Unbanned film leads Saftas pack

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to report1 . RECOGNISED: Petronella Tshuma and Mothusi Magano were nominated in the Best Actor and Best Actress categories for their lead roles in Of Good Report.

A few weeks ago the most hilarious e-mails were doing the rounds online. The members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences were filling in their nomination ballots and some of them were brutally honest.

On the ballots several filled in that they had not seen the films listed in the categories and would therefore abstain from voting.

Or there were those who said things along the lines of “I only saw this one film in this category, so I will vote for this film”.

Considering that 24 films were submitted for consideration for this year’s Saftas (South African Film and Television Awards), our judging panel can’t get away with that kind of behaviour just yet.

Or at least we hope not, because it’s not as if our film industry is so big that we are churning out the films, or can afford for people not to watch the material.

Unlike the academy, we don’t have droves of people voting, but a small judging panel per category. So, six people in the directing category, or seven in the performance categories.

This isn’t an award based on critical acclaim or judged by professional critics either, like the Golden Globes. What the judges’ criteria are for voting is up for debate, but it is not the box office, or the twittersphere, because then Leon Schuster or an Afrikaans rom-com would be leading the pack.

Instead, of the 24 films considered, 13 made it on to the nomination lists, with Of Good Report dominating with 12 nominations (out of 14 possible categories). This after the Film Publication Board initially refused to classify it, causing a storm in a teacup that managed to get noticed by overseas media.

Of Good Report’s director, Jahmil Qubeka, is having a good start to this year though, with all the Safta nominations, a Standard Bank Young Artist Award for film which means he should be hanging around Grahamstown in the middle of the year, then heading for Hollywood to make his US debut on the romantic comedy, Heaven Hath No Fury.

Kudos to Qubeka, but will the Safta nominations make a difference to the viewing public? Of Good Report’s dominant position across the Safta categories suggests the media attention did it some good with the judges, because it was in the front of their minds.

Then again, the last time a film dominated the awards in this way was The World Unseen, which opened on the local circuit the weekend after it won 11 Saftas.

That did not make much of a difference to its box office or how many people know about it even now, seven years later, but in the time leading up to the Safta nominations that year, that film did get some good press.

It takes years for awards ceremonies to gain traction to the point where they will sway a viewer’s choice. And, of course, our system works the other way around. Nominations are usually only made long after the movies hit the circuit.

Two of this year’s nominations haven’t even hit our circuit. The criteria is for films which can be submitted to not just cover local broadcast, but “public exhibition globally” so if you know that, and enter, you could stand a chance.

Of course, you could miss the submission deadline, which seems to be what happened to Four Corners, the film which the NFVF pushed forward as the South African submission to the Oscar’s Foreign Film Category.

For the most part, though, the film nominations do not reflect a trend or theme suggestive of how our film industry is developing, but they do seem to suggest that media attention and publicity around a film release make a difference to the judging process.

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