AFDA Durban 2015 Awards Ceremony Speech by Bata Passchier, CEO of AFDA

December 8, 2015 4:17 pm

Bata Passchier, Vice-President of the Council, and CEO of the AFDA Board of Education

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, parents, staff and students. It gives me great pleasure to be with you all at this time and to attend the first AFDA Durban awards ceremony. I’ve been looking forward to this night with great anticipation and to celebrate the work that this campus has produced. 2015 has been a significant year for AFDA, which has seen both our alumni and students enjoy significant successes. Notably, our Masters student Ernest Nkosi’s film “Thina Sobabili” was selected as South Africa’s Golden Globe and Oscar nominee for best foreign film. Laszlo Bene’s Master’s film, Assignment, has been selected as part of South Africa’s presentation at Cannes next year. On the local scene, AFDA alumni walked away with 11 Golden Horn awards at the SAFTAS this year. These included categories in Film and TV, such as Best Script, Best Editing, Cinematography, Production Design, Directing, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Acting in a Supporting Role. CTN alumni Gugulethu Zuma Ncube produced the highest viewed television show, “Uzalo” overtaking “Generations” which enjoyed that position for a number of years. AFDA 4th year students from JHB and CTN campuses put on two successful theatre productions at Grahamstown, while our students yet again won best student film at the SAFTAS, making that the 7th time out of 8 times that this award has been won. Riley Groenewald’s documentary the “Shore Break” won the best full length documentary at the international environmental film festival in Paris earlier this year. AFDA lecturer Greg Homann directed “A voice I Cannot Silence”, a play based on the life of Alan Paton at Grahamstown, and our JHB Dean Malcolm Purkey directed the play “The Imagined Land” written by Craig Higginson which has been staged in Grahamstown and will be staged at various other venues across South Africa. The list goes on and on, with numerous other achievements in Film, Television, Theatre and Music.

2015 also marks the establishment of 2 new AFDA campuses – one in PE and our first continental campus in Botswana. As you may be aware, AFDA stands for Africa, Film, Drama, Arts, and in order to fulfil this vision, we are in discussion with a number of other African countries namely, Zambia, Mauritius, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Ghana and Zimbabwe to establish AFDA schools in their territories. Accomplishing this will allow us to create economies of scale for the creative industries through building a network of educated and empowered AFDA graduates, who in time to come would work together across the African continent to help build a vibrant and productive entertainment industry for our shared future.

2015 has also been a year in which AFDA has undertaken significant expansions at various campuses:
• A R14m new administration and classroom block, incorporating the new school of Business Innovation and Technology for the creative industries is presently under construction at our JHB campus. This new facility will accommodate our new Bcom and BSc and programmes. We also completed a R1m upgrade to our 5.1 sound suite.
• A further R8m expansion was undertaken at our DBN campus, which now sports a new studio complex – the largest in KZN- and also incorporates a new post production and canteen facility.
• A significant expansion is planned for our CTN campus for 2016 which will include administration offices, studios, classrooms and a new post production facility.

Now, as a country I am sure you will agree with me that we face formidable challenges, foremost of which is to get our economy going and to become a productive and innovative society. As you can see from the above undertakings, AFDA has every intention of playing a major role in providing the educated and talented graduates who will meet this challenge and grow South Africa’s creative industries. The challenge of creating this vital talent is the focus of this evening’s awards ceremony. I believe that what have witnessed in the many productions that were exhibited across multiple venues during the 2015 festival, is clear confirmation that this much needed talent is being generated. To produce 15 works – which include plays, television shows, animations, and 10 live action films – and to exhibit these at a professional level to a critical, paying audience is a tremendous accomplishment for Durban and bears real testimony to the potential you have to meaningfully impact our industry.

The arts are a vital part of society, for it is through the arts that we come to grapple with who we are and what we are about. Bringing such artistic work to the stage and screen allows a society and a country to see itself, to reflect and to move forward and build a positive self-image and vision of, not only who we are as a people, but more importantly who we can become as a nation. This I felt was achieved as I watched the struggles of a young woman racked with sibling guilt in “Finding Infinity”, the bizarre nature of South Africa’s sometimes traumatized psyche in “Death of Innocent”, the mystery of youth and cultural misfits trying to belong in “Running with Angels”. I saw the frustration & anger of a young man trying to get affirmation from his father, and failing to affirm his own fatherhood to his unborn child in “White Knuckle”; and I had the enjoyment of watching “Homeless” in a packed JHB cinema where the audience cried and were blown away by the sensitivity of the storytelling. Well done on these productions, an all the many others that I have not mentioned. You can and should all be very proud of what you have achieved.

As you all know, tonight is also your last exam, your last hurdle, the recognition and celebration of the best work of the festival. Tonight, there will be winners, and those who did not win this time around. Tonight, we learn to recognise and applaud each other’s accomplishments. We learn to talk ourselves and each other up – and not down – to schmooze and smile even though you may be hurting inside. You have chosen a profession that is under constant critical scrutiny and rightly so, because when you make a play, or a TV show, or a film, you take the responsibility of putting your hand into the heart and mind of your society. To do this, you must have substance, heart, truth, and tons of guts, and I’m sure you will agree with me that this AFDA DBN class of 2015 has this and more.

Remember, tonight does not mark the end of your journey as Film, TV and Performance practitioners, but the beginning of an exhilarating, challenging, and hopefully a successful career in the creative industry. To that end, I wish you all the very best. Lastly, I would like to congratulate the Dean and staff of AFDA DBN for their exceptional dedication and hard work, the results of which is clearly evident in the standards of the productions that we are here to acknowledge and celebrate this evening. Thank you very much.


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