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Focus Sets 2nd Africa First Program

Focus Sets 2nd Africa First Program

Following the success of last year’s inaugural program, Focus Features will begin accepting entries today for a second year of its Africa First Program. The initiative, with funds earmarked specifically 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. Complete details on Africa First – including application information – can be accessed here.

Last Fall, Africa First awarded $10,000 apiece to five winning filmmakers; Mr. Edouard Bamporiki (from Rwanda), Ms. Jenna Bass (from South Africa), Mr. Jan-Hendrik Beetge (also from South Africa), Ms. Dyana Gaye (from Senegal), and Ms. Wanuri Kahiu (from Kenya). Their short films are, respectively, “Long Coat,” a drama about a young Hutu coming to terms with Rwanda’s and his own family’s past; “The Tunnel,” a 1980s-set story centering around a 10-year-old girl’s quest; “The Abyss Boys,” a thriller about an illegal trade in a small fishing town; the public transportation musical “N’Dar” [Saint Louis Blues]; and “Pumzi” [Breath], a futuristic sci-fi tale.

Africa First is supervised by producer Kisha Imani Cameron (“…Sometimes in April”), whose Completion Films company has a first-look and consulting deal with Focus, and who coordinates Africa First submissions and evaluations with Focus director of production Matthew Plouffe. In addition to on-site work in Africa, the winning filmmakers of Africa First also participate in a New York City weekend of one-on-one workshop discussions with members of the program’s international advisory board of experts in African cinema and such Focus executives as James Schamus and president of production John Lyons, covering such topics as international distribution and the economics of studio financing; and with Ms. Cameron and Mr. Plouffe.

Five filmmakers will be awarded $10,000 apiece. The submission period begins today, Monday, June 1st, 2009 and runs through Saturday, August 1st, 2009. The five filmmakers selected will retain the copyrights and the distribution rights to their completed shorts, with the exception of North American rights; Focus will retain those, as well as the right of first negotiation to productions derived from the shorts, such as a feature-length expansion. The announcement of the selections will be made on or about October 1st, 2009.

“Last year’s Africa First experience was a gift to all of us at Focus – a journey of discovery that led us to great new talents in cinema,” Schamus said in a statement. “This year’s Africa First initiative will once again do just that.”

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