Five African filmmakers awarded by Focus Features

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Focus Features' Africa First Program for short films, the worldwide film company's initiative earmarked exclusively for emerging filmmakers of African nationality and residence, has for a third consecutive year awarded five filmmakers $10,000 apiece. The five selected were announced on Tuesday by Focus Features CEO James Schamus. The uniquely conceived initiative offers eligible and participating filmmakers the chance to be awarded the $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 program brings the filmmakers together with each other and with a renowned group of advisors, major figures in the African film world, for support and mentorship. The short films coming out of the program have since been showcased at the Sundance, Toronto, and Berlin Film Festivals; the Film Society of Lincoln Center; and the Museum of the Moving Image, among other venues worldwide. Details on the program are accessible year-round through Focus Features website. The winning filmmakers for 2010 are Chika Anadu (from Nigeria); Lev David (from South Africa); Jacqueline Kalimunda (from Rwanda); Ebele Okoye (from Nigeria); and Julius Onah (from Nigeria). The short films that they will be directing are, respectively, The Marriage Factor, a contemporary comedy/drama about a young woman and her marriage-minded mother; Boy and Bear, a fable in which a lonely little boy faces up to a monster; Sky Burning Down, a thriller about an illegal immigrant caught in a moral quandary; The Legacy of Rubies, the folk tale-inspired animated account of a young man about to wear the crown in a monarchy; and Nepa Don Quench, a drama about a summer holiday that becomes a test of a family's mettle. Africa First is supervised by producer Kisha Cameron-Dingle (…Sometimes in April), whose Completion Films company has a first-look and consulting deal with Focus, and who coordinates the Program's submissions and evaluations with Focus director of production Matthew Plouffe. In addition to on-site work in Africa, the winning filmmakers of Africa First will visit New York City in early November for a weekend of one-on-one workshop discussions with each other; members of the advisory board of experts in African cinema; such Focus executives as Schamus and president of production John Lyons, covering topics like international distribution and the economics of studio financing; and Mrs. Cameron-Dingle and Mr. Plouffe. The submission period ran from May 17th-September 3rd, 2010. The five filmmakers retain the copyrights and the distribution rights to their completed shorts, with the exception of North American rights; Focus retains those, as well as the right of first negotiation to productions derived from the shorts, such as a feature-length expansion. Completion is developing feature, documentary, and television projects. Its president, Ms. Cameron, 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. The Africa First advisory board members are Mahen Bonetti, founder and executive director of the African Film Festival; 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 and Development at NFVF; Pedro Pimenta, producer and manager of training programs throughout South Africa; and Keith Shiri, founder/director of the Africa at the Pictures film festival in the U.K.