Irish South African Film Treaty Signed at SA Pavilion in Cannes

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Just got back from witnessing the historic treaty signed between our South African Minister of Arts and Culture, Paul Mashatile, and Ireland’s Minister of Arts and Heritage, Jimmy Deenihan.

South Africa Ireland Treat Signing
Treaty Signing between South Africa and Ireland: James Hickey (CEO Irish Fim Board), Jimmy Deenihan (Minister Arts & Culture), Zama Mkosi (CEO NFVF), Paul Mashatile (Minister Arts & Culture SA), Mmabatho Ramagoshi (Chairperson NFVF) and Sibusiso Xaba (Director General Arts & Culture SA). Credit: Anthoni Panayis

This Treaty, which will facilitate fund-raising for film projects in the two countries, has been in the pipeline for over nine years but due to the Arts Minister changing so many times in the last ten years it’s been difficult to move this forward. (See Rory Allen’s facebook comment about how glad he is to see this co-production status has finally been achieved.)

Irish gift to South African minister
A beautiful cross made out of Peet was presented to SA’s Minister Mashatile by Minister Jimmy Deenihan

So there was therefore  a lot of excitement down at the South African pavilion today, amongst the South African and Irish film-makers gathered there, that this treaty has finally been signed.

Mr Deenihan announced that he feels a very close link to South Africa and actually has family who still live in Port Elizabeth. He also noted that the country has been producing great wines and that our South African wines are breaking records internationally because they’re really good. He also mentioned that South Africans like beer and the Irish like Guiness.

Minister Mashatile said that he feels this agreement will bring more jobs to people in South Africa and in Ireland; and he encouraged everyone to push forward and really make this work. He pledged that the two Ministers would do their utmost to provide the support for this treaty to work successfully.

Both Ministers expressed a conviction  that films are the best medium, as they allow for story-telling and each country can tell its story and hopefully cross over internationally so that more South African actors, as well as SA movies, are seen around the world.

Minister Jimmy Deenihan also mentioned that Irish movies account for nearly 25% of tourism, so movies have a big role to play in both countries’ economies.

After the signing the Ministers exchanged gifts – Minister Mashatile presented Minister Deenihan with a beautiful embroidered ostrich egg, some classic South African movies to watch in his spare time and a bongo drum.

Minister Deenihan actually gave the drum a bit of a go (but we reckon he needs a bit of Guiness to loosen up first!).

Irish minister Jimmy Deenihan plays the Bongo drums!
Irish minister Jimmy Deenihan plays the Bongo drums! Credit: Anthoni Panayis

He in turn presented Minister Mashatile with a cross made out of peet which was set in a beautiful box with a glass cover. Peet is very important to Ireland and is a symbol of the land. He also presented some books on Ireland’s history and culture.

When I spoke to him afterwards, he said he was upset as he had wanted to give the SA Minister a special book on rugby which had Nelson Mandela and former President De Klerk featured, and which had been autographed by both of them, but he had unfortunately just presented it at another function.

I also spoke with Minister Mashatile afterwards who is very excited about the prospects of this treaty.

I had met South African actor David Kau just before the signing, and he had shown me a trailer of his new movie ‘Blitz’ (which is very funny!). When I mentioned this to the Minister, he was extremely pleased as he could remember David seeking funding two years ago, and how Arts and Culture had helped him get this project off the ground.

South African actor and producer David Kau
David Kau actor also at the treaty signing. Credit: Anthoni Panayis

So, as he said, the money is going to the right people and it’s very exciting to see that the government is taking South African film-making seriously…so we’ll hopefully see even more great productions come out of South Africa in the near future.

The Minister confirmed that he has been pushing the government on this issue and that they are finally starting to understand how important Arts and Culture is to South Africa.

He also said he doesn’t ever want to come to the Cannes Film Festival again and not see any South African films being presented, as was the case this year. Last year ‘Skoonheid’ stood out in the Un Certain Regard competition, and the previous year ‘Life, Above All’ received a standing ovation.

There are over 100 movie producers and directors from South Africa here this year,  which the Minister hopes are all getting funding and signing the deals needed to bring their movies to Cannes next year!