UNESCO and Netflix have announced the global launch of “African Folktales, Reimagined”, an anthology of six short films featuring a variety of tales as old as time from across the African continent, reimagined and retold by a new generation on-screen talent.
The AFDA alumni filmmakers selected for the anthology include AFDA Johannesburg alumna Gcobisa Yako from South Africa for her film ‘MaMlambo’ and AFDA Cape Town alumnus Mzengi Walt Mzengi from Tanzania for his film ‘Katope’.
The other filmmakers and projects include the Ugandan director of the acclaimed crime thriller, Brotherhood, Loukman Ali (Katera of the Punishment Island), Nigeria’s Korede Azeez (Halima’s Choice), Kenya’s Voline Ogutu (Anyango and the Ogre), and Mauritania’s Mohamed Echkouna (Enmity Djinn).
The six short films were launched as part of Netflix’s partnership with UNESCO to support the next generation of storytellers with resources, including a $90 000 budget and creative guidance by established filmmakers as mentors to bring their stories to life.
The emerging filmmakers were selected in 2021 following a call for submission, resulting in over 2000 applications from all over the continent.
In a press statement from UNESCO, the Assistant Director-General for Culture, Ernesto Ottone Ernesto says, “the UNESCO-Netflix partnership represents our shared commitment to the audiovisual industries of Africa, which have the potential to generate US$20 billion in revenues annually. African creativity is a force for sustainable development, and we cannot wait for the audiences around the world to feel its unstoppable energy.”
“We are excited to finally bring this anthology of short films created by the next generation of African storytellers to Netflix members worldwide,” said Tendeka Matatu, Netflix’s Director of Film in Africa.
“This initiative is a testament to our ongoing efforts to strengthen the pipeline of African storytelling and to include voices from underrepresented communities. We’re grateful to our partners at UNESCO, who walked this journey with us to provide an opportunity for the six emerging African filmmakers to create and showcase their reimagined folktales to the world in their own languages so that more people can see their lives reflected on screen.”
Each storyteller was partnered with a local production company and under the guidance of Netflix-appointed supervising producer Steven Markovich from Big World Cinema and industry mentors who provided guidance and nurtured the filmmakers on their journey to bring their stories to life.
The respective short films make their debut on Netflix, globally on the 29 March 2023.
More about AFDA alumnus Walt Mzengi
Walt Mzengi, is a filmmaker from Tanzania whose background in film started at AFDA Cape Town, where he received a three-year scholarship to major in Directing and Screenwriting.
While at AFDA, he worked on several award-winning films (Mthunzi 2019, Heavens Reaches down to Earth 2020) and directed films that have been selected to screen at festivals around the world (Gulf 2019, Timêla 2020).
After he received his degree he returned to Tanzania with the goal of mentoring aspiring local filmmakers to collaborate and produce Tanzanian films. This extends to teaching film and deconstructing conventional film structures to encourage narratives that are contemporary and authentic to the filmmakers’ identity.
Walt is a true believer in the responsibility and power of the visual media creative. He pursues the production of stories that hold the more delicate and often unspoken truths of humanity, and society. It is through his compassion and keen visual eye that Walt produces his work.
More about AFDA alumna Gcobisa Yako
Gcobisa Yako from the Eastern Cape is a writer and director. She is currently working at a production company (The Rudeboy Collective) as a creative researcher.
She has an undergraduate BA in Psychology + Philosophy and an honours degree in Directing and Writing from AFDA. She is currently flexing her filmmaking muscles in the commercial space. She is driven by the hunger for representation of marginalised communities and drawn towards stories that are created with intention, as well as help shift perceptions.
Gcobisa believes when people see things, it becomes easier for them to think them probable. In a world where watching things is accessible in many different ways, she thinks it important to invest in giving people insights that help change or advance their ideations, imaginations and realities. The goal is to help people think it possible to change the state of their environments and circumstances. To empower, educate and celebrate blackness in its multiple forms and existences.
Her biggest inspiration in telling stories has been her grandfather, who she grew up hearing many different folktales from. Because of him, she believes film to be one of the most valuable forms of archiving.