Screenwriters from across the continent have been invited to apply for the 2017 edition of Realness, a pioneering residency initiative that is giving a new generation of filmmakers the opportunity to cultivate their talent as authentic voices in African cinema.

This follows the success of the inaugural Realness residency involving five emerging African screenwriters: Amirah Tajdin (Kenya), Hiwot Admasu (Ethiopia), Luck Razanajaona (Madagascar), and South Africans Sheetal Magan and Wim Steytler.

Earlier this year, the five writers spent six weeks at the Nirox Artists' Residency in the Cradle of Humankind in Gauteng province, where they were given the time and space to develop drafts of their screenplays under the guidance of script consultants Selina Ukwuoma and Nadja Dumouchel.

This followed an immersive industry experience at the Durban FilmMart and Talent Campus at the Durban International Film Festival, which gave the writers an opportunity to attach producers to their projects through public presentations.

Realness was conceived by Johannesburg, Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro-based company Urucu Media as a way of supporting promising African film projects in their development phase to enable them to compete realistically in global film markets.

REALNESS: An African screenwriters' residency

The format of the residency was collaboratively conceptualised through a series of public think-tanks to ensure that it would be responsive to the unique demands of the African film industry.

Feedback, awards, progress post-residency

"The success of this residency is not only evident in the encouraging feedback from the participants ... but is also evident in the numerous awards they have received and the progress made following the residency," Realness creative director Elias Ribeiro said in a statement this week.

"Luck, for example, had a project selected for the Durban FilmMart prior to the residency, where we met and worked with participants as a precursor to programme. Here he walked off with awards from CineMart (International Film Festival Rotterdam) and the International Organisation of La Francophonie to further develop his script.

"Hiwot has since won an award to participate at another residency programme in Switzerland, the Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur, and two of the projects have signed co-production agreements since completing the residency."

In addition, since the outset, Ribeiro has been invited to present the initiative at five major international festivals, namely the Berlinale, Cannes, Locarno, Venice and Torino.

'Time and space really does make all the difference'

"We have structured Realness in a very holistic and strategic way, engaging with heavyweight partners and advisers in developing the framework for the programme," Ribeiro said. "It is rewarding to see the genuine interest in developing synergy between African cinema and the rest of the world."

According to Amirah Tajdin, Realness made her realise that "time and space really does make all the difference during script writing."

Wim Steytler said Realness gave him the courage to "throw my script and eight months of work into the bin. I gained important insights into how to take my story from decent to good. After Realness, my goal is to take the project from good to great."

The Realness partnerships that were established in 2016 will continue into the second edition, which means the 2017 residents will also get the opportunity to develop their projects further through awards offered by Durban FilmMart, Locarno Filmmakers Academy, Torino Film Lab, Midpoint, EAVE and La Fabrique des Cinema du Monde.

Realness 2017 submissions

The window for submissions from screenwriters from across the African continent opened on 28 November and closes on 31 January.

Applicants must submit ONE PDF dossier containing:

  • A motivation for wanting to participate in Realness (1 page);
  • A synopsis of their proposed feature project (1 page);
  • A narrative treatment of the project (6 pages);
  • A draft of the screenplay (if available);
  • A writer's note of intention (1 page);
  • A short biography (1 paragraph); and
  • Two links to samples of previously produced work, uploaded to vimeo. (If selected, residents will be required to donate one copy of their previous work to the Nirox film library.)

All submitted material must be in English. Selection will be based on artistic merit, and Realness will hold no legal claim over the work once the residency is completed.

A committee appointed by the Realness team and their partners will read the project entries and conduct interviews with a shortlist of candidates in April. The Realness selection will be announced at an event hosted by the pavilion Les Cinemas du Monde at Cannes 2017.

Dossiers must be submitted to For further information and to download the application form, visit

Source: staff reporter

Contact the Gauteng Film Commission