|Article by Ogova Ondego
Published March 10, 2008
The Southern African International Film and Television Market (Sithengi), suspended in 2007 after 11 editions due to serious financial problems, has been revived. OGOVA ONDEGO reports.
In a statement issued on February 25, 2008, the new board of directors(comprising Bobby Amm, Dorothy Brislin, Firdoze Bulbulia, Carolyn Carew, David Forbes, Faith Isiakpere, Catherine Meyburgh, Zwelethu Nondumo, Judy Nkowedi, Richard Nosworthy, Mariam Shah and Dezi Rorich)notes that their “aim has been to conceive of a more progressive, dynamic media and entertainment event that will, in the long-term, enable future business and creative models to develop between Africa and the global entertainment industry, beyond traditional media.”
Noting that “The value of the Sithengi brand(made up of hard-earned longevity and loyalty)could never be compromised or relinquished,” the new directors, elected on November 16, 2007 to revive Sithengi, adds, “our aim is to build on the many strengths of the past, as well as provide for the ‘future’ which is upon us every day; an increasingly converging and constantly evolving media landscape in a globalised business.”
Consequently, the revived Sithengi will be a leaner, more streamlined and cutting edge event, guided by the key words ‘Business’ and ‘Knowledge-Building’.
In the Press Release aptly titled, ‘Sithengi: For Now, For the Future’, the board says “The Market Components will include a Co-Production Forum, Conference Sessions, and, for the first time, a Knowledge Development Lab. The next edition will also introduce a New Media element directed at Converging Media. In addition to staying in line with global media trends, this element aims to widen the delegate Profile in the digital media revolution from Content Developers and Owners, Distributors, Producers, Operators, Device manufacturers, Broadcasters, Brands”all inextricably involved in cross media content and distribution platforms. There is an upsurge of New Media producers,who all need to discover new business and creative models of production, distribution and exhibition.”
The board, led by acting chair Dezi Rorich, says it “is in the process of engaging with existing and potential members and funders’ and that ‘all around the reaction to the new plans has been exceptionally positive.”
On the problems that led to the 12th edition of Sithengi not being held in 2007 and to the election of a new, objective directors without special interests, the Rorich-led board says, “This is not atypical in the business of running industry festivals and markets, some of the biggest festivals in the world have faced similar setbacks. We took the view that this enforced break had to be put to positive use as it has provided a chance to constructively review the advancing and shifting needs of the Market.”
A section 21 company, Sithengi was held in the South African mother city since 1996.
Industry sources claim the future of Sithengi was threatened from the point when it was decided that the board of directors of the event be drawn only from among the organisation that provided the funds to the organization. Moreover, it is further claimed, malignant nationalism, racism, and retrogressive interpretation of the South African Black Economic Empowerment and the empowerment of the Previously Disadvantaged Communities, exacerbated an already bad situation. There was also a fight over the ‘Sithengi’ brand as Johannesburg-based funders and powerful board members sought to relocate the event to the South African commercial capital.
Despite serious financial setbacks and fears that Africa’s largest film and television market would not be held in 2006, the low-keyed event had run November 16-18, 2006.
Though a pale shadow of its former glory, the 11th Sithengi and the 4th Cape Town World Cinema Festival were held amidst intrigue and not-so-silent whispers of Sithengi being transferred from its Cape Town base to Johannesburg in 2007. The event ended without the date for the 12th edition being set.
The then Chairman of the Sithengi board of directors, Eddie Mbalo, the chief executive officer of the National Film and Video Foundation, had during the official opening of the Cape Town World Cinema Festival said his board was looking at changing the Sithengi date from November to March.
Two days later, the chief executive officer of South African Broadcasting Corporation, Dalixolo Mpofu, said during the SABC annual industry dinner that Sithengi directors considered putting the event out to tender to other provinces in South Africa.
It was unclear why SABC, a major sponsor of Sithengi, had chosen to discuss a matter that had already been resolved by the Sithengi board at such a forum.
And Laurence Mitchell, commissioner of the Cape Film Commission who, took exception to the statement: “We find it quite extraordinary that an inappropriate platform was used to make these off the cuff remarks on an issue which has already been discussed and resolved at board level.”
Dispelling rumours at a Press Conference that Sithengi would move to Johannesburg in 2007, the then outgoing Sithengi CEO and CTWCF festival director Michael Auret said “Cape Town has invested heavily in Sithengi over the past 11 years” to give it away.
Commissioner Mitchell concurred: “Sithengi and Cape Town are inseparable. The Western Cape has invested a lot of time, effort, finances, skills, and human resources to make Sithengi a viable and sustainable international brand. Sithengi and Cape Town World Cinema are intrinsically linked to Cape Town.”
Impeccable sources stated that some powerful individuals on the then Sithengi board had deliberately frustrated 11th Sithengi financially to discredit Cape Town from hosting Sithengi so it could be moved to Johannesburg in March 2008. The Mother City, it is said, has to position herself as the home of the Cape Town World Cinema Festival that is likely to go down well with its appeal to tourism while South Africa’s Place of Gold takes over its business arm, Sithengi.
The 11th Sithengi not only had a leaner programme and fewer parties but was held over three days instead of the usual four.
See another story at http://artmatters.info/?articleid=59