South Africa: Minister Nathi Mthethwa – South African Film Industry Stakeholders Meeting


Remarks by the Minister of Arts and Culture, Mr Nathi Mthethwa, at the engament with Film Stakeholders, Johannesburg

Programme Director,

Chair of the Board of the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), Ms Mmabatho Ramagoshi,

CEO of the NFVF, Ms Zama Mkosi,

Distinguished delegates from the film industry,

Representatives of film organisations,

Producers and directors,

Members of the media,

Ladies and gentlemen:

I would like to begin by thanking everyone for coming to this gathering. The amount of interest generated in the request for this meeting is testimony to the seriousness with which film stakeholders and arts activists regard the issues at hand.

Today is an important turning point as we look at matters affecting the film industry with a special focus on promoting local content, diversifying audiences, rethinking distribution and marketing and championing the transformation of the industry, with a view to coming up with resolutions.

While the immediate catalyst for this meeting is the conversation that began with responses of film makers to the decision of exhibitors to reduce the number of screens and performing sites at which the romantic comedy, Tell Me Sweet Something, are shown, today’s meeting has a far wider agenda.

This engagement must be seen as part of an ongoing consultation between film makers, distributors and ourselves with a view to strengthening the film industry.

This is also the opening up of a very necessary conversation between distributors, film makers and government about how to improve local film distribution strategies and marketing plans.

The film industry has shown itself as vibrant and growing and competitive, and this is testimony of the good work done by producers, filmmakers and distributors, but much remains to be done.

Let us bear in mind that South Africa has one of the oldest film industries, dating back to 1895. After 120 years it is important to act decisively and work together to change the industry for the better.

Late last year and early this year we began engaging key players in the film industry to look at their contribution in the transformation of the film industry.

This is also a timely discussion because we are seized with reviewing the White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage and we are having consultations in this regard throughout the country.

This provides us with an opportunity to strengthen the industry, to devise policy and systems that enable film entrepreneurs to flourish. Today’s conversation shall feed into that process.

A well-known Ibo proverb tells us that:

“Until the lion tells his own stories, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”

We reside in a country where we need to increase the spaces available to tell our own stories.

We have been the hunted, the harmed, the imprisoned, those whose achievements were invisible to those who wrote history.

Now liberated from this painful past, we tell our own stories but if we cannot create places and encourage the spaces in which these stories are told, then the stories may cease to exist.

Yet our mandate as the Arts, Culture and Heritage portfolio is nation-building and social cohesion.

Our task is to tell the South African story and tell it well in all our art forms and all our genres. In this way we further extend the imagination of our people and their confidence and consciousness.

At the heart of this agenda is the promotion of local content.

As part of this agenda we need more stories and more opportunities to occupy more spaces to deepen the African worldview of our people.

Our stories tell us about our place in the world and the truths of our realities.

They give us the freedom to extend the definitions of who we are and what we can do to make our vantage point a richer and freer space.

Every film tells a story and every story transmits the power of narrative in shaping and changing our lives. The story of a country that is transforming itself is one of metamorphosis, the agenda of change.

Thus the showing of each film is another step towards our freedom, extending our psychic and real liberated zones.

But local content also extends beyond the story and includes the development of local skills, infrastructure and technology.

It incorporates the storyteller and the story, the filmmaker and the film, the marketer and distributor.

It is the array of skills, knowledge, understanding, media, technologies and spaces that we need to complete a production and exhibit a work.

In film making, local content incorporates a range of training areas, not limited to scriptwriting, directing, camera, sound, editing, post-production, including distribution and marketing. It needs local content distribution strategies and channels.

Local content promotes cultural diversity and encourages social cohesion. At the same time it nurtures cultural expressions and encourages local languages and idioms.

It improves cultural understanding and dialogue and strengthens democracy. It leads to the strengthening of local information systems.

Local content empowers individuals to sustain their livelihoods and enhances their contribution to the social and economic development of their society.

The South African government recognizes the significant role played by the film sector in nation building, promoting social cohesion, reconciliation and supporting economic growth and job creation.

The social and cultural necessity for film must be coupled with its importance as a key creative industry and contributor to our economic wealth.

The importance of the creative industries in general and the film industry in particular to South Africa’s economy cannot be under-estimated.

Recently the Department concluded a national mapping study that identifies and looks at arts organisations and businesses in every part of the country and in every province.

This mapping process has been important so that we begin to understand what impact the creative economy has on the country and where best our interventions should be to grow initiatives and provide support.

Our study estimates that the creative industries in 2013 contributed R90.5 billion to the economy and created over 500,000 direct and indirect jobs. This shows that the creative economy is a significant force and has great potential to do even better.

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