An initiative to promote the short-film and encourage African filmmakers, iMPAC (Initiative for Motion Pictures within the African Continent) was launched at the end of last month by Pretoria-based The Open Window Department of Video.

Intended as an annual short-film festival that explores the potential synergy between sight and sound in the moving image through exploratory filmmaking, the festival was themed Exploring the Moving Image and hosted at UNISA, where approximately 60 short films that explored the possibilities of the audio-visual medium were screened.

"There is no festival in South Africa at present dedicated solely to the short-film and its innovative expression across several disciplines, from entertainment to animation to fine art," says Janette Engelbrecht, Open Window Marketing and Public Relations Executive.

She adds that iMPAC fills this gap and while this year's screenings featured films made by The Open Window students, future plans are to include films from students and amateur filmmakers within South Africa and eventually other African countries student films.

"We are working towards this in stages. Next year, iMPAC is going to open to all South African film students and the year after to all African students."

The festival is premised on a healthy industry made up of a prevalent mainstream that embraces the traditional arm of that industry on the one side, and the exploratory end of the same industry, on the other side. "The experimental arm of the South African film industry has been long neglected," comments Engelbrecht.

The goal of the festival, the brainchild of Pluto Panoussis, Head of The Open Window, is to encourage a healthy interest in exploring image and sound amongst African filmmakers on a common ground that is available to all the innovative audio-visual idea.

According to Engelbrecht, the approach is to first and foremost engage the African filmmaker to expand his/her creative boundaries, and secondly to initiate a process whereby the filmmakers are encouraged to promote their work and to network within the established industry framework. African filmmakers will be given the skills to be able to speak and engage with the industry community attending the festival.

One of the films screened at the festival was Neil van Vuuren's Promotion, which won the Innovation category at the 2008 Design Indaba. The video deals with the way people have become obsessed with online identities. Currently an animator for TX, a company that manages brand for television, Van Vuuren is working on a project for Channel O that traces the progression of music. Future ambitions include working for major animation and visual effects houses.

"The most important thing I have learned at The Open Window is that you always need to keep learning. Inspiration usually finds me when I least expect it," he says.