Halala EC Film Fest!

The year 2015 proved to be an interesting one for provincial filmmakers with some ground-breaking initiatives being spearheaded by the Eastern Cape Information Technology Initiative (ECITI).

These include among others hosting the inaugural Eastern Cape Film Festival and the founding of an associated Film Forum for the province. The three-day festival was born out of a memorandum of understanding between private company Radio Ya Bantu, ECITI and the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s TruFM.

Radio Ya Bantu founder and chief executive officer, Nceba Mqolomba, had originally hosted the Ginsberg Film Festival which was instigated by his passion to see a thriving Eastern Cape film industry. Upon striking a collaborative agreement with ECITI and TruFM, it was agreed by the partners that the focus of the festival should be provincial-wide and hence the birth of the Eastern Cape Film Festival.

Subsequently, the festival was hosted in August and saw attendance of established and emerging filmmakers from all corners of the province. As the credits rolled marking what was the end of an emotional but not cheesy convention of province’s filmmakers, Mqolomba said, “the Eastern Cape will never be the same again”.

The festival was characterised by critical dialogue on what had gone wrong with the mundane provincial film landscape which continue to make it less desirable to a number of ambitious filmmakers who consequently migrate to other provinces. With classes on technical aspects of filmmaking by established filmmakers as well as screenings of local and award winning productions, the festival kept its audience captivated for its entire duration.

Festival director, Nceba Mqolomba of Radio Ya Bantu, was visibly impressed by the outcome of the three-day event and was more enthused by the commitments made by delegates and what this support would do for filmmakers in the province.

Delivering the opening address, veteran filmmaker Ben Nomoyi put emphasis on players in the film space being united towards the development of the sector in the Eastern Cape. Nomoyi’s poignant address spoke to the absence of specialisation in the sector locally, the silo approach to productions and subsequent lack thereof, as well as absence of writers.

“In the Eastern Cape we lack writers,” he protested adding, “our job as filmmakers is to breathe life into the written word. No written word no film. I am worried that you still work as individuals in your respective silos limiting the impact that you can make.”

He referred to himself as an example saying that with his 43 years’ experience in the film industry, nobody was approaching him for opportunities.

Taking heed to the veteran’s remarks, subsequent discussions amongst festival delegates tilted towards establishing a unified film agenda for the province. This became more evident in the commitments made as the following undertakings were made:

  1. Founding of the Eastern Cape Film Forum to be facilitated by ECITI;
  2. Mobilising an Eastern Cape film agenda that addresses the training of filmmakers, networking, and founding a joint film fund for infrastructure development and film equipment;
  3. Resolving to establish an Eastern Cape community television station as a platform for broadcasting locally-developed content; and
  4. Hosting monthly workshops and screenings at all Eastern Cape districts. The first two sessions have since been successfully held in Stutterheim (Amahlathi Local Municipality) on 29 August 2015 and in Uitenhage (Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality) – on 26 September 2015.

Mqolomba expressed great satisfaction with the festival turnout. The film director was even more impressed with the outcomes, and more so the excitement and enthusiasm of festival delegates.

“From what we have experienced here [this weekend], it is clear that the Eastern Cape film landscape will never be the same.”

Emerging filmmaker from Mdantsane, Aubrey Silinyana, was also motivated by the festival that his plan for the coming year is to release a film he is yet to showcase while working towards another production with partners he identified at the festival.

“I have a film that the public is yet to see and which I have put on hold for many years. I came out of this festival motivated to revive the project and work towards releasing it in the not so distant future,” exclaimed Silinyana.

“The presentation by Nopinki Bentsile from the Department of Trade and Industry’s provincial office was also an eye opener about funding opportunities I had not yet explored. This information is particularly useful as I also have another film I am currently making but don’t have enough funding for it,” Silinyana said.

Silinyana added that as he was looking at hiring more people to work with on his film, he was able to identify people amongst the festival delegates that could provide services to his project; noting that the festival provided immense networking opportunities.

“My choice of technology for my upcoming film is the DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) route but I do not have any experience working with it. However, I was able to meet people who have extensive experience on using this technology.

“In addition, input by special guests, Rolie Nikiwe, Diliza Moabi and Jahmil XT Qubeka was a great motivation and it is such as thrill to know that from now on I can have direct contact with the people who have already made it big in the industry,” he said.

On the other hand, Sicelo Mamle who recently launched his third instalment of his popular movie, Mantolwana, also expressed his appreciation of the festival. He said the Eastern Cape was lagging behind in supporting film and that the initiative should sustain the further development of the sector.

The militancy and unity called for was visible with filmmakers committing to sacrificing one Saturday a month to attend workshops and share their skills free of charge as Nikwe, Moabi and Qubeka had done. The goal is to be a unified force that delivers products that are export ready and have potential to make huge economic impact.

ECITI executive manager, Mncedi Mgwigwi, said the organisation was tasked with a responsibility of being a sector stimulator for information communication technology (ICT) and media, particularly focusing on the film sector. Hence the role of ECITI in the Film Festival and other sector initiatives directly speak to the ECITI mandate.

The Film Festival was organised through a partnership between ECITI, Radio Ya Bantu and Tru-FM and has been set up as a platform of expression and empowerment for the province’s filmmakers. The festival has also attracted the support of various stakeholders including the National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa (NEMISA), Eastern Cape Film Office, Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) and the Department of Trade and Industry (dti).