Filmmakers who receive funding are also granted the unique opportunity to network with the Africa First Advisory Board, an international panel of experts in African Cinema. The Board members are:
Mahen Bonetti is the founder and Executive Director of African Film Festival, Inc. (AFF), a non-profit arts organization founded in 1990. AFF showcases works of African filmmakers and develops ways to share the vision and culture of African film with American and international audiences. In her role as film liaison, she contributes to an interdisciplinary mix of panels and programs, including those established by the Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ougadougou (FESPACO), the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the New York State Council of the Arts, UNDP, Africa's US diplomatic offices and the Rolex Arts Initiative Awards. AFF collaborates each year with the Film Society of Lincoln Center and BAMcinématek to produce the annual New York African Film Festival. Additionally, the organization curates a series of other film programs with a host of national and international partners. Ms. Bonetti lives in Manhattan with her husband and their daughter.
Jihan El-Tahri is an award winning writer, documentary film director and producer. El- Tahri, an Egyptian and French national, started her working career as a journalist. Between 1984 and 1990 she worked as a news agency correspondent and TV researcher covering Middle East politics. In 1990 she began directing and producing documentaries for French television, The BBC and other international broadcasters. El-Tahri has directed more than a dozen films including the Emmy nominated The House of Saud, which explores the Saudi/ US relations through the portraits of the Kingdom's monarchs. The Price of Aid, which won the European Media prize in 2004, examined who really benefits from system of International food aid. Her most recent documentary Cuba: An African Odyssey, which recounts the untold story of Cuba's support for African revolutions, has received awards in France and Canada. El-Tahri has also written 2 books titled "The 9 Lives of Yasser Arafat" and "Israel and the Arabs: the 50 years war" published by Penguin.
Jihan El-Tahri is also engaged in various associations and institutions working with African cinema. She is currently the treasurer of the Guild of African filmmakers in the Diaspora and she was elected in 2004 as one of the regional secretaries of the Federation of Pan African Cinema (FEPACI).
June has worked in film and broadcasting for many years and is regarded as a knowledgeable resource person for Black and African cinema. She worked at the British Film Institute for 8 years where she ran the African Caribbean Unit from the mid 1980s to the mid-1990s and launched the quarterly Black Film Bulletin, tracking and reviewing the development of black film. She also edited the book Symbolic Narratives/African Cinema, which reported on the major African cinema conference held as part of the Screen Griot programme of 10 projects celebrating African cinema, organized by the Unit in 1995. More generally, June worked as a film and television programme consultant for over 20 years specializing in African and black film internationally, working with festivals, and events and writing about film and television. She was one of the team of programmers of the Toronto International Film Festival for four years, programming Planet Africa. Her programming work has necessarily involved introducing new film talent to the industry and to audiences. She has worked in production, including A Dry White Season, directed by Euzhan Palcy and assisted recently on the shoot of Palcy's latest film, Les Mariees de l'isle Bourbon. June has been involved in selecting film projects for development awards both in the UK (Arts Council, B3 Media) and the USA (Rockefeller Foundation). She has recently worked with 'Break Out', and 'The Feature Lab', in the UK to identify potential writing and directing talent for these script development projects. June also worked in television programme regulation in the UK for 7 years.
Clarence trained as a filmmaker at Ryerson Polytechnic (now University), the premier training institute for filmmakers and broadcast journalists in Toronto, Canada, and graduated with a Bachelor in Applied Arts (Film) in 1990. Since his return to SA in 1992, Clarence has gained extensive experience as a writer, director, and executive producer in the film and television industry. Clarence also worked as head-writer on the first season of Takalani Sesame, a South African adaptation of the US-originated Sesame Street. He was co-creator of the first Gazlam, a thirteen part HIV drama and worked as head writer for season 3 of Soul Buddyz, an educational family drama series conceived by Soul City. In 2005 Clarence became co-project leader with Alby James and Philip Roberts in Sediba, a feature film and television script development program of the NFVF. During this period he has mentored script editor trainees and supervised the development of four feature scripts to first draft and five ground-breaking mini-series, among them adaptations of Shakespeare, all commissioned by the SABC. In 2007 Clarence joined the National Film and Video Foundation and in April 2009 was appointed head of Production and Development. Clarence continues his work in Sediba.
Sharifa Johka is an independent producer with a strong background in feature film development, acquisitions, and co-production financing. Johka began her professional career working in Acquisitions & Co-Productions at New Line Cinema/Fine Line Features. She was responsible for tracking film projects in all stages of development and production for financing and worldwide distribution consideration.
As an independent producer, Johka has credits that span the mediums of both film and broadcast television, including the charming romantic comedy, THE SEAT FILLER, directed by Nick Castle (DENNIS THE MENACE, MAJOR PAYNE) and executive produced by Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. Additional television credits include TEEN SUMMIT, LYRIC CAFÉ, and DADDY’S GIRL.
Johka is also the Founder of AFRICAN VOICES Cinema Series (AVCS), a media arts organization that is dedicated to the promotion and advancement of African and African-American films as well as filmmakers of the African Diaspora. In this role, Johka has produced programs in the US, Nigeria, and South Africa. Most recent, AFRICAN VOICES presented AFRICANA!, a television series for BET, for which Johka served as the Executive Producer.
Ms. Johka is a highly sought after lecturer who has conducted production and screenwriting workshops around the world. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California, where she attended the prestigious School of Cinematic Arts and received a Student Academy Award for her compelling documentary THE MIRROR LIED. In addition, she is a J. Paul Getty Arts Fellowship recipient, a working member of Film Independent (FIND) and serves on the Advisory Board for their mentoring program, Project: Involve.
Pedro has become one of the major players in film co-production in Southern Africa. He started his film career with the National Film Institute of Mozambique in 1977, and co-founded EBANO Multimedia, the first independent production company in Mozambique, which established itself as a significant entity in audio-visual production in the region. Between 1997 and 2003, Pedro was the Chief Technical Adviser of the UNESCO Zimbabwe Film & Video Training Project for Southern Africa in Harare. As part of his role he conceived and managed various training programs in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zambia. He is one of the founders of AVEA (Audio Visual Entrepreneurs of Africa), which runs an annual professional training program for producers in Southern Africa. He is currently the Director of DOCKANEMA - The Maputo Documentary Film Festival.
Keith Shiri is the Zimbabwean founder/director of Africa at the Pictures, a festival of African cinema based in London. He has taught African cinema at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London and the American University in Richmond. He has served on a number of international film festival juries including the Tampere Film Festival in Finland, the Pan African Film Festival in California, the Fespaco Festival in Burkina Faso, the Cape Town World Film Festival, Festival Cinema Africano in Milan and the Berlin International Film Festival. He currently sits on the steering committee of the Independent Film Parliament (UK) and Vertigo Magazine. He is a program advisor to the Times London Film Festival, and served in that position to the Venice Film Festival from 2004 - 2005. He was also a member of the jury of the Berlin World Cinema Fund from 2004 - 2007. Publications include Africa on Film (BBC Publications 1991) and Directory of African Films and Filmmakers (Flicks Books 1993).