Tsotsi puts SA film in spotlight

8 March 2006

Tsotsi, the first South African-made film to win an Oscar, has put the country’s movie industry firmly in the spotlight.

Arts and Culture Minster Pallo Jordan said after the award that it proved that South African film “not only has the potential to stand tall and compete as equals with our international counterparts, but is also of world class.”

International debut

Tsotsi’s success at this year’s Oscars was anticipated by Yesterday, South Africa’s entry for the best foreign language film at last year’s Oscars.

“The fact that a South African film has been nominated for an Oscar for the second consecutive year speaks volumes for the level of talent that exists in the country,” the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) said in a statement.

“All that was needed was for the talent to be exposed.”

The NFVF, funders of Tsotsi to the tune of R1-million, assisted the producers to take the film to the Toronto Film Festival, where it made its international debut.

Tsotsi walked off with the People’s Choice award at that festival, the first of many awards it has since won.

The NVFV’s contribution was a part of R35-million earmarked for movie production funding over a three-year period by the Department of Arts and Culture. Twenty-six feature-length films have so far benefited from this programme.

‘Film making country’

The NFVF and the department have maintained a South African presence at the Cannes Film Festival for the past several years, an approach they believe is paying dividends in the increased visibility of South African productions.

“The strategy has always been to increase the volume of films, market South Africa as a film making country, and position South Africa as a partner for co-productions,” says NFVF CEO Eddie Mbalo.

“After this win, the challenge will be to ensure a continuous supply of films if we are to be guaranteed audience loyalty.”

Investor returns

Tsotsi was entirely locally made by a South African cast and crew. James Whitehouse, chairman of production company Sasani, told The Star that this augurs well for the industry.

He said that Tsotsi’s success would encourage government and investor confidence in the industry.

“Up to now they’ve been getting bad returns from the film industry,” Whitehouse says. “This will ensure that Tsotsi will get good returns. This will encourage investment.”

Domestic box office

At the same time as South Africa’s films are enjoying critical acclaim overseas, locally made films are scoring increasingly success at the domestic box office.

Tsotsi earned more than R500 000 in its South African opening weekend, three times more than the critically acclaimed Hotel Rwanda, and more than twice as much as Yesterday.

On circuit for four weeks before the Oscar announcement, the film has already earned more than R3.2-million in South Africa.

Leon Schuster’s blockbusters are the only South African movies that have earned more locally.

Ster Kinekor marketing manager Helen Kuun told Business Day that the film, in its fourth week of release, grossed 19% more than the week before.

“That kind of thing just doesn’t happen,” Kuun said.

Locals are being presented with more South African choices at the cinema, with more local films having been released in the past 12 months than ever before.

These releases have ranged from critics’ favourites such as Tsotsi to Ronnie Apteker’s Crazy Monkey and the Leon Schuster’s Mama Jack, the highest-grossing South African film ever.

SAinfo reporter

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