FOCUS’ AFRICA FIRST PROGRAM
NEW YORK, July 28th, 2009 – Following the success of last year’s inaugural program, Focus Features is accepting entries for a second year of its Africa First Program through Monday, August 17th (please note newly extended deadline). The uniquely conceived initiative, with funds earmarked specifically for emerging filmmakers of African nationality and residence, offers eligible and participating filmmakers the chance to be awarded $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. Complete details on Africa First – including application information – can be accessed through www.filminfocus.com/africafirst.
Launched in 2008, Africa First last fall awarded $10,000 apiece to five winning filmmakers; Mr. Edouard Bamporiki (from Rwanda), Ms. Jenna Bass (from South Africa), Mr. Jan-Hendrik Beetge (also from South Africa), Ms. Dyana Gaye (from Senegal), and Ms. Wanuri Kahiu (from Kenya). Their short films are, respectively, Long Coat, a drama about a young Hutu coming to terms with Rwanda’s and his own family’s past; The Tunnel, a 1980s-set story centering around a 10-year-old girl’s quest; The Abyss Boys, a thriller about an illegal trade in a small fishing town; the public transportation musical N’Dar [Saint Louis Blues]; and Pumzi [Breath], a futuristic sci-fi tale.
Africa First is supervised by producer Kisha Imani Cameron (…Sometimes in April), whose Completion Films company has a first-look and consulting deal with Focus, and who coordinates Africa First submissions and evaluations with Focus director of production Matthew Plouffe. In addition to on-site work in Africa, the winning filmmakers of Africa First also participate in a New York City weekend of one-on-one workshop discussions with members of the program’s international advisory board of experts in African cinema and such Focus executives as Mr. Schamus and president of production John Lyons, covering such topics as international distribution and the economics of studio financing; and with Ms. Cameron and Mr. Plouffe.
Offering practical support in addition to the fiscal backing, the reconvening Africa First board members are Ms. Mahen Bonetti, founder and executive director of the African Film Festival; journalist and documentary filmmaker Ms. Jihan El-Tahiri; Ms. June Givanni, who for four years programmed the Toronto International Film Festival’s Planet Africa series; Mr. Clarence Hamilton, script editor and Head of Production at NFVF; Mr. Pedro Pimenta, producer and manager of training programs throughout South Africa; and Mr. Keith Shiri, founder/director of the Africa at the Pictures film festival in the U.K.
Five (5) filmmakers will be awarded $10,000 apiece. The submission period began on Monday, June 1st, 2009 and runs through Monday, August 17th, 2009. The five filmmakers selected will retain the copyrights and the distribution rights to their completed shorts, with the exception of North American rights; Focus will retain those, as well as the right of first negotiation to productions derived from the shorts, such as a feature-length expansion. The announcement of the selections will be made on or about October 1st, 2009.
In May, when the 2009 submission period was announced, Focus CEO James Schamus said, “Last year’s Africa First experience was a gift to all of us at Focus – a journey of discovery that led us to great new talents in cinema. This year’s Africa First initiative will once again do just that.”
Ms. Cameron had added, “From start to finish, last year’s program was extraordinary, and I’m thrilled that Focus is making it happen for us again. I look forward to meeting another group of promising African filmmakers whom Africa First is supporting.”
Focus Features and Focus Features International (FFI) (www.filminfocus.com) together comprise a singular global company, dedicated to producing, acquiring, financing, selling, and distributing original and daring films from emerging and established filmmakers – films that challenge mainstream moviegoers to embrace and enjoy voices and visions from around the world. The company’s flexible and nuanced approach to distribution allows it to support a wide range of films, from those geared to a single local market to worldwide hits. The company operates as Focus Features domestically, and as Focus Features International overseas.
Domestically, the Focus Features slate includes; Away We Go, directed by Academy Award winner Sam Mendes and starring John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph; Shane Acker’s animated fantasy epic 9, starring Elijah Wood and Jennifer Connelly and produced by Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov; Academy Award-winning writer/director Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere; Greenberg, the new film from writer/director Noah Baumbach, starring Ben Stiller; Academy Award-winning writer/directors Joel and Ethan Coen’s A Serious Man; and Taking Woodstock, the new film from Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee.
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