afrol News, 24 May - South African Culture Minister Zweledinga Pallo Jordan today signed an agreement with his British counterpart in London, which will make the way for co-productions that may tap from British promotion funds. The UK government was guided by the many recent successes of the South African film industry on the international market when choosing a new partner for a co-production agreement.
Minister Jordan in London met with the British Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell and today finalised the deal that will unite the two countries' national film industries. The deal is to "enable the UK and South African film industries to work together to create top class cinema," the optimistic ministers said in a statement today.
Under the new co-production treaty, filmmakers from both countries may pool their resources to create films that will benefit both countries financially and culturally. This means that a South African film deploying some UK actors or other professionals may be termed a co-production and thus have access to British state funds promoting the national film industry.
This type of agreements enable films made jointly by UK producers and their counterparts in other countries to qualify as films with "national" status in both the UK and the other country, meaning that they may be eligible for any national incentives. The co-productions will also be treated as "national" films at film festivals and other arrangements that may include prices.
The British government has so far entered into rather few co-production treaties with other countries, only focusing on prestigious filmmakers. Existing UK agreements include Australia, New Zealand, Canada and France. Currently, however, the Britons aim at developing a new package of bi-lateral co-production agreements, namely with India, China, Jamaica and Morocco.
The first new deal within this initiative - and the first African deal ever - however became South Africa. While Africa's film giant is Nigeria, South African films lately have convinced with several international successes, testifying of the high quality of the national film industry.
This success had been a decisive factor for the Britons to seek an agreement with South Africa, Culture Secretary Jowell revealed. While the British film industry is down from its previous heights, South Africans have gone from success to success. Since 1986 the film industry in South Africa has produced 78 feature films, including "Totsi", "Drum", "Hotel Rwanda", "Red Dust" and "Yesterday". In 2005-06 the industry produced 17 feature films with combined box office earnings of around 50 million rand.
The South African Minister of Arts and Culture expressed his satisfaction with the new deal. "This marks an important milestone in cementing and redefining relations between the two countries as we have a long history. We have no doubt that this will strengthen indigenous African film which is increasingly gaining a foothold in the international market," Mr Jordan said.
"Over the last few years South African film has garnered various awards at international festivals, confirming our convictions that our artists have something unique to offer the world. We are convinced that a partnership with the calibre of talent that comes from the UK will further enhance our home-grown talent in terms of skills, expertise and stature, especially among the youth," the South African Minister added.
The Britons hope that the co-production agreement will encourage South African filmmakers to "invest in UK talent and locations" as the national film industry is seeking to return to old heights. Ms Jowell nevertheless holds that the British film industry is still very vital. "British film is in good shape as demonstrated by the indelible footprint of directors like Ken Loach and Andrea Arnold on the Croisette in Cannes this year," the Culture Secretary said.
"South African cinema is also going from strength to strength, as exemplified by the recent success of 'Totsi' and 'Hotel Rwanda'," she acknowledged. "But there is much we can learn from and share with each other," Ms Jowell said. "By working more closely together, I am confident we will produce top class films that have a real standing and impact on the global stage. This will in turn produce genuine cultural and financial benefits for both countries."
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