Sunday, August 25, 2019

4 takeaways from kykNET's 9th Silwerskermfees Afrikaans film festival.

It's not quite Cannes - but it isn't trying to be.

Again taking place as in previous years on the other side of Victoria Road at Camps Bay Beach in Cape Town, kykNET's just-concluded 9th Silwerskermfees Afrikaans film festival for 2019 was the biggest one yet.

The 4-day Silwerskermfees, or Silverscreen festival, continues to grow as the African continent's only film festival organised by M-Net's Afrikaans channels division, dedicated to promoting and celebrating Afrikaans language film and its industry in South Africa.

Beyond specifically supporting Afrikaans, the Silwerskermfees has grown to become an inclusive umbrella film festival helping filmmakers and producers, on-screen talent, writers, industry executives and a wide variety of people employed in the film and TV production and related services value chain to connect, attend master-classes, and to workshop and learn more from panel discussions on a wide range of industry topics.

"Right from the start, kykNET had a long-term vision with this special project. The Silwerskermfees' focus has been, and will always be, the South African and Afrikaans film industry," said Karen Meiring, director of kykNET channels at M-Net.

"The festival has generated positive energy and results, organically growing in size and influence. This year the festival spread its wings even further with screenings opened to the general public in the Theatre on the Bay and the Labia, inviting film enthusiasts to become part of the experience."

"Afrikaans films and content have huge potential internationally because it is authentic and represents a diverse South African community in a unique African language. There is a great need to watch each other's work, to learn from each other and through this to grow," said Karen Meiring.

Jan du Plessis, director of M-Net channels said "the kykNET Silwerskermfees was a risk 9 years ago - as is every original film and TV project that M-Net gets involved it. But it has always been our mission to give a platform to creative talent - in front and behind the camera".

Here are 4 important takeaways from kykNET's 9th Silwerskermfees 2019 edition:

1. Making films but minding the money
"There's a growing recognition, awareness and focus under filmmakers to think of what will be happening to their film from the time they're envisioning and planning it, writing it, pitching it, producing it and marketing it," Jan du Plessis told TVwithThinus at the festival.

"It has always been a case of something being a 'passion project', then we show it to the world, and it hits or it doesn't. If you look at this year's Silwerskermfees there are a lot more projects based on things like books or real-life stories [Fiela se Kind, Toorbos, Griekwastad, Poppie Nongena, Die Verhaal van Racheltjie de Beer]."

"In order words, you hope to enter the film and consumer market with some type of awareness or a built-in audience or an appeal, which a film without it wouldn't necessarily have had."

"It's very interesting for me that when we start the pitching process, we immediately start by asking the person: 'For which market, which channel, where would you place and play it, what are comparative titles?'"

"And then we go back to the person and say 'You mentioned these 10 titles saying your films is almost like them. Do you realise they performed like this at the box office - and it's likely not a lot - or it made this at DStv BoxOffice on TVOD, and these 10 films you mentioned have never been sold internationally.' Then we look at the budget and then we look at whether it's making business sense."

"If you look at the Silwerskermfees films, they're films that have a commercial approach for an international market."

"We have to start to ensure that our film budgets and marketing plans accurately represent the potential of the film, instead of just blindly making something."

"It's important to always still produce passion projects and to believe in certain stories to make it to film. I'm not saying we should stop doing that. But ensure there are enough hooks."

"And in terms of casting - who are the talent putting bums in cinema seats? Who are the actors who are big stars in soaps or who feature big here, or who feature big there? Ensure your film has angles," said Jan du Plessis.

2. A shift to a bigger business focus awareness under filmmakers
"The Silwerskermfees this year, the biggest thing I've noticed at the film festival is the shift towards a business-focus format in terms of bringing in an awareness of all of the business and strategy side that filmmakers need to put in place whether you're producing short films, features or documentaries," Shaamila Fataar, senior specialist for Showmax Originals, told TVwithThinus at the festival.

"The highlight for me at this year's Silwerskermfees was the film finance event with Wesgro and bringing in all of these different players from the banking sector to a broadcaster, an entertainment law legal firm - all sharing their knowledge and explaining to filmmakers and creatives that your movie is not just a content piece, it's not just a work of creativity, it's also a work of financial value."

"I think this is the cusp of a new generation of filmmakers who are going to be producing content with a financial model in mind, and not just for the sake of creating art," said Shaamila Fataar. "It's blending the two together."

3. A strong focus on remarkable women in front of and behind-the-scenes, as well as subject matter.
The debut feature films at the 2019 Silwerskermfees were true South African stories, beautifully told, with a focus on remarkable women.

Elsa Joubert's Poppie Nongena swept the award ceremony with 12 wins including for best feature film, while Racheltjie de Beer and Dalene Matthee's Fiela Komoetie came to life in a new 2019-version.

Two female directors, Jenna Bass [Flatland] and Rene van Rooyen [Toorbos] were at the helm of two of the films.

4. The celebration of non-Afrikaans speaking, black film talent
The big winner(s) at the 9th Silwerskermfees were not what South Africa would traditionally expect from an Afrikaans film festival. Instead of accolades for predominantly white Afrikaans mother-tongue talent, prize after prize at the 2019 festival went to non-Afrikaans speaking, black talent.

It reflects the progressive and extremely diverse nature of what kykNET's Silwerskermfees has become, which has expanded to become one of the most inclusive annual film festivals in South Africa.

The win of Poppie Nongena as 2019's best feature film - a harrowing depiction of the brutality and injustice of South Africa's apartheid system and reflecting the courage and fortitude of people in the face of hardship and difficulty - was accentuated by the recognition given to non-Afrikaans speaking talent who cleaned up across categories.

Clementine Mosimane won for Best actress, Chris Gxalaba won Best supporting actor, and Nomsa Nene won best supporting actress, with several more awards going to Poppie Nongena (12 in total, the most ever for a single film).

In addition, several other films and their on-screen and production talent scooped category wins at the Silwerskermfees - people who work in the industry and worked on Afrikaans films but who don't speak a word of Afrikaans.

ALSO READ: IN IMAGES. 28 photos of kykNET's 2019 9th Silwerskermfees Afrikaans festival held at the Bay Hotel in Camps Bay, Cape Town.