A New Wave of African Cinema
We look at the women who are pushing boundaries to create new and exciting visual delights, challenging social norms, and making their mark on the film world.
This article was first featured in Issue 5 of the Callsheet.
Every few years, a new crop of exciting, hip and new creatives pop up on the scene. These range from edgy music video directors and commercial whizzes, to those telling extraordinary stories from the African continent. We take a delve into industry to find the deeply talented people who are changing the way we perceive films and TV in Africa.
A producer and casting director with an eye for the unique and a passion for developing the industry, Cait Pansegrouw was behind the highly controversial Inxeba (The Wound) and is the co-owner of Urucu Media – known for Necktie Youth and the Realness Screenwriters Residency.
“I really believe in the power of art; it has the ability to challenge the status quo, encourage introspection and dialogue and inspire empathy,” she told Mail & Guardian recently.
A talented film producer with her finger on the pulse of what South Africans want to see, Jacintha De Nóbrega of ArcLight Productions is the filmmaker behind Deep End.
A coming of age story about a young Indian woman (played by Carishma Basday) living in Durban where sticking to culture and tradition comes crashing up against wanting to be a part of the bigger world, this story challenges the stereotypes and traditions of the Indian community in SA. Most recently Jacintha was selected as a jury member for the 2019 Durban International Film Festival.
Jenna Bass has long been a celebrated indie fixture in the local film world. But most recently her female-driven cowboy story Flatland opened Berlinale’s Panorama programme to much critical acclaim. Her previous work, Love The One You Love, and High Fantasy explore South Africa through the lens of a millennial at the forefront of a country – and world – in flux.
Stunning visuals, fascinating storylines, and issues prevalent within the young adult community are the order of the day. Flatland is described by Variety as, “a jar of very South African honey, with its keen ear for local lingo and an eye for physical particularity in faces and locations alike.” The story sees three different but equally desperate women undertake a journey of self-discovery through the Karoo semi-desert.
A young director and producer from Cape Town, Jessie Zinn has made it onto Marie Claire and Mail & Guardian’s listicles of people to watch. In 2018 she was among the 19 African filmmakers at Durban Talents, and her projects have screened at IDFA Academy, Durban FilmMart, and Visions Du Reel Pitching Forum. Her projects include The Home and Nawar (both 2019), as well as Can I Please Go To The Bathroom? (2017) and Into Us And Ours (2016).
The woman behind Netflix’s first African animated series, Mama K’s Super 4, Malenga Mulendema is a Zambian filmmaker with heaps of talent to boot. She’s all about creating opportunities for women in film, too, and is working with an all-female group of writers to bring the series to the small screen.
“Now, like never before, it is so important to have strong female lead characters who are emotionally connected to their world and who can choose to change their world,” she told Quartz recently. “So to me, selecting an all-female writing team was a natural fit, because who better to create and connect to those characters than females themselves.”
Nosipho Dumisa recently won the Cheval Noir Jury Prize for Best Director at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, Canada, for her breakout film Nommer 37.
It was screened at SXSW 2018 to rave reviews, and pays homage to a Hitchcock classic, Rear Window. The 27-year-old writer and director is one of the few black female directors to work in the narrative feature film space. She co-founded Gambit Films in 2009, and the company has in recent years seen much success in the film and television world – Ellen, The Ellen Pakkies Story, Noem My Skollie, Suidooster, danZ Season 1 are some of the productions the company has worked on.
Ree Treweek and her brother Rick Treweek are a creative match made in heaven. Ree is the co-founder and creative director of Tulips & Chimneys, a studio specialising in concept development and animation, while Rick heads up Eden Labs, a company focussed on VR/AR, 3D printing and software development. Their collaboration on The Lost Botanist, which screened at Annecy this year, was well received – and presented in the most innovative and beautiful fashion! The two hope to delve deeper into the experiential world with this detailed and intricate piece of VR work, and plan on bringing it to an exhibition near you in the future.
Zambian-Welsh director and screenwriter Rungano Nyoni is the brains behind the visually captivating story I Am Not A Witch. The film has travelled to 109 festivals and has won a string of awards and accolades. She signed with Creative Artists Agency in late 2018, who will rep her in the US.
A prolific Kenyan film director, producer and author, Wanuri Kahiu is perhaps best known for Rafiki. She won Best Director at the Africa Movie Academy Awards (From a Whisper), and was nominated for Un Certain Regard.
She will helm Covers for Universal, a romance set in the LA music world.
She is the co-founder of Afrobubblegum, a media company that supports, creates and commissions African art. She is a charismatic voice on the continent, and has spoken on platforms like the World Economic Forum and TED2017 (she’s a TED Fellow).