kykNET’s Silverskerm Film Festival plays an integral role in elevating the film and television industry

The cast of ’Gaia’ on the blue carpet. Picture: Supplied

The cast of ’Gaia’ on the blue carpet. Picture: Supplied

Published Apr 14, 2022


There are many annual film festivals in Mzansi.

We have the Durban International Film Festival, Cape Town International Film Market and Festival, Joburg Film Festival, The South African Independent Film Festival and The Encounters South African International Documentary Festival.

Of course, all of them are great.

But, by far, the most underrated one is kykNET’s Silwerskerm Film Festival.

And that’s the irony for me, as it is one of the few festivals which not only gives local talent a platform to shine and a voice, but is hands-on in actively growing individuals and, in so doing, the industry at large.

I’ve been fortunate to attend this festival twice.

On both occasions, I found myself blown away by the calibre of talent, the production values and the subject matter in the feature films, short films and documentaries.

This year’s panel discussions were insightful, inspiring and socially relevant.

The Bay Hotel, which has become the home of the festival, is always a hive of activity.

You can’t help getting caught up in the excitement nor ignore the palpable passion in the air.

Nicola van Niekerk, senior manager for Scripted Content at M-Net and kykNET channels, unpacked the integral role the festival plays in elevating the country’s film and television industry.

“The festival was conceptualised around the need to develop new voices and talent in the Afrikaans film and television industry.

The short film mentorship competition gives us the opportunity to meet and see the work of new writers, directors and talent,” she said.

“With this competition as the backbone of Silwerskerm, the festival was built to showcase Afrikaans feature films and documentaries and grow the content industry that is part of our bigger kykNET television eco-system.

“It was impossible to gauge the impact that the festival, now in its tenth year, would have and predict the international success we have been able to celebrate. For this, we are very grateful.”

Nicola van Niekerk, senior manager for Scripted Content at M-Net and kykNET channels, unpacked the importance of kykNET’s Silwerskerm Film Festival. Picture: Supplied

On how it has grown in the past 10 years, Van Niekerk said: “It was a humble start. The first festival was held in Prince Albert in the Karoo, with only one feature film on the slate.

“From the outset, it was clear that there was a need for content creation growth, and the idea was met by much enthusiasm from the industry.

“It was during the first festival that Jan du Plessis and Karen Meiring cemented the festival format, which has played out in Camps Bay ever since.

“This year's festival programme included 57 films with nine feature films in competition and 21 short films by new voices in the industry produced under the guidance of Idea Candy on behalf of kykNET and the Silwerskerm Festival.

“The festival has definitely matured, with a strong focus on representation and stories that speak to the broader Afrikaans community that kykNET serves.

Gail Nkoane Mabalane was in attendance at the festival for the premiere of Indemnity. Picture: Supplied

“Due to the international success generated by some Silwerskerm films over the years, our film-makers are also able to pursue opportunities outside South Africa, which was not possible a decade ago.

“Over the last 10 years, there has also been a shift in how our viewers can access the content. Viewers have been able to enjoy the short films on Showmax, and DStv BoxOffice has become an invaluable partner for films, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, when cinemas were closed.

“Both these platforms have become critical to the distribution of content in a post-Covid world.”

In reflecting on how life-changing the festival has been for so many, Van Niekerk homed in on a few success stories like that of Christiaan Olwagen.

He had a flourishing career in theatre when he made the move to film-making with his short film, Toevlug, in 2013. Since then, he has gone on to direct three feature films, one of which, “Kanarie”, won 13 international awards.

Interestingly, he co-directed M-Net’s “Recipes for Love and Murder”.

She added: “René and Corné van Rooyen started with the short film ’Nantes’ in 2012 and have comfortably moved into the television drama genre with the runaway success ’Alles Malan’.

“We are very excited about their next film project, which we will announce in due course.

“Gambit Films produced the short film ’Nommer 37’ in 2014, and it was later developed into a feature film that secured a US distribution deal in 2018.

“Director Nosipho Dumisa has since directed ’Blood and Water’.

“The team was also responsible for this year’s action movie ’Indemnity’, which has been well received internationally and had its local premiere at the festival. Gambit Films have also branched into television and are co-producers on kykNET's popular soap, ”Suidooster“.

The festival has proven to be a great vehicle for networking and encouraging collaborations.

The cast of “Down So Long” had a blast at the premiere. Picture: Supplied

Van Niekerk agreed: “Amy Jeptha and Ephraim Gordon from Paper Jet Films entered the industry by winning the prize for Best Script and Best Short Film for Soldaat in 2017. Amy wrote and directed South Africa’s Oscar entry for 2022, Barakat.

“At the festival, Amy and Ephraim met the team from Nouvanaand Films (’Wonderlus’, ’Hotel’, ’Meisies wat Fluit’, ’Mense Mense’) and created a new entity called Nagvlug Films.

This new company has created the series Skemerdans, Nêrens Noord-Kaap and Dinge van 'n Kind, which premieres on kykNET on May 10.

“In addition, some film-makers have successfully moved into the lifestyle genre, and we have seen the same results in other areas such as editing, scriptwriting and cinematography.”

There is currently a lot of hype around “Gaia”, an ecological horror thriller film directed and produced by Jaco Bouwer from a screenplay by Tertius Kapp, which releases on the big screen on April 22.

Van Niekerk added: “Most recently, ’Gaia’ was listed by Variety in their Top 15 Horror Films of 2021 after a successful screening at the SWSX festival in Houston.

Jorrie van der Walt also walked away with the prize for Best Cinematographer. A huge nod for local talent.”

The festival’s evolution means that content and diversity are cornerstones during the curating process.

“This year's films certainly speak to the diversity within Afrikaans. It’s very exciting to see anything from vampires and sci-fi to romantic comedies and films that address social issues.

“Submissions are based on a one-page concept description reviewed by a diverse panel and mentors in the film industry. It is also important to note that many of our films also include other South African languages and that all content is subtitled.”

The 2022 short films are currently available on the DStv app and DStv Catch Up option. Several of the feature films that premiered at the festival will be releasing on the big screen soon.

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