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 in attending the 21st AFDA JHB Awards ceremony. This is indeed an auspicious occasion, as 21 is recognised as coming of age and the work that we are here to acknowledge and celebrate I believe is testimony to this fact.
2015 has been a significant year for AFDA in which our alumni, students and staff have enjoyed 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. Riley Groenewald’s documentary “The Shore Break” won best full-length documentary at the International Environmental Film Festival in Paris this 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. Our alumni also won 6 of the 2015 Mnet Silwerskermfees Awards. 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 2 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.
Our lecturers, who are encouraged to remain active in the profession, have also achieved much this year. AFDA postgraduate supervisor 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. Our Head of Television, Ms Henriette de Villiers, was instrumental in assisting to launch a new TV channel for Media 24, while various other staff members were involved in the TV series “Roer jou Voete”. 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 future.
2015 has also been a year in which significant expansions have been undertaken:
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 postproduction facility. Now, I am sure you will agree with me, that South Africa presently faces 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 much needed talent is the focus of this evening’s awards ceremony. What we have witnessed in the many productions that were exhibited across multiple venues during the 2015 festival, is a clear confirmation that this much needed talent is being generated. To produce these impressive works – which include plays, television shows, animations, musical shows, documentaries, and live action films – and to exhibit these at a professional level to a critical, paying audience is a tremendous accomplishment and bears real testimony to the potential you have to meaningfully impact our industry, and in time our continent of Africa.
The arts are a vital part of society, for it is through the arts that we come to grapple with who we are as individuals and as a society. Bringing 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. And this is your challenge as young emerging artists in our society. And I must say, I felt that you were well on your way to achieving this as I watched a young man and woman negotiating the terms and value of a relationship in “Rock, Paper, Scissors”, or the heroic, yet humble heart of the lost souls of our society in the film “Courage”, or the complex issues that face the households and lives of young South-Africans in the play “TO4RM”, or the challenges of young professionals trying to negotiate successful careers, in the Television show “Harmony”. I heard this and felt it in the moving songs presented by the musical performance as they sang their hearts out on the stage, and I had the tremendous experience of hearing critics from our national broadcaster and other professionals affirming the outstanding level of the television productions that were presented this year. Well done on all these productions, and on all the other productions that I have not mentioned. You can and should all be very proud of what you 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 JHB 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 of the JHB campus, Prof. Malcolm Purkey, his Heads of School and the staff 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.