Netflix, UNESCO hunt for African film talent



SIX African filmmakers have been given a US$75 000 film production budget opportunity if they impress American pay television company Netflix and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) in an innovative competition.

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The short film competition on African Folktales, Reimagined to be administered by Dalberg, will run across sub-Saharan Africa and Zimbabwean filmmakers are also eligible to participate.

The competition’s applications to be submitted via opened on October 14 and close on November 14.

For the first round, interested candidates must submit a synopsis of their concept (no more than 500 words) in a creative statement as well as a link to a recent curriculum vitae and a portfolio of any past audiovisual works they have produced.

In a joint statement, the organisers said the six winners will be mentored by industry professionals and provided with a US$75 000 production budget to create short films that will premiere on Netflix in 2022 as an Anthology of African folktales.

“One key aim of this competition is to discover new voices and to give emerging filmmakers in sub-Saharan Africa visibility on a global scale. We want to find the bravest, wittiest, and most surprising retellings of some of Africa’s most-loved folktales and share them with entertainment fans around the world in over 190 countries,” the statement read in part.

“Unesco and Netflix recognise that many emerging filmmakers struggle with finding the right resources and visibility to enable them to fully unleash their talents and develop their creative careers. This competition aims to address these issues and enable African storytellers to take a first step towards showcasing their content to a global audience.”

Unesco and Netflix said they both strongly believe in the importance of promoting diverse local stories, and bringing them to the world.

“This partnership will also help create sustainable employment and encourage economic growth and it will therefore contribute to the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, a series of targets established by the United Nations which aims to end global poverty in all its forms by the end of this decade.”

“This film competition will also help reduce inequalities by facilitating access to global markets and by guaranteeing dignified working conditions. All of these are key goals within the 2030 Agenda.”

Unesco director-general Audrey Azoulay said: “It is important that the film sector acts to ensure the voices of Africa are heard, by supporting the emergence of diverse cultural expressions, putting forth new ideas and emotions, and creating opportunities for creators to contribute to global dialogue for peace, culture and development.”

Netflix co-chief executive officer and chief content officer Ted Sarandos said growing up, entertainment was how he connected with people.

“I fell in love with the stories and characters I saw on screen and experienced how storytelling has the power to inspire, which is why I am excited about this partnership with Unesco and the opportunities ahead,” Sarandos said.

“Together we will promote local cultures and support the creative industries in telling stories that cross borders, reflect universal truths, and ultimately, bring us together.”

Netflix director of content in Africa Ben Amadasun has a rich storytelling heritage and a wealth of folktales that have been passed down for generations.

“When you marry these very local stories with Africa’s emerging talent, there is no limit to fresh new stories to connect people with African cultures and bring the world that much closer to each other,” Amadasun said.

The six winners will receive a production grant of US$75 000 (through a local production company) to develop, shoot and post-produce their films under the guidance of Netflix and industry mentors to ensure everyone involved in the production is fairly compensated.

In addition, each of the six winners will also receive $25 000.

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