M-Net Vuka Aawards

South African pay-TV broadcaster M-Net acknowledged socially conscious newcomer, contender and professional filmmakers on 30 November at Johannesburg’s Theatre on the Track by announcing the winners of the annual Vuka! Awards.

Now in its 11th year, the Vuka! Awards celebrate the best in public service announcements (PSAs) produced for worthy social causes, charities and NGOs. The Vukas! were originally created by M-Net’s sister company MultiChoice as a corporate social initiative (CSI) and were taken over by M-Net two years ago.

This year’s competition saw a huge increase in entries in the Newcomer category – 116 entries as opposed to 67 in 2009. The total number of entries this year was over 200.

M-Net CEO Patricia Scholtemeyer said that the increase in entries showed the unbelievable commitment of local filmmakers. “Building on this we would like to see a broadening of entrants in the Newcomer category across the entire breadth of the industry. For this to happen we need mentors from the industry.

“The Vuka! Awards are very special to us and fall under our CSI banner, M-Net Cares. They were designed to give on-going support to charities through a significant amount of exposure on many broadcast platforms. All the Vuka! finalists are flighted on M-Net for a year.

“We’re here tonight to celebrate the creative energy and social conscience of the competing filmmakers. The Vukas! allow all these creative souls the opportunity to use the essence of our business, television, and their own powerful visual imagery. The Vukas! highlight all the social causes in South Africa that can facilitate change.”

M-Net director of corporate marketing and communications Koo Govender said M-Net had spent the last two years examining all aspects of the Vuka! initiative.

“In 2011 the Vukas! will be a more holistic experience with a bigger focus on training and development opportunities and more viewer participation. M-Net will also launch a bursary fund for previously disadvantaged individuals to study at film and television institutions.”

Best Newcomer PSA was awarded to the team from the University of Pretoria for their innovative animated ad for the Jesuit Refugee Service, with its stirring message of fighting xenophobia by beating ignorance. Directors Morne Venter, Amy van Vuuren, Karen Meyer and Micaela Reeves were also honoured in several other categories.

The overall winner in the Contender category, which is open to professionals under the age of 28, was production company Bouffant and agency Metropolitan Republic, with their three poignant and effective Drive Alive ads. These PSAs showed single lonely hearts looking for the perfect partner through a dating service, partners who, it became clear, they had already loved and lost through car accidents. Director Dean Blumberg and copywriters and art directors Philippa Heal, Tammy Retter and David Everson and the rest of the team scooped a further three awards on the night.

Watch one of the Bouffant and Metropolitan Republic Drive alive PSAs:

In the professional category the outright winner was Egg Films and Ogilvy Johannesburg’s Selinah ad for the Topsy foundation, which won five other awards as well. In the ad a woman with Aids was filmed in bed over 90 days. It’s only at the end when a caregiver starts giving her ARV medication that the viewer realises the sequence has been shown backwards – with the clear message being that the effects of Aids can be reversed.

The team behind this ad is director Kim Geldenhuys, creative directors Fran Luckin, Gerry Human and Bridget Johnson, copywriter Stephanie van Niekerk and art directors Robyn Bergmann and Videtse Kay.

The M-Net Cares Rising Star Award went to the Big Fish School of Digital Filmmaking with newcomer producer Lehlohonolo Mokoena and director Sanele Makhubu for its Mantlwane ad for People Opposing Women Abuse (Powa).

A special mention in the Professional category went to TBWA / Hunt Lascaris’s trio of ads for the Apartheid Museum.

This year for the first time, M-Net viewers were included in the competition and asked to vote for their favourite PSA. The Viewers’ Choice Award went to the impactful MIA ad for Missing Children SA, created by students at Vega: The Brand Communication School under director and creative director Andrea Ferreira.