Hollywood deal-making will hit peak this week as the American Film Market opens in Santa Monica, California. Among the throng of film execs and ambitious producers at the world’s largest motion picture trade event is a group of South Africans who carry more than the hopes of their entertainment industry.
The group of South African filmmakers landed on Oct. 31 as the film market opened, sent there by the country’s department of trade and industry. The aim is to sell South Africa’s film and TV industry to the more than 7,000 film reps from 80 countries—championing their original productions and positioning it as a great filmmaking destination.
Of the 222 films released in South Africa last year, only 23 were made in South Africa. Two of those were as a result of co-productions with US and French studios. While production facilities in and around Cape Town have attracted international customers, the South African industry has failed to meet the potential it showed with the foreign language Academy Award in 2006 for Tsotsi. It’s also been eclipsed by the sheer ubiquity of Nollywood, and Nigeria’s ability to generate a rapidly professionalizing industry.
It’s no mistake that the group sent to Santa Monica is majority black. The trade department chose a black delegation to diversify the South African film industry and expose them to the international film market, which is itself making greater effort to diversify.