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'Africa First' Awards $10,000 to SA Filmmaker, Mark Middlewick

For a fourth consecutive year, Focus Features’ Africa First program for short films, the worldwide film company’s initiative earmarked exclusively for emerging filmmakers of African nationality and residence, has awarded five filmmakers $10,000 apiece.

The winning filmmakers for 2011 are: Oshosheni Hiveluah (Namibia) for 100 Bucks, an immersion into the Namibian capital of Windhoek through the progress of a piece of currency; Cedric Ido (Burkina Faso) for Twaaga [Invincible], blending live action and animation in the tale of a young boy’s quest to be a superhero; Mark Middlewick (South Africa) for Late Night Security, in which the night guard at a shopping center finds solace and friendship from an unlikely source; Akosua Adoma Owusu (Ghana) for Kwaku Anase, adapting into live action and animation a traditional West African story about a student’s family secret; and Zelalem Woldemariam (Ethiopia) for Adamet [Listen], powered by the music of Ethiopian culture in its story of a talented drummer who encounters a deaf woman.

The uniquely conceived initiative offers eligible and participating filmmakers the chance to be awarded the $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. Of equal importance, the program 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.

The short films coming out of the program have been showcased at the Sundance, Toronto, and Berlin Film Festivals; the Film Society of Lincoln Center; and the Museum of the Moving Image, among other venues worldwide. Africa First, Volume I, a two-hour compilation of short films made by previous filmmakers in the program, is now available on DVD and across VOD and EST platforms.

Schamus said, “I’m continually impressed by the range of great young artists we meet through Africa First – each filmmaker has a distinctive vision and voice, and I look forward to learning from them at our summit.”

Producer Kisha Cameron-Dingle, who serves as program director of Africa First, added, “We are particularly proud of the diversity and ambition in this year’s solid group, with new storytellers coming from several countries contributing to the program for the first time.”

Previous South African filmmakers selected in the Africa First Program include: Jenna Bass for The Tunnel (2008), Jan-Hendrik Beetge for The Abyss Boys, Stephen Abbott for Dirty Laundry, Matthew Jankes for Umkhungo, and Lev David for Boy and Bear.

The submissions period ran from May 16th through August 22nd. The five filmmakers 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.