No Place in SA for Local Documentaries

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2014 has arguably become the year of the documentary for South African filmmakers – many of whom were inspired by Madiba’s passing at the end of last year. But although the government has announced a number of funding incentives for directors, and although most doccie makers have seen more interest from festivals, there is still no real place for new productions in the broadcasting realm.

According to long-time producer Don Edkins, local documentaries have only really begun to mature in their content over the last decade along with the broader South African film industry. “There have been more sophisticated films coming out,” he says, although it’s “about finding the right stories” as well. Anti-apartheid films still abound, such as Khalo Matabane’s Nelson Mandela: The Myth & Me, Nic Rossier’s The Other Man about FW de Klerk and most recently a film about struggle stalwart Albie Sachs in Abby Ginsberg’s production Albie Sachs: Soft Vengeance.

In the last few months, Rehad Desai has been making headlines across South Africa and beyond with his documentary on SA’s mining massacre that took place a few years ago. His film is unique in that it explores the disillusionment of South Africans today against the backdrop of our apartheid heritage. He, too, has struggled in recent months to air Miners Shot Down on local public broadcasters SABC and eTV to no avail, although the doccie was screened on pay-to-view channels on DStv and GOtv. It also screened on AlJazeera’s flagship documentary strand, Witness, on the two-year anniversary of the Marikana massacre.
(see interview with the director on the link here:)

The government has been rather supportive towards filmmakers of late, especially since the announcement of certain updates to film rebates and the new Emerging Black Filmmakers Incentive. The latter was launched by the National Film & Video Foundation (NFVF) together with the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) at the Durban FilmMart in July. But despite this, there is still no real space for doccies on the local circuit, aside from the widely successful Encounters Documentary Film Festival.

Plus, according to Darryl Els of the Bioscope, Joburg’s only indie theatre, exhibition opportunities are limited thanks to current corporate structures in the cinematic world. He does, however, point out that Encounters’ features sold out in both Johannesburg and Cape Town, and that this is a sign of progress. “There is a greater market for local documentaries,” he says, “and greater box office potential were these films to receive wider release.”

Source: Filmmaker Africa 5 November 2014