The South African film and TV industry is not immune to the legacy of apartheid. Race and gender were the key determinants of who got opportunities to participate in the sector, as well as the construct of infrastructure and means of production, distribution and exhibition.
Since it started operating in 1999, the National Film and Video Foundation has made some strides towards leading the transformation initiative.
I am the first to acknowledge that transformation is complex, as it takes shape in many forms in the industry.
Post-apartheid cinema and content development are growing and evolving.
One of the lesser-known findings of the 2013 Economic Baseline Study by Deloitte is that 46% of semiskilled or above individuals working in the film industry are black. Although this figure is encouraging, a lot more still needs to be done to fast-track the rate of transformation. Similar sentiments were shared at the national film industry indabas held in 2005 and 2009.
I recall how discouraged I was in 2012 when there was no SA Film and Television Awards (Saftas) category for best lead actress in a feature. It was a sad reflection on the state of our industry. This was because no stories were being told from a female perspective and there was a lack of productions with a strong female protagonist.
The National Film and Video Foundation called for proposals for short film projects for direction by women in 2014. It resulted in 10 short films being written, directed and produced by first-time female participants. Since then female protagonists have starred in films such as Ayanda, Dis Ek, Anna and the box office smash hit, Happiness Is a Four-letter Word, which is on circuit.
As part of the ongoing project to develop criteria for South African film, a study was conducted to establish the depth of black talent across the creative and technical skills pool. The study confirmed, as many industry stakeholders are aware, that there are few black and even fewer women in the key creative positions. A scrutiny of award winners over the nine years reflects that black talent is few and far between for the more behind-the-camera technical and creative positions.
Given the embedded historical structural imbalances that exist in the industry, interventions across the preproduction, production, postproduction and distribution stages of the value chain require collaboration.
We continue with our attempts to break the barriers to entry through various funding mechanisms that sponsor new talent, the emerging black film maker, internships, bursary schemes and funding for attendance at international film festivals.
The obvious question is how do we, as the South African film and TV community, use the Saftas to achieve transformation as we seek to fast-track the diversification of the sector and the creation of more access by historically disadvantaged people?
The upcoming 2016 Saftas ceremony will give special-recognition awards to people who have contributed to the growth and development of the film and television industry in underserviced areas, as well as for the benefit of people with disabilities.
Mkosi is the CEO of the National Film and Video Foundation