Focus Features has chosen five winners for its 2012 Africa First Program, an initiative launched in 2008 that is dedicated to providing financial assistance for upcoming African filmmakers. Each filmmaker will be awarded $10,000 to be used for funding their films' pre-production, production, and/or post-production. "This year we have a dynamic group of filmmakers who will be telling stories that span genres and generations," says Focus CEO James Schamus. "Everyone at Focus is excited to be collaborating wtih them."
The filmmakers selected this year are Vincent Moloi (South Africa) with his film "Berea," Samantha Nell (South Africa) with her film "One Way Ticket," William Nicholson (South Africa) with "The Second Law," Jeremiah Mosese (Lesotho) with his film "Mosongoa," and Ekwa Msangi-Omari (Tanzania) with "Soko." The films' cover a wide range of stories from a neurotic undertaker to a Jewish man living in Johannesburg, to a Kenyan father and daughter, to a teenage girl in stick-fighting contest, to a schoolgirl and her grandmother. All of the shorts are filmed in Africa.
Producer Kisha Cameron Dingle, the founder of Completion Films, is the Program Director of Africa First. Dingle worked with Focus director of development and production Christopher Kopp and production coordinator Jess Kwan in evaluating the submissions for the competition.
"Africa continues to be a region rich with filmmaking potential, and the talented men and women we have selected this year embody it," says Dingle.
In addition to the $10,000 award, each filmmaker will spend a weekend in New York City attending workshop discussions with their co-winners, Focus executives, the directors and coordinators of Africa First, and a board of experts on African cinema. The advisory board members include a number of renowned figures in African film: the founder and executive director of the African Film Festival, Mahen Bonetti; documentarian Jihan El-Tahiri; former programmer of the Toronto International Film Festival's Planet Africa Series, June Givanni; independent producer Sharifa Jokha; South African producer Pedro Pimenta; and Keith Shiri, founder of the Africa at the Pictures film festival in the U.K.
Moloi, Nell, Nicholson, Mosese, and Msangi-Omari will retain the copyrights and distritubtion rights for their shorts, except for North American rights which are retained by Focus Features.