Film Fellowships unite African storytellers

17 Mar 2017 - 14:00

In 2016, the Centre for Film and Media Studies hosted its first African Filmmaking Fellowship. The programme is designed to ensure Africa’s next generation of talented filmmakers by training academics and postgraduate students in film, media and journalism. From 31 October to 13 December, 11 lecturers and postgraduate students, all journalists or aspirant filmmakers, from universities from across the African continent attended a seven-week programme at the UCT TV Studio in Rondebosch. It included the existing six-week Stepping Stone community engagement video training course, a week-long facilitator workshop and a full day cell phone filmmaking master class. 

Five short films about social responsiveness linked to UCT were produced as part of the course. The films profile NOAH a residential healthcare facility for social pensioners; the Zamani Project which digitally records threatened African Cultural Heritage; Digital Bridge (Engineers Without Borders) aimed at improving computer literacy and academic performance at Parkwood Primary School; UCT Knowledge Co-op which connects community groups with UCT researchers and reScribe, a proudly South African medical innovation that delivers stroke rehabilitation technology. 

Stepping Stone is a UCT experiential learning and skills transfer initiative developed in 2012 by the Centre for Film and Media Studies (CFMS) with financial support from the Fox foundation. The objective: to provide expert filmmaking training to local disadvantaged youth who would otherwise struggle to access this particular career path due to the high costs of tuition and tertiary admission criteria. Linked to the Stepping Stone initiative, the new African Filmmaking Fellowship (AFF) offers further specialist training to talented African filmmakers, enabling them to spread their knowledge and skills in their home countries and beyond. AFF Fellows are selected on the basis of their qualifications and experience in journalism, media or film studies and whether they have existing or planned community film or video training programmes. An effort is made to select participants from as many countries as possible, and so in 2016, the AFF brought together fellows from Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia. UCT postgraduate students as well as local filmmakers who offer video training in their communities filled the remaining 9 places on the Stepping Stone course. 

The AFF was made possible thanks to generous funding received from German non-profit organisation, Robert Bosch Stiftung GmbH, secured by Professor Herman Wasserman and Dr. Liani Maasdorp (CFMS).   Maasdorp says that in addition to skills and knowledge sharing, the AFF is aimed at fostering long-term collaborations between UCT and other African universities that offer film, media and/or journalism programmes. “So far one of the fellows has already submitted a research proposal for a PhD at CFMS and another two are developing Stepping Stone courses at their home universities. We also hope that the new network will lead to co-publications, academic exchanges and joint seminars in the future,” says Maasdorp. Since November, AFF fellow Lungile Tshuma (Zimbabwe) has been selected to attend the prestigious Haile Gerima Workshop to be hosted at the 6th Luxor African Film Festival in Cairo.

The African film industry is on a growth trajectory. Renewed interest in homegrown content coupled with the popularity of South Africa (Cape Town) as a destination for international film shoots has boosted job creation and encouraged capital investment in local film studios. All of which is contributing directly to the country’s economy or GDP. There are clear benefits to identifying and nurturing the next generation of African creatives who can populate this lucrative space. The Stepping Stone and African Filmmaking Fellowship initiatives aim to ensure that a broader pool of students gain access to higher education, training, mentorship and networking opportunities. The vision is to facilitate the telling of more authentically local stories by African filmmakers for African audiences and the world.