Focus Features’ Annual ‘Africa First’ Program Set to Begin

Focus Features will accept entries for its Africa First Program – entering its fourth year – beginning May 16 and continuing through Aug. 22.

The uniquely-conceived initiative, with funds earmarked exclusively for emerging filmmakers of African nationality and residence, is once again offering eligible and participating filmmakers the chance to be awarded $10,000 in financing for pre-production, production, and/or post-production on their narrative short film made in continental Africa and tapping into the resources of the film industry there.

The program also brings the filmmakers together with each other and with a renowned group of advisors, major figures in the African film world, for support and mentorship. Complete details on Africa First – including application information – can be accessed year-round through

“Everyone at Focus is excited to welcome the next class of Africa First filmmakers to New York. Aside from the incredible films we get to see being hatched, it’s also simply enormous fun hosting the Africa First advisors and filmmakers each fall,” Focus CEO James Schamus said

Past short films to come out of the program have been showcased at the Sundance, Toronto and Berlin Film Festivals; and with the Museum of the Moving Image and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, among other venues worldwide. The latter will be screening a 90-minute compilation of films completed through the program on April 7 at Manhattan’s Walter Reade Theatre. A separate two-hour compilation of films completed through the program, Africa First: Volume One, will be issued on internet platforms April 26 and on DVD on May 10.

Africa First is supervised by producer Kisha Cameron-Dingle (“…Sometimes in April”), whose Completion Films company has a first-look and consulting deal with Focus, and who coordinates the program’s submissions and evaluations with Focus director of production Matthew Plouffe. In addition to on-site work in Africa, the winning filmmakers of Africa First will visit New York City in the fall of 2011 for a weekend of one-on-one workshop discussions with: each other; members of the advisory board of experts in African cinema; Focus executives such as Schamus and president of production John Lyons, covering topics like international distribution and the economics of studio financing; and Cameron-Dingle and Plouffe.

“I believe that the success of Africa First is encouraging to everyone in the world film industry, so we are proud to have the Program going strong and coming of age,” Cameron-Dingle said.

In 2008, the Africa First Program selected these filmmakers and their respective films: Mr. Edouard Bamporiki (from Rwanda) for Long Coat, Ms. Jenna Bass (from South Africa) for The Tunnel, Mr. Jan-Hendrik Beetge (from South Africa) for The Abyss Boys, Ms. Dyana Gaye (from Senegal) for N’Dar (a.k.a. St. Louis Blues), and Ms. Wanuri Kahiu (from Kenya) for Pumzi [Breath]. The winning filmmakers for 2009 were: Mr. Stephen Abbott (from South Africa) for Dirty Laundry, Mr. Matt Bishanga (from Uganda) for A Good Catholic Girl, Mr. Daouda Coulibaly (from Mali) for Tinye So, Mr. Matthew Jankes (from South Africa) for Umkhungo, and Ms. Rungano Nyoni (from Zambia) for The Adventures of Mwansa the Great. The 2010 filmmakers chosen were: Ms. Chika Anadu (from Nigeria) for The Marriage Factor; Mr. Lev David (from South Africa) for Boy and Bear; Ms. Jacqueline Kalimunda (from Rwanda) for Sky Burning Down; Ms. Ebele Okoye (from Nigeria) for The Legacy of Rubies; and Mr. Julius Onah (from Nigeria) for Nepa Don Quench.

This year, the submissions period begins May 16 and runs through Aug. 22. The five filmmakers selected will be notified in late September 2011 and will retain the copyrights and distribution rights to their completed shorts, with the exception of North American rights; Focus retains those, as well as the right of first negotiation to productions derived from the shorts, such as a feature-length expansion.

Completion is developing feature, documentary, and television projects. Its president, Cameron-Dingle, previously worked as director of development at Walden Media, and as an executive at New Line Cinema, where she oversaw the development and production of Spike Lee’s Bamboozled.

The Africa First advisory board members are: Mahen Bonetti, founder and executive director of the African Film Festival; journalist and documentary filmmaker Jihan El-Tahiri; June Givanni, who for four years programmed the Toronto International Film Festival’s Planet Africa series; Clarence Hamilton, script editor and Head of Production at NFVF; Sharifa Johka, film programmer and independent producer; Pedro Pimenta, producer and manager of training programs throughout South Africa; and Keith Shiri, founder/director of the Africa at the Pictures film festival in the U.K.

. . .

“Like” It’s Just Movies on Facebook at

Comments are closed.