Maps Maponyane and Nomzamo Mbatha
Maps Maponyane and Nomzamo Mbatha, who star as the unlikely lovers in Tell Me Sweet Something, at a GFC-hosted screening of the film in Maboneng ahead of its release on 4 September.

Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa is to call for a meeting with film industry stakeholders after the number of cinemas showing locally made romantic comedy Tell Me Sweet Something was cut by almost half in its third week after opening.

The film struck a chord with local filmgoers, coming in at number five in its opening week at the South African box office and raking in R1.6-million in the first two weeks of its 4 September release.

The National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), reporting on this success, said the fact that the film made only R233 785 in its third week could be attributed to the reduction in the number of screens at which it was showing from 45 to 28.

"This indicates that the more screens a film is released on, the better the chance for more people to see it," the NFVF said in a statement on 28 September. "It also indicates that if the number of screens (prints) in the high performing sites are reduced, then the numbers will also decrease."

Exhibitors, distributors 'play important role in film industry growth'

Minister Mthethwa, in a statement released two days later, said film exhibitors "need to come to the party and play their part in sustaining the promotion of South African films to South African audiences".

Exhibitors and distributors have an important role to play in growing the country's film industry, the minister said, adding: "It is not enough to simply hold the profit motive aloft while the South African story is not allowed to sustain its presence and capture the imagination of our audiences.

"Therefore I am calling a meeting of film stakeholders where we can thrash out issues of distribution, representation, marketing support and other pressing issues affecting filmmakers."

These issues were closely related to the transformation of the industry, Mthethwa said, and had come to the fore "at a time when we are seized with the review of the White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage".

'Together we need to devise innovative distribution strategies'

The National Development Plan (NDP) acknowledged the important contribution of cultural and creative industries to the country's economic growth. "When films do well, these enable the producers to become economically viable and to create more jobs in the sector," the minister said.

"Together we need to devise innovative distribution strategies and interventions that will take films to the people, and also create an enabling environment where film entrepreneurs can flourish as they tell the South African story."

Aimed at a young, hip black audience, Tell Me Sweet Something was something of a departure for Nigerian-born Akin Omotoso, as he set out to prove that black stories could fall under the "feel-good" bracket and be commercially successful at the same time.

Filmed on location in Maboneng and Braamfontein, the movie tells the story of Moratiwa, an aspiring writer who owns a bookstore in the heart of Johannesburg. The bookstore, like her love life, is not experiencing much success, but this all changes when she falls in love with the unlikeliest candidate in the world, Nat, a male model who has never read a book in his life.

The film was produced by Rififi Pictures in association with Mvest Media, Red Pepper Pictures, the National Film And Video Foundation, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Gauteng Film Commission, Pana TV and crowd funders including David Kau.

Source: staff reporter

Contact the Gauteng Film Commission