Africa First

short film program

The Africa Channel Presents The World Television Premiere Of Focus Features’ Africa First Program’s Short Films From Young African Filmmakers, Honoring Black History Month In February

Los Angeles, CA, January 31, 2011 - The Africa Channel, the first mainstream television network in the U.S. fully dedicated to showcasing the richness, diversity and beauty of modern Africa, will premiere four short films produced under Focus Features’ Africa First Program, as part of a series on young filmmakers that honors Black History Month in February.

On Friday, February 18 from 8-9 pm EST, The Africa Channel will open the young filmmakers’ series with the special Africa First: Behind the Cameras, followed by the 9-10 pm EST premiere of Saint Louis Blues, one of the films produced under the Africa First program banner.

Africa First: Behind the Cameras is a behind-the-scenes special on Focus Features’ unique Africa First initiative, which awards $10,000 production grants annually to African writer/directors and mentors the development and production of their short films. The special features interviews with Kisha Cameron-Dingle, Africa First program director; Matthew Plouffe, director of production for Focus Features; and members of the Africa First Advisory Board, which consists of an international panel of experts in African Cinema – Mahen Bonetti (founder and executive director of the African Film Festival), Jihan El-Tahri (journalist and documentary filmmaker), June Givanni (programmer of the Toronto International Film Festival’s “Planet Africa” series), Sharifa Johka (film programmer and independent producer), Clarence Hamilton (story editor and head of production at South Africa’s National Film and Video Foundation), and Keith Shiri (founder/director of the Africa at the Pictures Film Festival).

Following the special, The Africa Channel will present the world television premiere of Saint Louis Blues, written and directed by Dyana Gaye of Senegal, which was an Official Selection at the 2010 Sundance, Rotterdam, and Toronto International Film Festivals.

On Friday, February 25 from 8-10 pm EST, The Africa Channel will premiere three additional critically acclaimed shorts produced under the Africa First banner. The first of the trio is The Abyss Boys, written and directed by Jan-Hendrik Beetge of South Africa. 

It will be followed by a groundbreaking science-fiction film written and directed by Wanuri Kahiu of Kenya entitled Pumzi [Breath], an Official Selection at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and the winner of the 2010 Cannes Festival Award for Independent Short Film. The final short from the first group of filmmakers in the annual series is The Tunnel, written and directed by Zimbabwean Jenna Bass, an Official Selection of the 2010 Sundance and Berlin International Film Festivals.

“The Africa Channel is honored to premiere these outstanding films produced under Focus Features’ Africa First short film Program and to provide a much-needed platform for young filmmakers around the continent to showcase their work,” said Bob Reid, EVP and General Manager, The Africa Channel. “We are confident that our viewers will be truly amazed by the originality and production quality delivered by these young filmmakers and thoroughly entertained by the unique vision of these short films that will be making their world television debut on the network.”

“These films represent not just a range of enormous talent from across Africa, but, simply put, some of the most dynamic and accomplished young voices in world cinema, period,” said James Schamus, CEO, Focus Features.