Freedom Stories from SA for Berlin Film Festival

Ten new South African documentaries are to premiere at the Berlin Film Festival screening forum from 7th - 14th February 2004 in the International Forum of New Cinema.


The groundbreaking films have been selected from Project 10 - Real Stories from a Free South Africa (Project 10), a series of 13 films exploring concepts of freedom, specially developed by the SABC 1 in partnership with the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) and Amsterdam based, Maurits Binger Film Institute.


Shot over a year, the films are directed by established and emerging filmmakers. Though varied in subject matter and approach, each tells a compelling story while unraveling experiences of a country in transition.


Project 10 was devised as a developmental initiative to nurture a new generation of South African filmmakers brave enough to take risks and able to recognise the power of their own voices in a free society.


A key partner in Project 10, the NFVF embraced the initiative as an important advance in the training of local filmmaking talent and saw it as an important opportunity for South African filmmakers to tell their own story. Project 10 partner, the Maurits Binger Film Institute, developed a director-training programme, focussing on narrative story telling techniques. The programme facilitated by local and international film talent ran alongside the production process.


Patricia van Heerden, Commissioning Editor SABC1 stated: "SABC 1 has significantly increased investment in locally produced factual and drama content. A key growth strategy, investment in local productions is seen as a tangible contribution to the growth of democratic culture and influential in defining a South African identity."


Eddie Mbalo: CEO of the NFVF was excited by the potential of the initiative. "Our role is to actively encourage, support and promote initiatives which lend themselves to tangible development. The package which includes skills development and the production of 13 new South African documentaries is an important growth stimulant to our local industry."


"The South African film industry is at a stage where it is ready to break into the international arena of film and stand its own ground alongside films from all over the world. Having come from a history where black filmmakers had no opportunities for training, this project has birthed a team of filmmakers who will pave the way for a new generation of talent. They will earnestly tell the South African stories that we have all been waiting to hear," continued Mbalo.


Marten Rabarts, Head of Studies: Maurits Binger Film Institute said: "This unique programme was devised to take the film projects from idea to final edit. A hands-on approach and a sustained free-flow of ideas and information led to an illuminating, process. Some of the filmmakers featured in their own stories, a courageous and sensitive filmmaking process. The cross-fertilisation process produced some amazing films. The results speak for themselves."


It is anticipated that Project 10's exposure to one of the most critical international film audiences at the Berlin Film Festival will act as a catalyst for further interest in South African film product. Two of the Project 10 films, The Meaning of the Buffalo and Home/iKhaya were screened at the Sundance Film Festival in the US in January 2004.


The personal narrative approach of the films is being seen as a key selling point to international audiences. World sales agent, Esther van Messel of First Hand Films, is seeking sales opportunities in territories outside Africa.


Executive producers: Steven Markovitz and Letebele Masemola-Jones said: "The films have been finished in time for international release in this year where there is intense focus on South Africa at home and all major capitals of the world. We have already received substantial interest from key television stations and major film festivals. These stories speak to freedom and democracy but are not overtly political. They are a valuable collection of films which speak to progress in our fledgling democracy in a personal manner."


Each of the 10 films selected for the special focus at Berlin will be screened at least three times to international media and festivalgoers. The SABC, the NFVF, the Binger, the Project 10 executive producers and the 11 directors will be in attendance at the festival.


Viewers in South Africa will be able to see the Project 10 films on SABC 1 from April 2004. The films will be launched as part of a variety of commemorative activities taking place in South Africa during 2004.


Project 10 is a series of narrative documentary films exploring intimate and personal experiences of 10 years of freedom in South Africa. Comprising 13 documentaries commissioned and developed by South African public broadcaster, SABC 1, in partnership with the National Film and Video Foundation, South Africa and the Maurits Binger Film Institute, the films were shot over one year and included a developmental workshop and training programme. The project received further support from the Department of Communications (South Africa), the Netherlands Culture Fund of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Production credits: SABC1: Head of Programmes: Siven Maslamoney, Commissioning Editor: Patricia van Heerden, Executive Producers: Steven Markovitz, Letebele Masemola-Jones, Jennifer Fox. NFVF: Eddie Mbalo and Gina Bonmariage, Maurits Binger Film Institute: Head of Studies, Marten Rabarts. Developer of Training Programme: Jennifer Fox. Training

Manager: Jacky Lourens.

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