Jozi film fest puts city on map

26 January 2012 - 09:00
By Mduduzi Dlamini
      SA Director Akin Omotoso

JOHANNESBURG is finally set to host its very own film festival, showcasing both the city and Gauteng-made productions.

The Jozi Film Festival (JFF) will premier from February 10 to 12 at the Bioscope Independent Cinema on Main Street in downtown Johannesburg and the Kensington Club - giving it a distinctive indie feel.

Tickets will cost R20 for some movies, while other screenings will be free.

For so long, Johannesburg, the most economically powerful metropolis on the continent, which hosts 80% of the film and TV industry in South Africa - has lagged behind Durban with its International Film Festival (DIFF).

Other long-running movie fests on the continent include the Cairo International Film Festival and Carthage Film Festival.

Even impoverished, underdeveloped cities such as Ougadougou, Zanzibar and Harare host film festivals - despite these cities being economically unviable for movie and TV industries.

Ougadougou has staged one of the longest film fests, even though Burkina Faso is one of the fourth most impoverished countries in the world.

Johannesburg has simply been indifferent to hosting a mainstream film festival.

It has hosted some oddities and special interest film fests such as the Japan Film Festival or Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.

A distinctive feature of JFF is that it focuses on films made about the city itself or by Gauteng filmmakers.

This is perhaps a curious selection criteria for what is undoubtedly the single most globally connected city in Africa.

Asked why the selection criteria was limited to Gauteng only, filmmaker Shareen Anderson said: "Our focus is to assist Johannesburg filmmakers to showcase their work, as the platform to do so is quite small.

"It's not that we'll exclude any films based on their location; we'll certainly not exclude a South African filmmaker presenting a film that is not about Johannesburg but is nevertheless interesting."

The exclusion of films of diverse arts material, which do not have a Gauteng link, definitely limits the Jozi Film Festival's appeal as a serious competitor to the DIFF.

However, the ambitions for JFF, self-initiated without financial sponsorship, with its operational project staff all working on a volunteer basis, had required it to be quite modest in its maiden year, Anderson said.

"This year we wanted to get the film festival off the ground. We hope to go international, maybe in 2013. But this year we've limited it to South Africans."