The country is represented at Fespaco 2005 by among others, Teddy Mattera with his film Max and Mona. He wants South Africa to commit even more funds to the industry.

"I would be willing to contribute my five cents if it was needed."

He says the so-called revival of South African cinema is part the transition from apartheid, which ended over a decade ago.

"We are coming out of a painful era and seeing another side of it - the comedy.

There is a revival; there is a replacement of the old for the new."



Back in South Africa, the recent Cape Town World Cinema Festival saw a record turnout, and a marked improvement on last year.

Carmen won best film at this year's Berlin film festival

The turnaround has been helped by the new clutch of South African films that have plied the international film festivals in Venice, Berlin, Gothenborg, Rotterdam and Toronto, which have also raised the profile of the South African film industry.

A South African re-make of Georges Bizet's musical Carmen was the toast of the Berlin Film Festival, while Yesterday - a Zulu language film about an HIV-positive woman - earned South Africa its first ever Oscar nomination in the foreign film category last month.

Though it didn't win, off the back of South African Charlize Theron's best actress Oscar last year, South Africa is firmly in Hollywood's radar.

Director Zola Maseko contends South African film-makers should only be concerned with telling good stories.

"I think that history is going to look back at this time and say that there's a South African genre, a South African aesthetic."

White dominated


Of course there's the concern that the film industry is not as open and as accessible as it should be.

It still remains a largely white-dominated industry. But optimists say that is changing.

I think that history is going to look back at this time and say that there's a South African genre, a South African aesthetic
Zola Maseko, South African director

That change may already be here.

At this year's Fespaco, all the South African films competing for the grand prize with the exception of Drum were directed by black South Africans.

The ultimate coup for South Africa would be if one of its films won the Yennenga Stallion on Saturday.

It would become the only Anglophone country to have won it since Ghana's Kwaw Ansah's Heritage Africa in 1989.
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