Dis Ek, Anna

Theresa Smith

Back in 2008, when the Saftas were in their third year, only three film companies put forward their work for nomination. That year one particular film – The World Unseen – which had not even played in South Africa at the time, cleaned up and, oh boy, did people complain.

But, as the National Film and Video Foundation pointed out, only films which are submitted are considered and that was that.

Fast-forward to 2016 and 21 film companies put their productions forward for consideration and nine features plus six made-for-tv films made the cut. Considering 24 South African films released on the local circuit last year, that is a positive reflection on the growth in our local film industry in less than a decade.

In one way, the Saftas even emulate the Academy Awards in that the top money-spinners at the local box office are not necessarily the ones that dominate award nominations. While Afrikaans rom-coms continue to top the box office, it is the more arty, well-considered and original dramas that dominate the Saftas.

Sara Blecher’s darkly disturbing Dis Ek, Anna leads the pack with seven nominations, closely beating her other strong drama of the year, Ayanda. Both films compete in the Best Film category, though Blecher has only been nominated as Best Director for Dis Ek, Anna.

This year categories only contain up to three nominations, and the other feature in the Best Film category, For Love and Broken Bones, won’t be quite as familiar as the headline-grabbing other two films.

Directed and co-written by Tebogo Malope for The Bomb Shelter, the production company behind tv hits such as Yizo Yizo, For Love and Broken Bones was originally commissioned by Mzansi Magic on their made-for-tv slate. It has been playing at film festivals like the Portland Film Festival (where it won Best Film) and the New York City Independent Film Festival so the rule of “public exhibition globally”, not just whether it comes out on local circuit, still applies.

Film-makers decide for themselves which categories to submit the films for consideration under and For Love and Broken Bones – the story of a hardened debt collector who falls for the wedding planner who is his next mark – has been nominated in six, mostly on the technical side, with one Best Actor nomination for Mduduzi Mabaso.

Film festival Out In Africa’s first foray into film production hints strongly and boldly at a new career for many now that the festival itself is defunct. While You Weren’t Looking has also been nominated in six categories – half for the actors, half on the technical side.

One film which was critically panned, Kite, is lauded here with four technical nods (hair and make-up, production design costume design and cinematography). Kite’s inclusion at the Saftas speaks to a local trend which will have to be accommodated in the awards process – films shot here for overseas production companies – in greater numbers in years to come.

As the industry grows and the Safta nomination history gets deeper, the trick will be to change public perception about the Golden Horns – just how do you teach people to believe that a nomination means something is good so that the film-makers behind the intense Thina Sobabili (four nods), the beautifully dystopian Necktie Youth (two nods) or Treurgrond (two) can leverage the nominations into not only the clout to make another movie, but also sales for the product in question?