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Focus Featurs’ Africa First program announces this year’s winners

I’m ashamed to admit that I’d never heard of the Africa First program. But it does good work by awarding “5 emerging African filmmakers” ten thousand dollars.  Not a bad way to help them get their career kicked into high gear.

This year’s winners are: Mr. Vincent Moloi (from South Africa); Mr. Jeremiah Mosese (from Lesotho); Ms. Ekwa Msangi-Omari (from Tanzania); Ms. Samantha Nell (from South Africa); and Mr. William Nicholson (from South Africa).  Congratulations to the winners!

Read more about the films they’ll be making, and about Africa First after the jump!

NEW YORK, October 3rd, 2012 – For a fifth consecutive year, five filmmakers have been selected for Focus Features’ Africa First Program. The worldwide film company’s initiative earmarked exclusively for emerging filmmakers of African nationality and residence, will award the filmmakers $10,000 apiece, Focus CEO James Schamus announced today.

The winning filmmakers for 2012 are Mr. Vincent Moloi (from South Africa); Mr. Jeremiah Mosese (from Lesotho); Ms. Ekwa Msangi-Omari (from Tanzania); Ms. Samantha Nell (from South Africa); and Mr. William Nicholson (from South Africa).

The short films that they will be directing are, respectively, Berea, about an aging Jewish man in modern Johannesburg; Mosongoa [The Mocked One], following a teenage girl entering a stick-fighting competition to save her family farm; Soko [The Market], in which a father/daughter outing to a Kenyan market takes unexpected turns; One Way Ticket, revolving around a neurotic undertaker and a misplaced corpse; and The Second Law, which charts the mutually strengthening bond of a schoolgirl and her grandmother.

Mr. Schamus said, “This year we have a dynamic group of filmmakers who will be telling stories that span genres and generations. Everyone at Focus is excited to be collaborating with them.”

Producer Kisha Cameron Dingle, who serves as Program Director of Africa First, added, “Africa continues to be a region rich with filmmaking potential, and the talented men and women we have selected this year embody it.”

Africa First is supervised by Ms. Cameron Dingle (…Sometimes in April), whose company, Completion Films, has a first-look and consulting deal with Focus, and who coordinates the Program’s submissions and evaluations with Focus director of development & production Christopher Kopp and production coordinator Jess Kwan. In addition to on-site work in Africa, the winning filmmakers will visit New York City this month for a weekend of one-on-one workshop discussions with each other; members of the advisory board of experts in African cinema; Focus executives such as Mr. Schamus and president of production Jeb Brody, covering topics like international distribution and the economics of studio financing; and Mrs. Dingle, Mr. Kopp, and Ms. Kwan.

The uniquely conceived initiative, with funds earmarked exclusively for emerging filmmakers of African nationality and residence, offers eligible and participating filmmakers the chance to be awarded $10,000 in financing for pre-production, production, and/or post-production on their narrative short film made in continental Africa and tapping into the resources of the film industry there. The Program also brings the filmmakers together with each other and with a renowned group of advisors, major figures in the African film world, for support and mentorship. Past short films to come out of the Program have been showcased at the Sundance, Toronto, London, and Berlin Film Festivals; on The Africa Channel; and with the Museum of the Moving Image and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, among other venues worldwide. Compilations of films completed through the Program is available on DVD and across VOD and EST platforms. Complete details on Africa First – including application information – can be accessed year-round through www.focusfeatures.com/africafirst.

The Africa First advisory board members are Ms. Mahen Bonetti, founder and executive director of the African Film Festival; journalist and documentary filmmaker Ms. Jihan El-Tahiri; Ms. June Givanni, who for four years programmed the Toronto International Film Festival’s Planet Africa series; Ms. Sharifa Johka, film programmer and independent producer; Mr. Pedro Pimenta, producer and manager of training programs throughout South Africa; and Mr. Keith Shiri, founder/director of the Africa at the Pictures film festival in the U.K.

In 2008, the Africa First Program selected these filmmakers and their respective films; Mr. Edouard Bamporiki (from Rwanda) for Long Coat, Ms. Jenna Bass (from South Africa) for The Tunnel, Mr. Jan-Hendrik Beetge (from South Africa) for The Abyss Boys, Ms. Dyana Gaye (from Senegal) for N’Dar (a.k.a. St. Louis Blues), and Ms. Wanuri Kahiu (from Kenya) for Pumzi [Breath]. The winning filmmakers for 2009 were Mr. Stephen Abbott (from South Africa) for Dirty Laundry, Mr. Matt Bishanga (from Uganda) for A Good Catholic Girl, Mr. Daouda Coulibaly (from Mali) for Tinye So, Mr. Matthew Jankes (from South Africa) for Umkhungo, and Ms. Rungano Nyoni (from Zambia) for The Adventures of Mwansa the Great. The 2010 filmmakers chosen were Ms. Chika Anadu (from Nigeria) for The Marriage Factor; Mr. Lev David (from South Africa) for Down; Ms. Jacqueline Kalimunda (from Rwanda) for Sky Burning Down; Ms. Ebele Okoye (from Nigeria) for The Legacy of Rubies; and Mr. Julius Onah (from Nigeria) for Nepa Don Quench. The filmmakers selected in 2011 were Ms. Oshosheni Hiveluah (from Namibia) for 100 Bucks; Mr. Cedric Ido (from Burkina Faso) for Twaaga [Invincible]; Mr. Mark Middlewick (from South Africa) for Late Night Security; Ms. Akosua Adoma Owusu (from Ghana) for Kwaku Ananse; and Mr. Zelalem Woldemariam (from Ethiopia) for Adamet [Listen].

This year, the submissions period began on May 14th, 2012 and ran through August 20th, 2012. The five filmmakers selected will retain the copyrights and the distribution rights to their completed shorts, with the exception of North American rights; Focus retains those, as well as the right of first negotiation to productions derived from the shorts, such as a feature-length expansion.

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