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Project Watch: South African All-Female Western-Adventure ‘Flatland’

Project Watch: South African All-Female Western-Adventure 'Flatland'

South African all-female western-adventure film, “Flatland,” directed by Jenna Bass, set in the country’s semi-desert region called the Karoo, has been selected to receive production funding from the World Cinema Fund (WCF). It will join the ranks of Oliver Hermanus’ “Shirley Adams” (South Africa) and Donald Mugisha’s “The Boda Boda Thieves” (Uganda/South Africa) as the only South African films to have received support in the fund’s history.

“Flatland” is a contemporary-set, all-female western-adventure that tells the story of a lonely policewoman longing to reunite with her fugitive boyfriend; while simultaneously tasked with a murder investigation that has a newly-married former housekeeper and a heavily-pregnant teen as prime suspects. Helped and hindered along the way by an ensemble of wayward denizens, the unlikely trio soon become embroiled in a cross-country chase as they navigate the Karoo semi-desert in freezing winter, at times on horseback, all the while in search of a new life and fresh start. This journey of self-discovery, for these three different but equally desperate women, paints a vivid and unique portrait of femininity against a harsh frontier-land and questions what it means to be a woman in contemporary South Africa and the world at large.

If Bass’ name is familiar, it’s because her short film, “The Tunnel,” was a Focus Features Africa First selection, during the program’s inaugural year.

Regarded as one of the most sought after and respected film institutions worldwide, World Cinema Fund is an initiative of the German Federal Cultural Foundation and the Berlin International Film Festival, in cooperation with the Federal Foreign Office and the Goethe-Institut. Since its establishment in October 2004, the WCF has awarded production and distribution funding to a total of 119 projects, chosen from 2,261 submissions from Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Central and Southeast Asia, and the Caucasus. 

All WCF-funded films produced to-date have screened in cinemas and/or the programs of renowned international film festivals, and are evidence of the initiative’s worldwide success. 

WCF works to develop and support cinema in regions with a weak film infrastructure, while fostering cultural diversity in German cinemas. It supports films that stand out with an unconventional aesthetic approach, that tell powerful stories and transmit an authentic image of their cultural roots.

Penned and to be directed by Jenna Bass, Flatland was first introduced to the market at the Durban FilmMart in 2012, where it scooped multiple development awards, including the Worldview New Genres Award for “most promising feature project.” Producer David Horler later went on to participate in a variety of forums throughout Europe in 2013, and at the 67th Cannes Film Festival; concluded a co-production deal between Horler’s Proper Film and Germany’s Flying Moon Film production, headed by Roshanak Behesht Nedjad and Helge Albers.

Together, Proper Film and Flying Moon commenced financing of the film in July 2014. That same month, Bass’s debut feature, romantic-mystery “Love The One You Love” walked away with awards for Best South African Film, best South African Director and Best Leading Actress at the 35th Durban International Film Festival.

“Flatland” has been developed with the support of the National Film & Video Foundation of South Africa and the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association’s Worldview Fund.

No word yet on what the film’s cast will look like. I mention that because Jenna Bass is a white South African filmmaker; however, every film she’s made thus far (a short and feature, both mentioned above), starred and told stories about black South Africans.

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