By Ogova Ondego
Published October 13, 2010
Three Nigerians, a South African and a Rwandan have each won US$10,000 prize with which to make their short films. By so doing, Nigeria continues to prove that they are indeed Africa’s premier audiovisual media professionals. The three Nigerians are Chika Anadu, Ebele Okoye and Julius Onah. Paris-based Rwandan Jacqueline Kalimunda and South African Lev David were the other winners in the Focus Features: Africa First Programme for short films, the worldwide film company’s initiative earmarked exclusively for emerging filmmakers of African nationality and residence.This is the third year running in which Africa First prizes are being given out.
Announcing the winners in New York on October 12, 2010, Focus Features’ Focus Features CEO, James Schamus, said, “These five filmmakers are pushing boundaries , geographical and narrative. Once again, everyone at Focus is excited to meet them and get to know this next generation of talent from Africa.”
According to a Press Statement issued on October 12, “The uniquely conceived initiative offers eligible and participating filmmakers the chance to be awarded the US$10,000 in financing for pre-production, production, and/or post-production on their narrative short film made in continental Africa and tapping into the resources of the film industry there. Of equal importance, the programme brings the filmmakers together with a renowned group of advisors, major figures in the African film world, for support and mentorship.”
The short films coming out of the programme have since been showcased at major film festivals such as Sundance, Toronto, and Berlinale; the Film Society of Lincoln Center; and the Museum of the Moving Image, among other venues worldwide. Details on the programme are available on focusfeateures.com/africafirst.
While Ms Chika Anadu will be directing THE MARRIAGE FACTOR (a contemporary comedy/drama about a young woman and her marriage-minded mother) and Ms Ebele Okoye will create THE LEGACY OF RUBBIES (a folk tale-inspired animated account of a young man about to wear the crown in a monarchy), Julius Onah will be in charge of NEPA DON QUENCH (a drama about a summer holiday that becomes a test of a family’s mettle) as Lev David Ms Jacqueline Kalimunda will, respectively, take care of BOY AND BEAR (a fable in which a lonely little boy faces up to a monster) and SKY BURNING DOWN (a thriller about an illegal immigrant caught in a moral quandary).
The five filmmakers retain the copyrights and the distribution rights to their completed shorts, with the exception of North American rights; Focus Features retains those, as well as the right of first negotiation to productions derived from the shorts, such as a feature-length expansion.
Kisha Cameron-Dingle (SOMETIMES IN APRIL), president of Completion Films, supervises Africa First. Her company has a first-look and consulting deal with Focus Features, and she coordinates Africa First’s submissions and evaluations with Focus Features’ director of production, Matthew Plouffe. It is Completion Films that develops feature, documentary, and television projects from the short films. Cameron-Dingle previously worked as director of development at Walden Media, and as an executive at New Line Cinema, where she oversaw the development and production of Spike Lee’s BAMBOOZLED.
In addition to on-site work in Africa, the winning filmmakers of Africa First will visit New York City in early November 2010 for a weekend of one-on-one workshop discussions with one another, members of the advisory board of experts in African cinema, Focus Features’ executives as CEO Schamus and president of production John Lyons, and Cameron-Dingle and Plouffe. While there, they are set to cover topics like international distribution and the economics of studio financing.
During the unveiling of the winners in New York, Cameron-Dingle said, “Matt and I are thrilled to lend support to these men and women. We hadn’t yet had a Nigerian filmmaker in the programme, but this third time was clearly the charm, we now have several.”
Africa First alumni from the first two years of the programme are Stephen Abbott (DIRTY LAUMDRY); Edouard Bamporiki (LONG COAT); Jenna Bass (THE TUNNEL); Jan-Hendrik Beetge (THE ABYSS BOYS); Matt Bishanga (A GOOD CATHOLIC GIRL); Daouda Coulibaly (AS LONG AS BOZOS SING); Dyana Gaye (N’DAR[St. Louis Blues]); Matthew Jankes (UMKHUNGO); Wanuri Kahiu (PUMZI [Breath]); and Rungano Nyoni (The ADVENTURES OF MWANSA THE GREAT).
The Africa First advisory board members are Mahen Bonetti, founder and executive director of the African Film Festival in New York; South-Africa-based Egyptian journalist and documentary filmmaker, Jihan El-Tahiri; June Givanni, who for four years programmed the Toronto International Film Festival’s Planet Africa series; Clarence Hamilton, script editor and Head of Production at National Film and Video Foiundation of South Africa (NFVF); Mozambiqan Pedro Pimenta, producer and manager of training programmes in southern Africa; and Zimbabwean Keith Shiri, founder and director of the Africa at the Pictures film festival in London, England.
Focus Features and Focus Features International, a single global company, styles itself as a maker of “original and daring films that challenge the mainstream to embrace and enjoy voices and visions from around the world that deliver global commercial success.” It operates as Focus Features in North America and as Focus Features International (FFI) in the rest of the world.
Current and upcoming Focus Features releases include Lisa Cholodenko’s THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, starring Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, and Mark Ruffalo; writer/directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY, starring Keir Gilchrist, Emma Roberts, and Zach Galifianakis; Academy Award-winning writer/director Sofia Coppola’s SOMEWHERE, which won the Golden Lion Award for Best Picture at the 2010 Venice International Film Festival; Kevin Macdonald’s Roman epic adventure, THE EAGLE, starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell; Cary Fukunaga’s romantic drama, JANE EYRE, starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender; Joe Wright’s adventure thriller, HANNA, starring Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, and Eric Bana; Mike Mills’ comedy/drama, BEGINNERS, starring Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer; and Lone Scherfig’s romance, ONE DAY, based on the bestselling novel, starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess.
Focus Features and Focus Features International are part of NBC Universal, one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production, and marketing of entertainment, news, and information to a global audience. Formed in May 2004 through the combining of NBC and Vivendi Universal Entertainment, NBC Universal owns and operates a valuable portfolio of news and entertainment networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group, and world-renowned theme parks. NBC Universal is 80% owned by General Electric and 20% owned by Vivendi.