The DFA was established in 2007 to promote and protect the interests of doc filmmakers in South Africa. To contact the DFA, please use the contact form: here . The DFA website is at: Membership applications can be made through the website here.

14 April 2011

Porselynnkas - Die dokiementer is hier!


No budget. A week to shoot. Anything can happen.

Porselynnkas Dokiementêr has been discussed on SABC 1 and has been selected for the Grahamstown Film Festival. A pre-launch event, for selected guests, will be held at the Klein Libertas Theatre in Stellenbosch on the 3 May.

Matthew Kalil follows artist, clown and performance poet Sjaka S Septembir as he hunts down old members of Porselynnkas, cream pies them in the face and laughs at some serious questions about memory, rebellion and the vigor of youth.

Was Porselynnkas a groundbreaking counter-cultural art movement within Afrikaans theater, like Bitterkomix and Fokofpolisiekar?

Or was it just an excuse for dyslexic poets, starving artists and dirty musicians to get girls naked?

Banned by the local radio station, loathed by the Church and considered out-of-bounds at high schools and certain coffee shops, Porselynnkas, a Stellenbosch art movement nevertheless executed 34 poetry happenings, distributed 21 poetry volumes, made music, broadcast a radio drama and caused anarchic chaos in the theatre community between 1996 and 1999.

Porselynnkas Dokiementêr is a 52 min fast-paced ride hurtling inevitably to a climactic final Porselynnkas happening. Will Sjaka’s friends pitch up? Will we find footage of the group’s previous performances? What about the question of the White Rabbit? Who is real? Who is lying? What is truth? Who cares?

Porselynnkas Dokiementêr features many Afrikaner counter-cultural icons such as Toast Coetzer, Gert Vlok Nel, Asha Zero, Deborah Steinmair, Floyed de Vaal, Alex Omega, Francois Weideman and others who all try and pretend to care about these issues.

Gertjie Basson (Mr Cat and the Jackal), Melanie Basson, Toast Coetzer and others will perform live at the event on the 3 of May.

Some quotes about the film:

“This film itself is a Happening.” – Ashley Courvar
“It’s not in the mainstream but on the margins of culture that we can really feel the pulse of a nation.” – Carlo Germeshuys
“”Uiters punk!” – Calabash The Rabbit

For more info go to:
Watch the trailer on youtube and the opening sequence.

Gauteng Online Permit Application Form

As of 1 April 2011 the Gauteng Film Commission (GFC) launched an online application form to allow filmmakers wishing to shoot on location in Gauteng easy and immediate application at a click of the button. This online application form is available on the GFC website (under Permit Application) and all filmmakers are required to fill in this application form when applying for permits..

General locations and permit enquiries should still be forwarded to Seitiso Mogoshane at

Volunteer for Encounters 2011

Please click the image to read the details or visit the Encounters web site.

13 April 2011

Sundance Institute Exhibits DFA Member's Work

Greetings from Sunny Nairobi!

I am delighted and very proud to announce an exhibition of my work by The Sundance Institute at WNYC’s Greene Space in New York City, this Tuesday April 19th 2011. The exhibit will move for 10 days to the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art in Brooklyn, New York.

The View from Manda is a selection of photographs I took during the Sundance Institute's first Theatre Lab in East Africa last July in Maanda, Lamu, Kenya.

I was extremely privileged to capture the finest East African theatre talent as they performed their works in progress.

Here is the link to the work that will be exhibited.

The participants of the Lab include the finest East African Actors, Playwrights and Directors namely Sitawa Namwalie, Mrisho Mpoto, Gerorge Seremba, Ruzibiza Wesley, Irene Sanga, Lillian Olembo, Melvin Alusa, Gilbert Lukalia.

I would like to thank Christopher Hibma, Philip Himberg, Roberta Levitow, and Liesl Tommy of the Sundance Institute.

In addition, I would like to extend my gratitude to H Arefe Anin, Idil lambo, Iain Harris, and Arvind Vorhora who in their own way contributed to realizing this exhibition.

"The Sundance Institute decided to exhibit Philippa's photographs because the images transcended mere documentation of a special process by being true pieces of art. Philippa’s craft is evident and it was our desire to share her work with an American audience." Christopher Hibma, Associate Director, Theatre Program

The purpose of the exhibition on April 19 will be to celebrate the Sundance Institute East Africa. There will be a reception to launch the exhibit followed by a short program where Philip Himberg, Producing Artistic Director, will engage in conversation with a Ugandan playwright who was an alumna of the 2010 Theatre Lab on Manda, Lucy Judith Adong. Additionally, Rwandan musicians Samuel Kamanzi and Moise Mutangana will provide musical accompaniment throughout the evening.

The images provide a beautiful platform for the Sundance Institute to celebrate its initiative in East Africa. Sundance Institute East Africa supports theatre-makers in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Rwanda. The 2010 Theatre Lab on Manda was a pilot Lab to see if the model for new play development in the U.S. was relevant and useful in East Africa. More about Sundance Institute East Africa can be found online at

Kindly forward this email to anyone whom you feel would appreciate attending the exhibition this coming Tuesday, or anyone who would appreciate viewing the selected images online.
"I want to say THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for delivering some of the best photos that Sundance has EVER had from a Sundance Lab. I am stunned by the beauty of your work. It was a pleasure, indeed, to meet you and to work with you. I am now one of your biggest fans." Christopher Hibma, Associate Director, Theatre Program

Warmest Regards,


"A great silence comes over me, and I wonder why I ever thought to use language." Rumi

From the Edge Begins Transmission

Saamstaan Again is a 24 minute documentary about a little newspaper that had a major effect on the lives of those in the Southern Cape and Karoo. Being a multi-language newspaper, opposing government’s hypocritical Apartheid regime in the 1980’s, Saamstaan set the benchmark for journalists fight for freedom of speech. In this film we follow four journalists as they tell their story of how this newspaper, based in Oudsthoorn, made a big difference in its community. Saamstaan spread through Oudsthoorn and George but reached hearts and homes beyond the borders of the southern Cape. Fighting for freedom through words, these journalists changed politically manipulated mindsets for liberty and fairness. T-shirts hidden in freezers and court cases before the wedding day. These journalists fought for freedom of speech with everything they had.

Saamstaan Again will be broadcast on SABC 2 at 20:30 on the 8th of May. It is part of the Kevin Harris – From the Edge – documentary mentorship series.

For further information contact Candice Prinsloo at

Please see below the schedule for the From the Edge Documentary Mentorship series, headed up by Kevin Harris. My documentary, Saamstaan Again, will be broadcast on the 8th of May on SABC 2 at 20:30. The series starts on the 24th of April. Please pass this e-mail on to your contacts. Thank you for supporting local film!

Week 1 24 April 2011 at 20h30 on SABC 2
“The Travelling Salesman” - 24 minute;
“Firmly in the Driver’s Seat” – 24 minute;

Week 2
“I now pronounce you Man & Husband” – 48 minute;

Week 3 8 May 2011 at 20h30 on SABC 2
“Pinky & the Computers” – 24 minute;
“Saamstaan Again” – 24 minute;

Week 4
“DIY Kid – the Billy Selekane Story” – 24 minute;
“Koriana Mantsa” – 24 minute;

Week 5
“Load for Daily Bread” – 24 minute;
“Zimbabwe - Past the Post .... on a dark horse" - 24 min Episode 1.

Week 6
“Zimbabwe - Past the Post .... on a dark horse" - 48 min Episode 2.

Candice Prinsloo

Turf Wars Launches at MIPTV 2011

Documentary Series about US Marines in Afghanistan launches at MipTV 2011

The world’s largest television market MipTV, held in Cannes, France last week, saw the launch of an innovative new documentary series by a South African team. Turf Wars depicts the real-life situation of US Marines at war in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan.

Turf Wars follows the lives of a company of young soldiers as they go about their day-to-day operations to suppress the enemy. The 13 part series of one hour programmes is brought to screen in a unique manner: action is filmed through the use of mini HD cameras, attached to the soldiers themselves. “Turf Wars will show audiences a perspective on war that they have never seen before,” says Producer and Co-Creator Markus Davies of Waterfront Studios. “The series will take them closer to the action than ever before”.

The production team has co-operation from the Pentagon to embed themselves with the soldiers for the filming period. A team of award-winning camera operators that are war zone specialists will capture unique footage and tell the Turf Wars story from a soldier’s perspective.

One of the veteran war journalists who will act as director of photography is South African Adil Bradlow. Adil is responsible for the genesis of the project: “The idea of this project came to me while out on patrol with the Marines in Marjah, Helmand Province, in late 2010. The lads of 1st Platoon saw themselves as fighting a good old-fashioned turf war with the Taliban”.

“It was clear that the Marines had gone on the offensive and were determined not to let up, pushing out on patrol three times a day to keep the Taliban guessing as to where they would strike next. Along with a relentless pace, I was amazed at how spartan their operating conditions were. They lived hard and rough. This was soldiering as I'd never seen it before; this is a story that needs to be told,” says Bradlow.

Turf Wars Trailer A:
Turf Wars Trailer B:
Turf Wars Trailer C:

Humans Who Live in Wild Places

Human Planet, the BBC Natural History Unit’s new eight-part epic series about humans who live in the wild places, follows in the footsteps of the acclaimed Planet Earth and Life.

With over 70 stories produced over a three year period, the series explores the lives of people who have adapted to some of the remotest places on earth. Series producer Dale Templar was recently in South Africa to promote the release of the DVD box set.

Narrated by John Hurt, each of the episodes focuses on a different habitat: oceans, desert, mountains, rivers, jungles, grasslands, arctic and cities.

“Human Planet needed to be epic so we utilised the dramatic nature of the styles and techniques the BBC have used before, but we combined this with a very intimate documentary style. We’ve blended and brought the two styles together. The photography must be stunning but we must also get to know the characters in a very short amount of time. By bringing together these two different styles of programme-making, we did something very challenging, but I think it explains the phenomenon this landmark series has become.”

Superlatives fail in attempting to describe the sheer scale and innovation of this series. Astounding cinematography and location sound ensure the viewer feels as if they are alongside the characters, experiencing the adrenaline of a last-minute escape from dangerous waves crashing against a cliff or the desperate isolation of an underwater diver waiting on the seabed for relief from the bends. “We brought together skills in anthropology, documentary filmmaking styles and blue-chip wildlife, so the look is a combination of the hand-held, on-the-shoulder style of documentary blended with the epic shots you expect from BBC wildlife films,” says Dale.

In designing the series style, Dale says: “I always wanted every episode to be a rollercoaster ride: the viewer should be excited, then terrified, and experience an emotional journey through each episode, but always feel very connected to the characters.”

In terms of post-production, the series is edited at a slightly faster pace than usual in The BBC’s natural history programming, although there are still those one-minute shots that take time to unfold.

“We looked at hundreds of stories but the focus was always human beings who live with nature. Each story had to play out in 5-10 minutes and this time scale meant the audience had to engage quickly with the characters. We are fortunate at The BBC to have contacts all over the world and this helped during the research phase. We explored many stories in Africa, although we did not end up shooting in South Africa.”

Dale says it was important that “the practices we were filming were not just being enacted for tourists. If it became doubtful, we dropped those stories, no matter how good they seemed. We wanted to film real people who still do real things, like the Dorobo people of Kenya. They are primarily hunter-gatherers and have been so for thousands of years. We filmed them using a more hyena-like, scavenging hunting style where they will track a pride of lions on the hunt. In our story three hunters literally have a face-off with a pride of 15 lions. Naturally the lions are frightened enough of humans to be briefly chased away from the fresh kill and a hunter will calmly walk in and machete off a wildebeest hind leg before retreating.”

Read the rest of the article here.

The Hand of Man

Some friends and I are building a 4 meter sculpture of a steel left hand, which holds up 45 computer monitors (approx), displaying video. This will go to the AfrikaBurn festival, and I have also approached the 'Encounters', 'Durban Intl. Film Fest' and 'MediaTech' events which are reviewing it (everybody thinks its a great idea).

I'm emailing you the creative proposal (with themes) to see if any documentary filmmakers would be interested in adding content to the piece. They are welcome to add footage, though the piece does not play back sound. It would loop video, and it has 5 source signals. The themes of video is described in the attached creative proposal.

I understand that the majority of documentaries are narrative more than visual driven, but many documentary makers would have tons of footage lying around and might have some very visual pieces to contribute.

Please contact me for any questions or queries:
Jan Joubert

[The pdf will be emailed to DFA members on 14 April 2011.]

Free Training for Filmmakers

Please click the image to read the details

Animation Directors Invited to Germany

Dear Colleagues,

As co-organizer of the African Cinemal Festival in Saarbruecken and Bayreuth (Germany) I am trying to get a better sense of contemporary trends in African animation film. We are very small but usually invite several directors for presentations of their work and/or workshops with film/visual media students. Suggestions of films and directors for our 2011 edition (Nov 2011) are highly appreciated,


Soenke Zehle

XMLab - Experimental Media Lab
Academy of Fine Arts Saar
Keplerstr. 3-5
66117 Saarbruecken

Documentary Net

We are offering documentary filmmakers a new platform to promote their projects or trailers.

Copyright Commission Review

Dear Sir/ Madam

Thank you for your submission to the Copyright Review Commission (the Commission). The Commission will be conducting public hearings at all 9 provinces from the 15 April to 31 May 2011. This serves as an invitation to you and your organisation to the public hearings of the Copyright Review Commission.

Public hearings will be held as follows-

11 May 2011 - Eastern Cape (Port Elizabeth),

12 May 2011 - Northern Cape (Kimberley),

10 May 2011 - Western Cape (Cape Town)

16 and 17 May 2011 - Gauteng (Johannesburg),

19 May 2011 - Kwa - Zulu Natal (Durban),

11 May 2011 - Free State (Bloemfontein)

13 May 2011 - Mpumalanga (Mbombela),

12 May 2011 - Limpopo (Polokwane) and

13 May 2011 - North West (Mafikeng)

Kindly confirm if you are still interested in making oral submissions and also indicate in which province you would like to attend.



Sipho Tleane
Director: Legal Support & Prosecutions
Department of Trade & Industry
Consumer and Corporate Regulation Division
Tel: (012 394 1422
Fax: (012) 394 2422
Cell: 083 399 5306

Mediatech Africa Press Release

Press Release

Mediatech Africa offers perspective on professional Broadcast, Film and Production Industry.

A strongly supported segment of Mediatech Africa, the continent’s largest technology trade fair is Broadcast, Film and Production where developments and advances include the migration to Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT), and the technology paradigm of both the production and broadcast of 3D television.

South Africa's top suppliers of equipment and services allied to this segment are exhibiting at Mediatech Africa, which takes place from 20 -22 July at the Coca-Cola dome in Northriding where the latest in technology and equipment will be on display without the inherent cost of visiting overseas exhibitions.

Steve Alves of Concillium Technologies comments: "We believe that 2011 will be one of the most challenging years yet. Both from a technology and revenue generating perspective the relentless pressure to deliver services over multiple digital platforms via communication networks that are ever evolving require broadcasters to become skilled in the reliable receipt and delivery of content across a variety of networks".

“The internet will start playing a big role in broadcast and film distribution” says Inala's Colin Wainer. There will be an abundance of 'new' IPTV broadcasters providing content which will be distributed in multi-viewing formats so that their content can be viewed anywhere, any place at any time”.

Greg Pokroy, Coastal Division Manager for Jaycor International, feels that new projects and sustainable business after the 2010 World Cup will be key in 2011. "South Africa was given a great opportunity to showcase our broadcast and production capabilities” he says “and we must capitalise on this securing new business for 2011. South Africa must keep up to date with technological advances allowing the country to be a prime venue and a world class broadcaster”.

Since the recent decision to embrace DVB-T2 for DTT was announced, broadcast suppliers are gearing up to face the technological challenges this new format will pose. The success of the DTT implementation is not going to rely so much on technology says Wainer, as DVB-T2 has been successfully deployed in many European countries, from which we can all learn, however content has always been ‘King’ and without the right content for that specific African market, this may be detrimental to the success and sustainability of the broadcaster and in turn the successful implementation of DTT”.

Quentin Barkhuizen of Telemedia adds: “The only technological challenge that this will create is of course the requirement to digitally interface a local channel for a specific local area particularly when the DTT multiplex is perhaps already fed with eight channels from a satellite TV distribution system”.

South Africa is more than capable of manufacturing DTT set top boxes, having the requisite design and manufacturing skills to produce such devices. The issue is being able to do this at a price affordable to the viewer as is the ability to support the current installed base of analogue television sets. This is critical in order to lessen the resistance to migrating to digital within the dual illumination window.

3D movies are all the rage, and 3DTV is not too far behind. The 2010 world cup was shot and broadcast live in 3D to several countries, and indeed South Africans were able to wonder at the spectacle in various 3D viewing areas including the Sony 3D 'dome' in the Mandela square Sandton. Does this mean 3DTV is on its way in South Africa?

“3DTV will see development during the next year primarily in the origination and production of content for overseas 3DTV channels” say Jess Goedhals General Manager of Sony Broadcast South Africa. “It is very unlikely that any South African broadcasters will start to broadcast this year. There are however a number of local production companies that have already started producing 3D TV content. Wildlife filmmakers like Aquavision have also started to produce content for the overseas 3DTV channels such as Discovery”.

Concillium’s Alves believes that 3DTV is still in its infancy: “While there may be early adopters willing to invest in this viewing technology for viewing DVD's, the technology is very expensive, proprietary and not that practical for everyday viewing in the home. We don’t see 3DTV as a priority for the broadcasters in the coming year.”

Buyers are attracted to Mediatech Africa to view and discuss new technologies such as DTT and 3DTV and much more in fact. “New technologies, products and the opportunity to network with local and international companies within the industry is a great attraction” says Camera Platforms Tink Minster. “Mediatech Africa is the only forum we have in South Africa where a buyer can look at virtually all the products and services available to the local broadcast and production industry” concludes Sony's Goedhals.

This biennial trade exhibition will showcase broadcast, film and production; professional AV, sound, lighting, staging and rigging; DJ and professional music equipment; system integration; animation, new media and web; satellite and signal; computer music and production tools; and musical instrument sectors.

The diverse programme will include live demonstrations, workshops, and a business matchmaking programme. Visitors will be able to pre-register and be matched to relevant exhibitors. Meetings will then be facilitated between interested parties, allowing exhibitors to engage with visitors on a more personal level.

Companies wanting to take advantage of the exhibition's reach should contact Claire Fuhri on or call +27 (0)11 25 3180. For further information contact Simon Robinson on +27 (0)11 025 3180 or email or visit

Relate Featured in INPUT 2011 Lineup

RELATE – a popular factual entertainment show on SABC1, created and produced by Ochre Moving Pictures in Johannesburg – will feature in the line up at INPUT 2011. It is the only entry from Africa to be awarded this accolade.

"To be selected for INPUT is a great honour," says Ochre Moving Pictures' CEO, Stan Joseph.

"This is an international forum that recognises innovation in public broadcasting. It's a platform for excellence where industry peers meet and share experiences and vision. This year themes include political independence, craftsmanship, responsibility and visual ethics, education as a priority, and multi-platform execution."

RELATE will feature in the Reality TV session under a rather provocative heading: 'Why Should I Bother? TV as a Playground for Personal Missions'. Other reality discussions will be held under the banners of 'Shaping Reality: From the Real World to Reality' and 'Violence on TV: How to Deal with the Dark Side of Mankind'.

The annual INPUT festival calls on television programme makers working in all genres to submit challenging, daring productions. As the festival's mission statement declares, "INPUT is dedicated to the proposition that television should be public service in the public interest… Access to the most honest, innovative, provocative, courageous and challenging broadcasting is a universal fundamental human right."

RELATE is a popular primetime television show that takes a hard and honest look at troubled relationships, and attempts to bring people back together.

Key to RELATE is the frank talk from the show's presenter, Angie Diale, a social worker and real life counsellor.

"Angie is an incredible asset," says Executive Producer, Anton Burggraaf. "She does not mince her words in her role as counsellor and agony aunt. Angie tells it like it is and this is the appeal of the show. She's passionate. People trust her. So they are often willing to go the extra mile to reshape their relationships."

The festival is hosted by a different city each year and this year it is the turn of Seoul, South Korea, from 9-12 May. Around 300 productions were submitted and 87 programmes from 27 countries will feature on the festival programme. The conference is organised and jointly hosted by two South Korean public broadcasters KBS and MBC. INPUT is the only festival of its kind in the world.

Ochre Moving Pictures is a leading Johannesburg television production company with a string of well known shows (Scandal, Kwanda, Takalani Sesame) to their name and have received multiple awards and accolades for their productions.

12 April 2011

Beach Festival of Documentary

The 3rd edition of the Beach Festival of Documentaryy helds from 9 to 16 July 2011 at Kribi in Cameroon, under the theme : Documentary and development.

Are presented African documentaries (made by African professionnals) and documentary films made on Africa (directed by filmmakers of other continents).

Registration of films is opened.
All the themes are accepted : social, health, environment, politic, agriculture, science, history, religion, art, sport, tradition…

The deadline of registration is fixed at the latest 30 April 2011.
To download the film registration form, go to the website in English : or and click « Register a film » on the left.

A workshop seminar-Classes will be organized during the festival. Candidates should fill the form (emailed to DFA members on 14 April 2011) and send it back by mail with adding elements.

The deadline of registration at the workshop seminar-Classes is fixed at the latest 30 April 2011.
To download the entry form, go to the website in English : or and click « Workshop seminar » on the left.

If any question, write to :
or visit our website : or
Read the regulations.

Boni Hilaire
Deputy programmer

New NFVF Council

Dear Members of the IPO

We are delighted to inform you that two of our nominees, Paul Raleigh and Zama Mkosi, have been appointed to the NFVF Council!

New members of the NFVF Council were inaugurated by the Minister of Arts and Culture, Mr Paul Mashatile, at a function in Pretoria last night.

We would like to take this opportunity to wish them both well during their term of office, and offer them the full support of the producer community.

Please see a breakdown of NFVF Council members below:
Ms Mmabatho Ramagoshi (Chairperson): She is the Regional general Manager of SABC

Zama Mkosi (Deputy Chairperson): She is a Media and Entertainment Lawyer at Jacobson,

Rosin and Wright
Mr Sello Molefe: He is the coordinator and researcher at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation and has studied Video and Film Production.

Mr George Leolo: He served as CFO in Sifikile Investment Holdings, with a background in Finance.

Mr Avhasei Mukoma: He is a Managing Director of Mukoma Attorneys and is also a Council member of the Operations Committee of the Film and Publication Board.

Mr Paul Raleigh: He is the founder and managing Director of Moviworld. He is also a Director for Southern Africa Film Finances.

Mr Laurence Mitchell: He is an Executive Director of Waterfront Studios and was CEO and Film Commissioner of the Cape Film Commission.

Ms Gcina Mhlophe-Becker: She has extensive experience in the arts including being an accomplished and world renowned actress, story-teller and writer.

Adv. Rai Roshan Dehal: He is a practicing advocate with expertise in Civil Litigation; Contractual Law; Property Law; Cross Border International Litigation; Arbitration and Contractual Dispute Resolution.

Ms Trish Downing: She is a Senior Manager in Marketing and Communications at Ster Kinekor Theatres.

Dr. Patricia Sethe Makhesha: She is a Senior Executive in Transformation at SAFCOL / KLF.

Yours sincerely,
Desiree Markgraaff and Tendeka Matatu

Visions du Reel Online Specials

Dear Friends,

We would like to inform you that from April 9 to April 17 we are offering inspiring interviews with directors attending Visions du Réel Nyon and having their films premiered there, as well as 15 films from the First Steps section. Those will be available online for free exclusively right after their cinema screenings in Nyon.

List of the interviews already online:
INTERVIEW - Matthias van Baaren, the director of Die Falten des Königs
Analysis of the complexities of human language within the smallest possible space: rationally positioned on an empty stage, two interpreters in a cabin translate assertions regarding transfer processes from English into German.

INTERVIEW - Reyan Tuvi, the director of Ofsayt
Taju and Rachid are two young Africans who arrived in Turkey as illegal immigrants in the hope of making it as football players.

Interview - Andres Rump, the director of Scheich Ibrahim, Bruder Jihad
Is a spiritual life possible in a world obsessed with material values?

Interview - Frédérique Pollet Rouyer, director of Né sous Z
Indochina 1954. A moving film on a tragic and little known episode of the colonial period.

Interview - Karsten Krause and Philip Widmann, directors of Die Frau des Fotografen
During more than forty years, Gerti Gerbert was photographed by her husband Eugen. Based on the Gerberts’ photographic archive, interviews with Gerti and recordings of Eugen, the film explores the question of what remains of life and love in the end.

Interview - Peter Levin, the director of Sonor
A creative encounter between a film composer and a mute ballet dancer

Interview - Thomas Heise, director of Sonnensystem
Life in the Kolla community of Tinkunaku.

Interviews to be found here.

Best regards,

Marta Lamperova

11 April 2011

Africadoc: Writing for Documentaries

Gina Bonmariage

AFRICADOC sets out to fulfil the need to create the platforms for Africans to have their own voice and to present their own perspectives of the realities of their continent.

The programme, through the development of African documentary cinema, aims to develop a training network to meet the needs of a new generation of documentary filmmakers, and to set up a network of professionals working in the documentary industry.

Class of 2010 and the organising team

Founded in 2002, AFRICADOC has a proud history of success in French speaking Africa, and this year ventured into the English speaking African territory, launching its first South African session with a documentary writing residency in Johannesburg. The filmmakers were selected by a committee, based on their project as well as their potential in terms of conveying a strong sense of direction and point of view. The idea was to develop their talent and vision through writing, and to position them as real "authors" who can deliver a unique film where they, as filmmakers, will be held accountable both for form and content.
One of the strengths of documentary filmmaking is its diversity in form and style. From diary films and direct cinema or ‘cinema verite’ to archival histories and scientific essays, documentaries present audiences with a perspective on real events.
Documentary filmmakers, through real characters and the raw material of real life, no less than narrative screenwriters, strive to tell strong, often character-driven stories that have a narrative structure that keeps viewers actively engaged. According to French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, “even the purest documentary is fiction” while German filmmaker Werner Herzog believes the “ documentary is just a ‘feature film’ in disguise.” Bill Nichols historian and theoretician of documentary film states that “every film is a documentary”. Story helps define documentary and separate it from visual material that simply documents an actual person, place, or event. A documentary is not an intellectual tool but an emotional one – the audience gets it through their emotions.

A term first coined by the French in the 1950s, ‘filme d’auteur’ defines those films which show the director’s personal creative vision. Alain-Paul Mallard, documentary and fiction filmmaker, under whose direction the AFRICADOC residencies were run, focuses his teaching on this approach where the author of the documentary is someone who is responsible and accountable for meaning and form. It is a personal point of view on reality

that belongs to the filmmaker and this links to how he tells his story. Participating filmmakers were encouraged to take a stance in the evidence they put forward representing reality and to view cinematographic language as an end in itself.

This workshop put forward notions of a moral stance in which the filmmaker has to be honest and accurate in his /her use of material. Therefore the representation of reality should not be betrayed through the process of filmmaking. What is offered to viewers must have the value of truth. Not ‘the truth’ but one truth. The moral stance of the filmmaker is not to manipulate reality with a set of pre-existing ideas, but to question reality and watch reality react, setting self aside.
“Audiences trust documentaries (believing them to represent truth and reality),” says Sheila Curran Bernard, author and documentary filmmaker. “That trust is key to a film's power and relevance. Betray that trust - imply that important events happened in a way that they did not, select only those facts that support an essay, bend the facts in service of a more "dramatic" story - and the form and the film are undermined. This doesn't mean that an overt point of view cannot be presented, or, for that matter, that a work that is determinedly neutral cannot be created. It means that the argument, or neutrality, needs to be accurately grounded.”
Participant Maanda Ntsandeni stated: “We must spend more time with the story, asking questions and unravelling it. To make a film is a privilege and not a right. We should always go into films knowing our position. We must be accountable. We must embrace the story and make it our own”.

A well-completed documentary film is always the representation of the strong and accurate relationship between what has been filmed and the filmmaker.

Eight Southern African documentary filmmakers took part in the first documentary scriptwriting workshop and residency in Johannesburg. By the end of the residency, four filmmakers were selected to participate in a second, and more intensive writing residency in Senegal before presenting to African, European and Canadian producers at the Tënk Encounters in Saint-Louis (Senegal).

Tapiwa Chipfupa, who went forward to participate in the second writing residency and pitching sessions in Senegal concludes: “I learned that making documentaries, especially like this, is like painting a picture, it is an art. I understood how to find the ‘sense’ or ‘essence’ of the film and to bring it alive on paper. By looking at other documentaries I understood how to use the small moments, to let the camera speak, to allow for reflection in a moment on screen. It has changed the way I do everything, even in the way I select or look at topics for documentary films. It shaped our technique of writing.”

by Gina Bonmariage