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Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Durban film pioneer pays it forward.

A multi-million rand fund geared at upcoming creative talent will be used to develop and harness the skills of a “Born-Free” generation of black film-makers in the country.

This is the goal envisioned by award-winning director and producer Junaid Ahmed, whose film production company Fineline Productions was recently announced as recipients of the 2012 National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) Slate Funding.

Fineline Productions will be allocated a total of R6 million over a period of three years; R1 million each year for development of four feature projects and R1 million each year to produce one of the films out of the development slate.

Ahmed, who specialises in film and television production, will steer a programme targeted at sourcing and developing emerging black talent within the local film industry. “I believe it is essential that young aspirant filmmakers are given every opportunity to develop their craft so that South African cinema is further enriched by these new visions and new voices,” said Ahmed.

Despite the success of his documentaries and films, which have featured in several international film festivals, the Durban-born film-maker still holds the city of Durban close to heart -it is his “desire” to film two of the four feature films in the city. Ahmed’s feature film Stockholm, Zululand, a co-production with renowned Swedish producer Jan Blomgren, was also chosen as an official project during the inaugural Durban FilmMart (DFM) in 2010. The final selection of film projects for NFVF will be made at the end of March 2012 and groundwork for the funding will begin thereafter.

Acting CEO of the Durban Film Office (DFO) Toni Monty believes Ahmed’s venture encompasses similar objectives to the Durban FilmMart. “It will be exciting to observe how Junaid Ahmed will use his experience and expertise to enrich the lives of young emerging film-makers and in doing so, give back to his community through such an initiative,” said Monty.

Ahmed’s motivation for the project was based on his concern over the slow advancement of black film professionals; particularly screenplay writers, directors and producers in the film industry. An intensive-action plan was hatched by Ahmed and his team at addressing the root of the problem. This involves selecting and grooming aspirant film-makers with “natural DNA and flair for the art of visual story-telling,” said Ahmed. Another key objective is to overcome the shortage of local stories by adapting novels written by black writers aimed at the big screen.

“We have identified a pool of writers who reflect a cross section of people from across South Africa- and their literary works are not only compelling stories but will also translate brilliantly to the big screen,” said Ahmed.

Relevant societal issues coupled with fresh visual language will be sourced from a group of film-graduates from around the county in a developmental project aimed mentoring and grooming raw talent.

Fineline Productions will offer a series of training workshops and mentorships which will include both local and international professionals in areas of producing, directing and scripting , targeting the growing core of film-makers and graduates who have yet to evolve to the next level in the film-making process, said Ahmed.

“We believe that they make up a potentially potent talent pool, alive with the possibility of substantial achievement in the film industry” he said. Through his participation at Durban FilmMart, which he deems the “most important and vital film market in Africa”, Ahmed encompassed key lessons such as pitching, marketing, strategising and interacting with international role-players in the industry.

Developing Stockholm, Zululand has also broken new ground in production, which will begin later this year. Ahmed is also not ruling out the possibility of a World Premiere of the film at the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) 2013. The project was well received at the Durban FilmMart and at other film finance markets in Cannes, London, Halifax and New York and Ahmed has since engaged with film financiers, producers, sales agents, and distributors.

Toni Monty is particularly excited about this development; “It will be a full-circle experience for Junaid Ahmed; from developing his labour of love to a highly awaited premier is an attestation of a job well done.”

The Durban Film Office (DFO) is the film industry development arm of the eThekwini Municipality, mandated to position Durban as a world-class film production destination and facilitator for the development of the local film industry. The DFO drives activity and development in the sector in order to boost tourism, job creation and the development of core skills and SMME’s in the region. For more information visit