THIS year, audience members stand a chance to watch an unprecedented 16 features, 19 documentaries and 27 short films by local film-makers at the Durban International Film Festival (Diff), which starts later this week.

But, even more importantly for film-makers, the Talent Campus now incorporates Talent Presse, the FilmMart is growing and television puts in an appearance on the Suncoast.

“We’re seeing a lot of television screen stars coming to the big screen. That’s going to have an interesting spin-off,” said Peter Rorvik, the Diff director.

In addition, tv channel Canal France is co-ordinating their annual conference of Anglophone African tv broadcasters in Durban and their representatives will not only participate in Doc Circle (a special programme aimed at documentarians in need of mentoring, training and/or finance), but also take one-on-one meetings at Filmmart and award a pre-sale prize, with the winning film showing on each of the participating broadcasters’ channels.

Already almost 20 broadcasters have indicated they’ll be attending, and Monica Rorvik of the Diff says this number might change.

This is the fifth year Durban will host a Talent Campus, which is basically an incubator for young talent – this year 50 youngsters from 18 African countries.

“We’re proud to be bringing them into a network of young film-makers from around the continent and we’re starting to see the fruits of those endeavours.”

In addition to the intensive workshops, seminar and mentoring, the young film-makers taking part in Talent Campus also gain a foothold with the Berlin Film Festival. While Durban’s Talent Campus retains its own identity, linking with the Berlinale brings to Africa not only European expertise, but also access to global networks.

Then there’s the third Durban FilmMart – an intensive series of finance meetings, master classes, pitching sessions and seminars aimed at professional film-makers already working in the industry.

The FilmMart is directed at Africa with an objective of stimulating the financing of films in SA.

“It’s a process the film festival has been involved with for a long time,” explained Peter Rorvik.

The FilmMart has progressed out of workshops held at festival time for film-makers. As the skills have deepened, the need for financing became apparent.

“It was a logical progression to address the needs of film financing , which is such a problem in Africa. South Africa is much better off because of the money available through organisaions such as the NFVF and IDC. Francophone countries also have a chance to acess French money, but there are still many other coutries.

“There are sporadic productions in Africa. Some countries, like Egypt, are very stable and we look to them as an example. Their best performing films at the box office are Egyptian, they outshine the Harry Potters. The quality of production in Egypt is good and people embrace their own stories. We’d like to see a little more of that,” said Rorvik.

The new KZN Film Commission will also be launched at this year’s Diff.

“Durban is no longer the sleepy hollow of the film world,” said Peter Rorvik, only half-joking.