A film industry on the rise

The inaugural South African International Film Festival, also known as RapidLion, will take place from the 12th to the 19th of March, 2016. It is the first South African film festival to concentrate almost exclusively on African cinema.

Rapid growth in box office takings from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) has flipped the film market, leading to film makers and distributors to focus on international opportunities thus creating a bigger market for foreign films.

For instance, the South African film production landscape has grown in leaps and bounds with both local and international co-productions becoming a regular offering on theatrical exhibition. The beginning of 2012 saw an unprecedented phenomenon of the top 4 box office hits being either 100% local productions or films shot in South Africa. This showed a marked increase in consumer confidence and a sure sign that the industry had matured.

The South African film industry also contributes R3.5-billion annually to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), while providing employment for more than 25 000 people, according to a 2013 study conducted by the National Film and Video Foundation, an agency of the Department of Arts and Culture.

It is against this backdrop, that RapidLion – The South African International Film Festival aims to be the premier marketing platform for films made by moviemakers on the African continent, in the African diaspora and from BRICS nations. It is designed to unearth the best filmmaking talent from the new world and expose it to rest of the world.

The festival, together with all parties who share the vision of creating a financially prosperous filmmaking industry in the regions referred to above, aims to be a top-tier international film festival, with the highest calibre of films vying for the RapidLion, an award on par, in stature and design, with the Oscar and the Palme d’or.

The festival and award base their existence on the fundamental idea that filmmaking is a business, and aim to equip participating filmmakers with an annual event that will awaken the world to the existence of universe-class films outside of the mature territories of North America and Western Europe.

Fostering collaboration is a very big part of the RapidLion quest to achieve this aim. Aspects, a section of the festival, is centered around this concept of connecting film lovers, filmmakers, film distributors, and other parties with an interest in developing the film industry in the RapidLion chosen territories.  Essentially, Aspects is a part of the festival that will focus on issues hindering the process of exposing the world to the talent in the RapidLion territories.

The initial Aspects will be held during RapidLion 2016. It will be called Distributor Aspects and will address African cinema’s absence from the international market and what to do about changing this.

“Ultimately, the best awards are geared to improve the industries they are rooted in”, says RapidLion, spokesperson Eric Miyeni, “The RapidLion Award is no exception”.

The RapidLion award design is a fusion of the Andinkra symbol of excellence, which forms the base and foundation of the award, and a lioness in full flight, which is an ancient African symbol of excellence.

It is platinum-plated, 280mm tall, weighs 8.4kg and is made by R.S Owens & Company, the Chicago based awards manufacturer that also makes the Oscar award. The idea is to have an award and award ceremony that are on par with the best in the world in order to acknowledge and award the best in the world from outside Hollywood and Cannes.

“The symbols”, says Professor Achille Mbembe of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, “are human virtues without which a community doesn’t excel and exist as a moral community. They are everyday values that a society is called to live by. This specific symbol of excellence shows a level of perfection from a human being that has achieved above the expected”.

The RapidLion inaugural festival will be held at the Market Theatre, downtown Johannesburg.  The Market Theatre is at the heart of a precinct thriving with artistic expression. It is in many ways the City’s centre for the creative arts.

“RapidLion and The Market constitute a formidable marriage. The Festival speaks to the heart of what we do here, which is to create a platform for the arts to thrive”, says James Ngcobo, Artistic Director of The Market Theatre.

The South African International Film Festival will award a RapidLion in the following categories:

  • Best Short
  • Best South African Screenplay (Unproduced)
  • Best Soundtrack
  •  Best Editor
  •  Best Cinematographer
  • Best Actor in a Leading Role
  • Best Actress in a Leading Role
  • Best Documentary
  •  Best Director
  •  Best of SA
  • Best of BRICS
  • Best of Africa and the African Diaspora
  • Best Film
  • The Lionel Ngakane Lifetime Achievement Award

The lifetime achievement award has been named after the father of South African cinema, Dr. Lionel Ngakane. Dr. Ngakane, a South African who started his film career in 1950, acted opposite Sydney Poitier in Zoltan Korda’s version of Cry The Beloved Country.

He went on to be the first indigenous South African to direct a film. His debut fictional movie, the short film “Jemima and Johnny” won first prize at both the Venice and Rimini film festivals.

Mr. Roy Andersson will sit as a jury head at the inaugural RapidLion Festival. He brings, not only his wealth in cinematic expertise to the festival, but his appointment is a seal of the longstanding relationship Sweden has had with South Africa, dating back to the old  days of fighting apartheid.

He will sit as the head of a jury that will select the winning feature length films at the festival, including the Best RapidLion Film Overall.  The festival will also curate an exhibition of Mr. Andersson’s films and he will be available to introduce his films at the screenings.

Local filmmakers will be given an opportunity to attend a master class given by Mr. Andersson during the festival.


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