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ARTS AND CULTURE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE Mr S Tsenoli (ANC)
14 June 2005
NATIONAL FILM AND VIDEO FOUNDATION GROWTH STRATEGY: BRIEFING
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ARTS AND CULTURE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
Mr S Tsenoli (ANC)
National Film and Video Foundation Strategy Presentation
The National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) briefed the Committee on its policy for mobilising funding using the funds it received from the Department of Arts and Culture, and its growth strategy. Since its establishment in 1999, the NFVF had encountered difficulties in its relationship with the Department, particularly in June 2004 when the Department allowed R35 million of funding for feature films to lapse. The NFVF aimed at ‘accountable autonomy’ in its relationship with the Department, acknowledging that funding was allocated through the Department, but stressing its own function as a broker for the development of the film sector. The NFVF was facing a challenge to fund its programmes in 2006, as its budget was R54.6 million, yet it had only been allocated R24.6 million by the Department.
Discussion centred on the moral problem of representations of violence in films, the use of indigenous languages in South African films and the NFVF’s plan to establish a National Film School. The NFVF said that it could not begin research on the viability of a National Film School without being commissioned by the Department, which was delaying its decision on this matter. The Department was also slow to intervene in the distribution of funds by National Lottery agencies, which consistently excluded the NFVF. The Committee agreed to commission research on the distribution of money by National Lottery agencies and to take practical steps to follow up the NFVF’s problems with the Department.
National Film and Video Foundation briefing
Mr G O’ Leary, NFVF Executive Member, congratulated Parliament for allowing the NFVF to run a film festival there for the first time. This ongoing festival demonstrated the importance for South African film-makers of producing films of an international standard that told South African stories.
Mr O’ Leary introduced the NFVF policy on the government funding it received: a large amount of this money was invested in the training of young film-makers through bursary schemes and training programmes in which the progress of individuals was carefully monitored. The NFVF invested in cultural projects according to their contribution to South African heritage and similarly projected the financial return on commercial projects before giving their support to them. The NFVF was able to achieve significant ‘leverage’ on the funding it received from the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and had mobilised an additional R500 million from the IDC above the original R120 million it received over five years.
The NFVF was committed to establishing an indigenous film industry that was not dependent on providing a location for international film companies. South Africa should not follow the example of Canada, where a young film industry (established in the 1980s) was growing by providing an environment for American films. Instead, the NFVF aimed to take advantage of a global film industry, in which production and consumption were not limited by national borders, to export South African films.
Mr E Mbalo, NFVF Chief Executive Officer, introduced the NFVF’s Value Charter that was encapsulated in the moral imperative to create facilities for self-expression for ordinary South Africans. The NFVF aimed to achieve this imperative by arranging a social contract connecting the interests of the state, markets and citizens.
The NFVF was established in 1999 and in June 2002 was given R35 million for its Feature Film Fund while it was in the process of strategy formulation. On the completion of NFVF strategy, the Feature Film Fund was to have been a permanent feature on the NFVF budget in accordance with the NFVF Act. In December 2003, the NFVF used a ‘sectored approach’ in formulating a Content Industry strategy in co-operation with the Department, the Department of Communications (DOC), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and SA Revenue Services (SARS). This had subsequently been approved by the Cabinet.
However, in June 2004, the NFVF was allocated only R24 million, while the R35 million funding for feature films fell away and no action was taken on the Cabinet approval of the Content Industry strategy. In reaction to this crisis, the NFVF reaffirmed its ‘accountable autonomy’ as a government organ in relation to the Department: while funds were allocated through the Department, the NFVF was a broker for the development of the film sector. The NFVF recommended that the Department allocate it resources that were ‘commensurate with its mandate’, especially during the ‘rapid growth phase’. The Department and NFVF should also enter into a service level agreement bracing the two bodies for rapid growth.
As the current funding allocation to the NFVF was R24.6 million and the cost of NFVF programmes in 2006 was R54.6 million, the NFVF would be unable to fund as many projects as it had done in the previous two years and would be unable to increase its staff capacity. Furthermore, NFVF administration costs exceeded the maximum of 25% and it was incapable of fulfilling its statutory obligation to comply with the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).
Ms S Motubatse-Hounkpatin (ANC) observed that, as ‘art reflects society’, the NFVF was playing an important role in representing South African society since many films broadcast by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) bore the emblem of the NFVF. She was concerned that films were portraying violence more and more explicitly even though South Africa had embarked on a moral regeneration programme and many viewers were attempting to prevent their children from being exposed to violent images. She also enquired whether the language used in South African films was ‘authentic’ and whether the NFVF was benefiting financially from the cultural agreements signed by South Africa with other countries. She also requested a copy of the NFVF’s draft Value Charter.
Mr B Zulu (ANC) reiterated Ms Motubatse-Hounkpatin’s concern with violence, saying that violent scenes in films influenced child viewers, causing them to buy toy guns and copy the action. He asked how many film schools there were in South Africa.
Ms J Motsepe, NFVF Senior Marketing Manager, commented that a film called Born into the Struggle was banned the previous day at the NFVF film festival in Parliament when MPs objected to the obscene language in certain scenes.
Mr Mbalo responded that the NFVF was concerned about interventions such as the one the previous day in Parliament. Although Members’ concerns about the representation of violence were legitimate, there were laws, such as the Broadcast Act, and bodies, such as the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), that regulated sensitive content in films. The NFVF (along with the Minister and the Department) refrained from interfering in the creative processes of filmmakers and it believed that all the films it had funded (without pre-conditions relating to content) were acceptable to the majority of audiences.
The NFVF funded films according to their quality, which was assessed by professionals in the film industry, and had supported four films about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The NFVF would encourage filmmakers to work with scripts about the struggle against apartheid and the TRC, even if this involved the representation of violence, as these topics reflected the ‘reality of South African history’.
Ms Motsepe added that a distinction should be drawn between the SABC and the NFVF: while the SABC was responsible for the content on national television, the content and standard of NFVF films was, to a certain extent, dictated by its funding criteria. The NFVF sought involvement with four strands of cultural content: stories of liberation; South African heroes; representations of a ‘slice’ of South African life and adaptations of literary works. The NFVF was not associated with much popular television content of a violent nature.
Mr Mbalo continued that the NFVF were active in investigating the terms of cultural agreements made by South Africa with other countries. For example, it had been the only institution to activate the agreement made with India and planned to use the agreements with France and Germany to send black filmmakers to international film festivals. The NFVF was distressed that it had not been invited to be part of the Department’s international delegations to France and Italy.
The NFVF were frustrated that the Department did not initiate the allocation of funds to it, but treated it ‘like other applicants’. The NFVF was unable to access funds from the National Lottery even though the National Lottery agencies were distributing money to Department activities. The Act governing the National Lottery distribution agencies stated that the Minister of Trade and Industry, in consultation with the Minister of Arts and Culture, could determine the allocation of money. However, funds were still given to the established institutions (like the Baxter Theatre), and had not filtered down to disadvantaged communities.
Dr C Mulder (FFP) suggested that, as the film industry in South Africa was in its ‘founding phase’, it was important to host international film companies and engage in co-production with them. He queried whether there were incentives for foreign companies to make films in South Africa.
Mr Mbalo replied that there were tax incentives for international film companies to use South Africa as a location and the DTI had recently put in place a new incentive scheme. The NFVF had, for the past three years, invited its international counterparts to produce films in South Africa, but was now shifting its focus from this service-based industry to the practice of co-production. While the NFVF encouraged the hosting of foreign production companies, it recognised the need to develop an indigenous industry that did not depend on fluctuating investment in Africa.
Mr Mbalo noted that there were a number of film schools in South Africa, mostly in the Western Cape, and universities such as the University of Cape Town (UCT) ran film and media programmes. The NFVF were presently waiting for funds to proceed with research on the viability of a National Film School. The NFVF had proposed that the Department develop its own research capacity, so that the state owned the information, rather than working with consultants who would themselves take possession of research data. The plan for a National Film School should balance the need for training with the development of the production sector so that young trainees could eventually find employment. Mr Mbalo added that the NFVF Value Charter had been distributed to all Members.
Dr Mulder asked whether the NFVF chose the directors they sent to national festivals according to racial criteria and whether the NFVF bursaries were available to students from all communities.
Mr Mbalo answered that, as a matter of principle, NFVF facilities were available to all South Africans. Nevertheless, the NFVF Act stipulated that the NFVF should create opportunities for those from previously disadvantaged communities. The NFVF were encouraging black producers to attend film festivals as there were still more white than black producers presenting their films at festivals.
Ms Motubatse-Hounkpatin and Mr C Gololo (ANC) both commended the NFVF on improving the South African film industry. Mr Gololo suggested that NFVF films replace American films on national television as American films were not relevant to South African society. He said that the NFVF should resolve their ‘problematic’ relationship with the Department by becoming financially independent, and asked what prohibited the NFVF from complying with the PFMA.
The Chairperson commented that the NFVF’s presentation confirmed the Department Director-General’s report on the inadequacy of the NFVF’s budget and suggested that dialogue between the NFVF and the Department should be renewed. The Department’s decision on implementing research on the viability of a National Film School was being delayed by administrative processes in the Department of Education and the DTI. This research should ascertain whether there was a need for a National Film School in addition to smaller training institutions.
The Committee would commission research on the distribution of money by National Lottery agencies in order to reach an objective assessment of the impact of these funds on Arts and Culture activities. The Chairperson noted that the film Yesterday made use of an indigenous language and asked what the NFVF policy was with regard to the use of indigenous languages. He urged the NFVF to state explicitly their position on the moral problems arising out of the portrayal of sensitive content in films, as the moral regeneration movement would be anticipating a statement on this matter.
Mr Mbalo responded that the NFVF had supported ‘Yesterday’ precisely for the reason that it used an indigenous language and the NFVF had developed a language policy that guided its funding. The NFVF could not establish a research committee until it was commissioned to do so by the Department. The Department’s administrative difficulties were a ‘flimsy excuse’ for the delay. Mr Mbalo insisted that a National Film School was ‘essential’, as course fees charged by private institutions were too expensive for many black students. He felt that the Department’s work was being replicated by other institutions with which the Department seemed to be in competition. The NFVF’s relationship with the Department should be a simple one, whereby the Department developed policies that were then implemented by the NFVF; yet it was difficult to form a working relationship with the Department.
The Chairperson said that the Committee would follow up the NFVF’s problems with the Department ‘in practical ways’.
The meeting was adjourned.
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