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January 27, 2010 11:57 AM
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3 from Focus' Africa First Initiative Screening at Sundance

A scene from Dyana Gaye's "Saint Louis Blues." Image courtesy of Focus Features.

The first three short films to come out of Focus Features' Africa First Program are screening at the Sundance Film Festival. Africa First is a program in which eligible and participating filmmakers are given 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. The program targets emerging filmmakers from the continent who are of African nationality or residence.

Africa First is supervised by producer Kisha Imani Cameron, whose Completion Films company has a first-look and consulting deal with Focus, and who coordinates the program’s submissions and evaluations with Focus director of production Matthew Plouffe. Screenings of the films in Sundance's "New African Cinema" began last week and will continue through this weekend.

Films screening in Africa First Program films with descriptions provided by Focus Features:

"The Tunnel," directed by Jenna Bass, South Africa

Jenna Bass is a graduate (2007) of AFDA film school, Cape Town. She has directed over ten short films, and seven music videos. Her work has spanned sci-fi (So Long to the City), experimental (Jellyfish), teenage coming-of-age (Already Gone) and historical magical realism (The Tunnel). She is currently developing her first feature-length projects: 5.6 Second of White Noise (a multi-narrative following a group of teenagers in the 1994 club scene ofDurban), Tok Tokkie (a supernatural thriller about ghost-welfare inspectors), and Flat Land (a surreal Karoo-set western). Jenna’s singular ambition is to make movies: to create the magic that glows in darkened theaters before blazing out into the real world.

"Pumzi" [Breath] directed by Wanuri Kahiu, Kenya

In 2008, Wanuri completed her first feature film From a Whisper, based on the real-life events surrounding the August 7 twin bombings of U.S. Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1998. The film recently won Africa Movie Academy Awards including Best Director and Best Picture; the Golden Dhow award for Best East African Picture at Zanzibar International Film Festival; and Best Film at Kalasha, Kenya Film and TV awards. Shortly thereafter, she completed a documentary about the life of Nobel peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai entitled For Our Land for M-Net’s “Great Africans” Series.

"Saint Louis Blues" directed by Dyana Gaye, Senegal

Dyana Gaye majored in Film Studies at Paris 8 – St. Denis University in 1998. In 1999, she won the Louis Lumière-Villa Medicis grant for her script A Woman for Souleymane, which she directed the following year. A finalist of the Rolex Mentor and Protege Arts Initiative in 2004, she directed a musical one-shot-sequence film, Remembering Paris, for the project Paris, la metisse in 2005. In 2006, her film Ousmane earned recognition all over the world and was nominated for a 2008 César (French Academy Award) for Best Short Film.

Additional details about the program is available here.

[For information on screening times, click here.]

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