NFVF CEO Zama Mkosi

The South African Film and Television Awards ceremony celebrates its 10th milestone this year. Zama Mkosi, CEO of the National Film and Video Foundation, reflects on the journey, writes Debashine Thangevelo

UNLIKE Hollywood, which has the Golden Globes, the Emmys, the Oscars and so on, South Africa has only one major award ceremony that pays homage to our TV and film industry.

And, next month, the South African Film and Television Awards (Saftas) celebrates its 10-year run.

Mind you, it hasn’t been a smooth one. The Saftas have been besieged by controversy, largely stemming from their lack of representation of the industry as a whole, which led to it mockingly being tagged “the SABC Awards”.

As with any fledgling initiative, teething problems are par for the course.

And the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), who are the custodians of the Saftas, have been working tirelessly to ensure the initial problem didn’t continue to plague the awards ceremony.

Zama Mkosi, the CEO of the NFVF, says, “I would say, it really has been a journey of mixed emotions and yet great success, overall. There are bound to be lots of emotions involved. Also, awards become a reflection of the state of the industry. Over the years, the Saftas have become a mirror of where we are as we pause to celebrate the industry. At the same time, it perhaps highlights the areas where we need to roll up our sleeves and combine our efforts.

“When we first started, there were approximately 50 entries. These days, we are sitting with over 400 submissions. So we have come a long way. At the end of the day, it is the industry awards. We want the industry to take ownership and pride in it. That, for us, is a sign that the Golden Horn is becoming something to envy, and something to aspire to.”

As the years have gone by, the process – helped by the increased level of participation from the industry – has become more refined.

Mkosi points out: “We have a committee that is made up of all the broadcasters and people from the industry to show that the awards ceremony is for everyone and for the industry as a whole. This has been in place for the past three years or so.”

And in acknowledging the achievements of those in front and behind the camera, the ceremony also looks to inspire young talent.

For this year, a large part of the focus is on “throwing it forward”.

She explains: “As much as we do a lot of reflection, we are going to be imagining the future. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Women’s March. And, aside from celebrating future film-makers, we are going to focus on celebrating women. We have also chosen our co-hosts – Katlego Maboe and Minnie Dlamini – for this year. Katlego won Best TV Presenter in a public vote last year so we decided to trust them.”

And, for the first time, the Saftas red carpet arrivals will be documented live for SABC2.

Mkosi hints: “This is someone who made a comeback last year who will be hosting it. We also have a film buff and an amazing entertaining lined-up. E! will also be covering the red carpet, which will air the following day. Bonang (Matheba) will be rocking that.”

This annual event isn’t without challenges, more so with its aim to be as reflective of the industry as possible. That’s also where the judging chairperson/s play a fundamental role.

The NFVF CEO reveals: “We have done a lot of work in making sure there is transparency of the guidelines and so on. We still feel there is a lot more that can be done in terms of the diversity of talent, language and geographical spread. For the first time this year, we used an online system so there is a paper trail the auditors can access. But the mere inclusion of that may exclude part of the country. There is always a double-edged sword to take every sector along with you when you are growing.

“We have seen that a few people are not pleased. And we have gone to great lengths to explain the process of how it all works and to give people the confidence to say: ‘You may not like what you see today, but it is a huge improvement from where it was 10 years ago.’”

Looking at the 2016 Safta nominations, there is no denying the award ceremony’s transformation in its decade-long reign.