By Gillian Cook
Published October 29, 2010
THE ABYSS BOY, a film written and directed by Jan Hendrik Beetge of South Africa in 2009, has beaten films from Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and Somalia to the 3rd Africa in Motion (AiM) Film Festival’s Best Short Film prize.
Zina Saro Wiwa, one of the judges, described THE ABYSS BOY that is made in Afrikaans with English subtitles as “confident, bold, beautifully acted.”
Set in the slums of a small fishing community on the Southern coast of South Africa, the drowning depths of illegal abalone poaching has become a dangerous life that Jimmy, a legendary ex-diver, wants to escape from. Hoping to save his rebellious young brother from this lifestyle too, Jimmy devises a plan to give him and his brother a new beginning. With intriguing characters and expansive coastal landscapes, the story draws to its tragic conclusion on a stormy winter’s day.
Jan Hendrik Beetge started his writing and directing career after finishing cum laude at film school in 2001 with his short film, TRIOMFEER. He worked as Commercials director in Johannesburg for three years. Wishing to take a break from commercials in order to complete his feature film script he resigned to take up a teaching position at the Cape Town Film School. He then rejoined the commercials industry in 2007 and produced THE ABYSS BOY in participation with the Goethe-Institut and Focus Features in New York. It won the Best Short Film prize at the 6th Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) in Nigeria in April 2010.
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The winner, who receives £500 in cash, sponsored by The Africa Channel
and African Movie Channel, was selected by a high-profile jury, chaired by
the 2009 AiM’s Short Film Competition winner, Paul Emmanuel(3SAI: A RITE OF PASSAGE). All the short-listed films were shown on Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse cinema and the winner was announced directly after the screenings.
Commenting on this year’s shortlist, Mark Cousins said: “The standard was, once again, high. A theme ran through many of the films: The false dream of being something you are not, the way that comparing yourself to others is the root of unhappiness.”
For the third consecutive year, AiM invited African filmmakers to submit short films of up to 30 minutes for the festival’s 2010 Short Film Competition. AiM’s Short Film Competition is part of the Festival’s
commitment to nurturing young filmmaking talent; short films often act as a
springboard for aspiring filmmakers, with many of today’s established filmmakers having started this way.
A short-list of eight films was selected from all the entries, with a focus on films that are well made, stylistically innovative and original, with
interesting and captivating subject matter and story-lines.
The films short-listed for the AiM 2010 Short Film Competition were:
FATHER CHRISTMAS DOESN’T COME HERE
Bheki Sibiya|South Africa 2009| 14m | Zulu with English subtitles
A young Zulu girl with low self-esteem writes to Father Christmas asking for long, straight hair. Her dream is almost ruined by a cynical man who gives her a cruel dose of reality, but with the help of her grandmother, she eventually learns that being beautiful isn’t about what you look like but about being yourself. This poignant and beautifully made film is director Bheki Sibiya’s first fiction film, a filmmaking talent to watch.
LA METAPHORE DU MANIOC/The Cassava Metaphor
Lionel Meta|Cameroon/France 2010|15m|French with English subtitles
Dawn in Yaoundé.
Coco, a twenty-something Cameroonian taxi driver picks up a melancholic but attractive young woman. On the way to the airport he tries to chat her up, but she seems absent, immersed in her own thoughts.
This short film is humorous and sad in equal measure,poignantly interrogating the notion of home and belonging.
KILLING OF THE IMAM
Khalid Shamis| South Africa 2010 | 10m | Documentary
In 1969, Imam Abdullah Haron was incarcerated and killed in detention under the terrorism act of 1967 in Cape Town. His was one of the early deaths in detention under the brutal Apartheid regime. Mixing animation, documentary and archival footage, this story, told by the Imam’s grandson, is an important document of a little-known part of South African history.
Oluniyi Laguda | Nigeria 2009 | 21m | English and Nigerian Pidgin with English subtitles
Kole Giwa, a shy Nigerian student living in Los Angeles, is anxious about his fast-approaching birthday. He is certain there is a curse on his family that kills men on their 25th birthday, and in an attempt to escape the curse he boards up his apartment with himself inside.
Told through a mixture of drama, comedy and fantasy, this entertaining film touches intelligently and humorously on the question of the place of traditional African beliefs in the modern world.
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THE SOULS OF BLACK FOLKS
Liban Jama | Somalia 2010 | 4m
Beyond the hoodies, baseball caps, violence and aggression, there is a lost
youngster whose place in the world is somewhat opaque. This experimental film examines identity and belonging from the point of view of the ethnic
minority youth. Based on a W.E.B. DuBois’ poem.
ME BRONI BA/My White Baby
Akosua Adoma Owusu | Ghana 2008 | 22m | Twi and English with English subtitles | Documentary
This innovative experimental documentary is a lyrical portrait of hair salons in Kumasi, Ghana. The tangled legacy of European colonialism in Africa is evoked through images of women practising hair braiding on discarded white baby dolls from the West. The film unfolds through a series of vignettes, gradually uncovering the meaning behind the Akan term of endearment, me broni ba (my white baby).
Ebele Okoye|Nigeria 2010|6m|No dialogue|Animation
An isolated community is plagued by famine and distress until the fabulous and mysterious bird-women arrive and save them!
This is a magical, thought provoking animation that reflects on the need to respect Mother Nature.
The audience will also get an opportunity to vote for their favourite and the winner will be announced at the closing screening of the festival on November 5, 2010.
Co-directed by Lizelle Bisschoff and Stefanie Van de Peer, AiM is funded by Creative Scotland; Commonwealth Foundation; Awards for All; and Regional Screen Scotland, with sponsorship from University of Edinburgh’s Centre of African Studies; Scottish Documentary Institute; University of Stirling’s School of Languages, Cultures and Religions; Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Edinburgh; Global Concerns Trust; Society
for Francophone Postcolonial Studies; The Africa Channel; African Movie Channel; and Scotland Food and Drink.