Oscar award raises southern Africa’s filmmaking profile

Tsotsi, a film about a township thief who learns to take care of an infant whose mother he shot during a car hijacking, became the first southern African movie on 5 March to win an Oscar. This was the second time a South African has been nominated for the Oscars, the highest recognition that a film can get in the United States. Last year’s nominee was Yesterday, a feature film about a woman who was HIV positive. Directed and written by Gavin Hood, Tsotsi stars Presley Chweneyagae as a violent young gangster who realises the value of human life after discovering a baby in a car he had stolen. His outlook to life changes after being forced to care for the baby. It beat four other films that were also vying for the Best Foreign Language Film Award. These were Paradise Now (Palestine), Joyeux Noel (France), The Final Days (Germany) and Don’t Tell (Italy). The Oscar for Tsotsi dramatises southern Africa’s filmmaking renaissance and points to the vast talent available in the region. The region’s filmmaking industry has undergone major changes since the late 1990s and has in the past few years produced award-winning films such as Everyone’s Child by Zimbabwean film-maker Tsitsi Dangarembga and Fools, a collaborative effort between South African production house, Native At Large, and Mozambique’s Ebano Multimedia. Everyone’s Child, a touching story about two orphans who find themselves left with nothing following the tragic death of their parents, has won several international awards, including for best script, best music and best cinematography. Other countries in the region such as Angola, Mauritius and Mozambique have produced short films that have featured at international festivals. South Africa, the region’s biggest economy, has the most developed film industry in southern Africa, producing some of the best movies on the continent. Regional cooperation has been crucial to the development of the industry, with events such as the Zanzibar International Film Festival, Zimbabwe International Film Festival and Cape Town World Cinema Festival playing an important role. Together with colleagues from other parts of Africa, filmmakers from the region recently formed the New African Co-production Forum (ACF) Initiative that aims to promote co-production of feature films. The initiative will identify good feature films from west Africa, east Africa and southern Africa (outside of South Africa) and help them to be packaged to pitch at the Feature Film Co-Production Forum (FFCF) at Sithengi, South Africa. Successful films will be forwarded to the international co-production market, Cinemart, at the Rotterdam International Film Festival in the Netherlands in 2007. The filmmakers believe that the project will counter the declining number of African feature films being produced, and will bring more ideas through an African pipeline to a global marketplace for financing and development. ‘ sardc.net

March 2006
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