Berlinale is fertile ground for those in SA film industry
The Berlin International Film Festival, one of the most important dates for the international film industry, officially opened on February 9. And in the German capital, amongst the glitterati, are two dynamic representatives of South Africa's film scene who have their minds set on making the most of this experience: Nodi Murphy, pivotal player in the Out in Africa and Encounters film festivals, and Sakhumzi Mati, a promising young filmmaker.
Opening night preparations at the Berlinale Palast
odi Murphy sees the Berlinale exactly for what it is, “the premier European film festival and the largest film market in the world”. Murphy has been in the film industry for roughly 25 years and has been instrumental in founding and expanding two prominent film festivals in South Africa, the gay and lesbian film festival “Out in Africa” and “Encounters”, the nation's leading international documentary film festival.
Murphy is visiting Berlin and the festival as part of a visitor's program sponsored by Germany's Foreign Office and the German Missions in South Africa.
She has been to the Berlinale before and lauds its hugely diverse film offerings. In her eyes, the numerous experimental and confrontational films screened serve to inform, challenge and enrich the audiences. “The Berlinale is keeping world cinema alive,” she emphatically declares.
Enlarge image Nodi Murphy, pivotal player in the Out in Africa and Encounters film festivals (© Nodi Murphy) She also praises the enormous public audience at the festival. Although it is a huge industry event, its doors are open to the general public. She is thrilled to be a part of that audience, one she recognizes as having a very different mind set than what she grew up in South Africa (during Apartheid) and Swaziland. The Germans, she finds, are quite relaxed, and the accepting, open nature in which they take in these films shows education and a willingness to do many different things.
On Murphy's agenda for Berlin is maximizing the direct contact with distributors and funding agencies, as well as the opportunity to see as many films as humanly possible (she guesses 5 to 6 per day). Her focus is clearly derived from her professional role steering the two large South African Festivals. She hopes to not only find and acquire films for the festivals from the distributors at the festival, but also to talk to funding agencies directly to find out more about their funding criteria.
Enlarge image Sakhumzi Mati, also travelling to the festival as part of the same visitor's program, has quite a different agenda. Mati is a young filmmaker, working in the film industry in Cape Town for the last 12 years. Currently he does production work for Two Oceans Production (which produces many German television films). He has made successful short films and is in the process of completing the script for his first feature film.
Mati is interested in meeting professionals on the filmmaking side, in particular directors and producers. He has been inspired by the German film “The Downfall” (Der Untergang) by Oliver Hirschbeigel and sees the potential to develop just as momentous a film in South Africa.
“The Downfall captures history perfectly. It is a film you can see 100 years later and it is still relevant and lasting. South Africa has a compelling history, one that I hope one day to relate in as prominent a film,” Mati noted.
Mati's original desire to begin making films came from his mother's story-telling combined with an insatiable love for television. He grew up in Gugulethu, a township near Cape Town, and he describes his work as influenced largely from that experience. He studied drama at the University of Cape Town and did his post-graduate studies at the Cape Town International Film School.
Enlarge image Young South African flimmaker Sakhumzi Mati (© Sakhumzi Mati) Mati relates his perception that limited training is made available to disadvantaged, primarily black, aspirants in the film industry. He believes there are only a few production companies that offer proper training, namely Two Oceans Productions, Kalahari Pictures and Pifteleros Film. This opportunity to go to the Berlinale thus is much-needed and will contribute immensely to his development in filmmaking.
“I hope one day I can serve as an inspiration, as well as provide opportunities to others to enter and work in this industry,” he commented.
Mati is also determined to use the trip as an opportunity to finish the script for his first feature-length film. Even if he abandons sleep, he feels being at the centre of the film world will inspire him to complete the project. Also, he finds Germans who he has been exposed to at Two Oceans Productions are disciplined and hard-working, so perhaps being in Germany, some of that dynamic will contribute to the extra push needed to finish the script.
For more information about the Berlinale, please click on the link to the festival's website on right.