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The Focus Features Africa First Short Film Program was created to foster and develop long-term relationships with some of the most promising up-and-coming filmmakers from continental Africa. Through the financial support of the fund and the mentorship support provided by the Focus Features Africa First Advisory Board, we aim to bring filmmakers into an environment that will allow them to grow as filmmakers with an international audience.

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Fourth-year Winners of Focus Features' Africa First Program Announced

Posted October 06, 2011

FOURTH-YEAR WINNERS OF FOCUS FEATURES’ AFRICA FIRST PROGRAM ANNOUNCED
$10,000 IN FINANCING GOES TO FIVE NEW MOVIEMAKERS FOR THEIR SHORT FILMS

NEW YORK, October 6th, 2011 – For a fourth consecutive year, Focus Features’ Africa First program for short films, the worldwide film company’s initiative earmarked exclusively for emerging filmmakers of African nationality and residence, has awarded five filmmakers $10,000 apiece, Focus CEO James Schamus announced today.

The uniquely conceived initiative offers eligible and participating filmmakers the chance to be awarded the $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. Of equal importance, the program brings the filmmakers together with each other and with a renowned group of advisors, major figures in the African film world, for support and mentorship. The short films coming out of the program have been showcased at the Sundance, Toronto, and Berlin Film Festivals; the Film Society of Lincoln Center; and the Museum of the Moving Image, among other venues worldwide. Africa First, Volume I, a two-hour compilation of short films made by previous filmmakers in the program, is now available on DVD and across VOD and EST platforms. Details on the program are accessible year-round through www.focusfeatures.com/africafirst.

The winning filmmakers for 2011 are Ms. Oshosheni Hiveluah (from Namibia); Mr. Cedric Ido (from Burkina Faso); Mr. Mark Middlewick (from South Africa); Ms. Akosua Adoma Owusu (from Ghana); and Mr. Zelalem Woldemariam (from Ethiopia).

The short films that they will be directing are, respectively, 100 Bucks, an immersion into the Namibian capital of Windhoek through the progress of a piece of currency; Twaaga [Invincible], blending live action and animation in the tale of a young boy’s quest to be a superhero; Late Night Security, in which the night guard at a shopping center finds solace and friendship from an unlikely source; Kwaku Anase, adapting into live action and animation a traditional West African story about a student’s family secret; and Adamet [Listen], powered by the music of Ethiopian culture in its story of a talented drummer who encounters a deaf woman.

Mr. Schamus said, “I’m continually impressed by the range of great young artists we meet through Africa First – each filmmaker has a distinctive vision and voice, and I look forward to learning from them at our summit.”

Producer Kisha Cameron-Dingle, who serves as program director of Africa First, added, “We are particularly proud of the diversity and ambition in this year’s solid group, with new storytellers coming from several countries contributing to the program for the first time.”

Africa First is supervised by Mrs. Cameron-Dingle (…Sometimes in April), whose Completion Films company has a first-look and consulting deal with Focus, and who coordinates the program’s submissions and evaluations with Focus creative executive Christopher Kopp. In addition to on-site work in Africa, this year’s winning filmmakers of Africa First will visit New York City in November for a weekend of one-on-one workshop discussions with each other; members of the advisory board of experts in African cinema; such Focus executives as Mr. Schamus and president of production Jeb Brody, covering topics like international distribution and the economics of studio financing; and Mrs. Cameron-Dingle and Mr. Kopp.

In 2008, the Africa First Program selected these filmmakers and their respective films; Mr. Edouard Bamporiki (from Rwanda) for Long Coat, Ms. Jenna Bass (from South Africa) for The Tunnel, Mr. Jan-Hendrik Beetge (from South Africa) for The Abyss Boys, Ms. Dyana Gaye (from Senegal) for N’Dar (a.k.a. St. Louis Blues), and Ms. Wanuri Kahiu (from Kenya) for Pumzi [Breath]. The winning filmmakers for 2009 were Mr. Stephen Abbott (from South Africa) for Dirty Laundry, Mr. Matt Bishanga (from Uganda) for A Good Catholic Girl, Mr. Daouda Coulibaly (from Mali) for Tinye So, Mr. Matthew Jankes (from South Africa) for Umkhungo, and Ms. Rungano Nyoni (from Zambia) for The Adventures of Mwansa the Great. The 2010 filmmakers chosen were Ms. Chika Anadu (from Nigeria) for The Marriage Factor; Mr. Lev David (from South Africa) for Boy and Bear; Ms. Jacqueline Kalimunda (from Rwanda) for Sky Burning Down; Ms. Ebele Okoye (from Nigeria) for The Legacy of Rubies; and Mr. Julius Onah (from Nigeria) for Nepa Don Quench.

The submissions period ran from May 16th through August 22nd. The five filmmakers retain the copyrights and the distribution rights to their completed shorts, with the exception of North American rights; Focus retains those, as well as the right of first negotiation to productions derived from the shorts, such as a feature-length expansion.

Completion is developing feature, documentary, and television projects. Its president, Mrs. Cameron-Dingle, previously worked as director of development at Walden Media, and as an executive at New Line Cinema, where she oversaw the development and production of Spike Lee’s Bamboozled.

The Africa First advisory board members are Ms. Mahen Bonetti, founder/executive director of the African Film Festival, Inc.; journalist/documentary filmmaker Ms. Jihan El-Tahiri; Ms. June Givanni, who programmed the Toronto International Film Festival’s Planet Africa series; Ms. Sharifa Johka, producer/founder of the African Voices Cinema Series; Mr. Pedro Pimenta, producer/director of the Dockenama Film Festival; and Mr. Keith Shiri, founder/director of the Africa at the Pictures film festival in the U.K. 

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