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Durban Film Mart: into the future of African cinema

A key event in supporting a creative African cinema, the Durban Film Mart will launch its second edition on the 22nd of July. Benefiting from the excitement around its prestigious sibling the Durban International Film Festival, this four day meeting attracts cinema professionals from all around the world looking for Africa's future trends. At its core, the “Finance Forum” is an unique opportunity for a selected panel of African film makers – be they writer, director or producer – to present their project to potential investors. IntoFrench asked two participants of this singular event to explain what is at stake.


Guillaume de Seille (first picture) is producer and distributor of art house feature films for Arizona Films, a Paris based company that focuses on non-French emerging directors. He comes to the Durban Film Mart this year to present Midnight Dogs to investors, a film directed by the Tunisian born Lassaad Dkhili. Julien Ezanno (second picture) works for the Centre National du Cinéma (CNC), a French public agency that supports and promotes the cinematographic creation. At the DFM, he will encourage South-African professionals to use the new facilities created by the co-production treaty signed last year between France and South-Africa. Together, Guillaume and Julien cross-examine the Durban Film Mart and explain us why the event is essential for African cinema's future.


You are set to attend the Durban Film Mart (DFM), what do you expect from this event?

Julien Ezanno: The projects presented at the DFM give a good idea of what will be tomorrow's African cinema. The DFM is also an obvious meeting point for South-African cinema professionals: you can meet all the country's key players in a few days. I will attend the Mart this year to enhance awareness of the co-production treaty signed last year between France and South-Africa. The terms of this treaty guarantee that a South-African film involving a French production partner is entitled to French financial support through the CNC – as it was the case for Skoonheid, Oliver Hermanus' last film. My mission is to explain this treaty to South-African film professionals, in order to encourage new partnerships between French and South-African cinema.

Guillaume de Seille: At this day, the DFM is the best opportunity to present African projects to potential partners. Even the cinema professionals staying at home have access to the DFM film catalogue. This catalogue being very selective, it generates a buzz that helps the producers to present their projects. The few public institutions still financing African films – such as the CNC in France, the ACP Production Program of the European Union and the special cinema fund of the Francophonie – seldom support a project on their own. Being selected at the DFM is seen as a guarantee: it helps films that are already shot but need more money to access the funding of these institutions. Finally, on a long term perspective, platforms as the DFM always give the opportunity for new contacts that prove useful in the future.

How events like the DFM contribute to the development of the African cinema?

GdS: With the DFM, South-Africa offers today the only platform for sub-Saharan cinema's development. With programs such as Talent Campus focusing on very young directors, it also aims to unearth future talents. For these talented young people, the DFM is a rare opportunity to travel outside their home country and to confront their ideas with the opinion of established professionals. The DFM is for them a promise of encouraging encounters sheltered from the disturbance of red carpets and TV cameras.

JE: I am not an African cinema expert but I know that an event such as the DFM is unique because it gathers the African market's players to discuss ideas. I think that this initiative is a natural place to evoke the particular problems of the sector and try to resolve it.

As a producer, how would you describe the state of today's African cinema?

GdS: The last decade has been difficult, but committed festivals as Rotterdam or Nantes have proven loyal and new talents are now blossoming. Unfortunately, I think it will take a long time for this talented new generation to reach its audience in Africa. The lack of movie theatres is blatant, the internet capacity is often weak...

Why does France need to be represented at the DFM?

JE: The South-African market grows at a steady pace. This is important to us, but it is not the only factor. In France, we are impressed with the quality of South-African cinema. South-Africa has several talented directors and the French audience likes their plots and their images. The new co-production treaty is an essential tool to allow for more South-African feature films to find an audience in France. It is thus obvious that France needs to be present at the DFM.

Interview by Hadrien Diez


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