How ironic that a film the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) wasn’t interested in funding has scooped the most nominations at this year’s Saftas.

The nominations were released last week and Katinka Heynes’ Die Wonderwerker leads the pack with 10 nominations. The Afrikaans drama was partly funded by the Department of Trade and Industry, but the NFVF – the custodian of the Saftas – wasn’t interested in helping Heynes on what turned out to be a critically acclaimed and successful film many have hailed as her best yet.

The Afrikaans musical Pretville received three nominations, also despite NFVF participation, which goes to show you can’t keep a good thing down.

Two comedies are hot on the heels of Die Wonderwerker, with eight nods each. The rom-com Semi-Soet and Riaad Moosa’s Material were very well received at the box office, comparing favourably with the South African-made big budget project Safe House, despite the local films having rather limited releases.

These two films represent the more popular side of movies on the Safta nominations.

Sarah Blecher’s politically aware Otelo Burning received seven nominations, and though it wasn’t as well received at the box office, it got good press. The same goes for Zama Zama and Adventures in Zambezia, with three and two nominations respectively.

Three of the films nominated have not yet screened on general release in this country.

Darrell Roodt’s Little One was the South African submission to this year’s Oscars, though it wasn’t nominated. It will be released at the end of April, but a limited release late last year in Joburg meant it was eligible for this year’s Saftas.

Little One’s three nominations puts it on a par with Zama Zama, the movie about illegal mining.

The other films which haven’t screened locally yet are To the Power of Anne, a mockumentary about Anne Powers which garnered Elzette Winterbach a Safta nod for make-up and hair styling, and Man on Ground, with its editing nomination for Aryan Kaganof.

There is no correlation between winning Saftas and an increase in ticket sales at the box office, since the nominated films are mostly long off circuit by the time the awards ceremony rolls around.

But it is important to note, there is a creeping correlation between the state of the local film industry and the awards ceremony. The NFVF helps to create extremely scripted comedies to a specific formula which are guaranteed of Safta notice; Afrikaans filmmakers go it alone, find their own funding and produce well-received films after much drama and trauma; and there is always a dark horse or two.

Twelve film names recur across the nominations, which may not seem like a lot, but considering there were 27 feature films submitted, of which four were disqualified, that’s 50 percent of eligible films, which is ahead of the curve when compared with Hollywood and the Oscars.

But, to bring you down to earth, our film industry is still small in terms of making and releasing our own films, even if we are a sought-after destination for other countries to make their films. And, it seems we have found a glass ceiling in that we release between 20 and 30 locally made films on circuit for audience consumption and that is reflected in the Safta nominations.