Edward Tsumele

Edward Tsumele

The South African movie industry might still be struggling to develop, for its own survival, a commercially viable local audience to increase the number of locally made movies.

But its international profile keeps on rising every year, with some films gracing international festivals and winning awards.

Four South African films will premier at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) to be held from today until September 13 in Toronto, Canada.

Among the four films are three National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) funded films: Jesus and the Giant by Akin Omotoso, Skin by Anthony Fabian, and Sea Point Days, by Francois Verster.

The fourth film is Disgrace by Steve Jacobs, which is adapted from a book by winner of the Nobel Prize for literature JM Coetzee.

NFVF has worked with the co-director and programmer of TIFF, Cameron Bailey, to facilitate entry of South African films into the festival since 2004, when, for the first time, TIFF had a special focus on South African film.

About the relationship between TIFF and the NFVF, Ryan Haidarian, the latter's head of production and development, says: "It has to be the best relationship we have with a festival. Having the co-director of the festival come down to South Africa every year for the past few years on scouting trips shows a tremendous amount of commitment for providing a platform for tales from this part of the world. We are extremely grateful for Bailey's commitment to see and help South African cinema grow."

The NFVF is also supporting director Akin Omotoso and Producer Robbie Thorpe of Jesus and the Giant and Sandra Laing, whose life story is adapted on Skin.

Omotoso is excited about having audiences at TIFF seeing his work.

"Toronto is one of the top film festivals in the world and it is an honour to have Jesus and The Giant screened there," he says. "Especially since the festival doesn't usually programme shorts."

Local production company Moonlighting Productions - co-producers of Skin - will be attending TIFF for the film's world premiere. About Moonlighting's expectations regarding Skin at TIFF, associate producer at Moonlighting, Dylan Voogt, says: "We feel that Skin is a really compelling story, one that needs to be told.

"Though it is a uniquely African story it has certain universal truths that we believe will resonate with international audiences, so we are hopeful that it will be well received."

Sea Point Days producer Neil Brandt says "the festival will provide the ideal international platform to launch the film on to the global festival circuit".