Five emerging African screenwriters have been chosen to participate in REALNESS, a pioneering residency initiative that will give a new generation of filmmakers the opportunity to cultivate their talent as authentic voices in African cinema.

The selection of the five REALNESS 2016 writers in residence was announced at a recent event in Cannes by Johannesburg, Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro-based film production company Urucu Media.

The five writers' screenplays in process were chosen by a panel of international experts from those of 175 applicants from 29 countries. The writers - see below for quick profiles - are Amirah Tajdin (Kenya), Hiwot Admasu (Ethiopia), Luke Razanajaona (Madagascar), and South Africans Sheetal Magan and Wim Steytler.

REALNESS was conceived by Urucu Media as a way of addressing a need for promising African film projects to be resourced and supported in their development phase in order to be competitive on the global film market.

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.

The REALNESS writers' upcoming journey

REALNESS: An African screenwriters' residency

The five writers' REALNESS journey will begin with an immersive industry experience at Africa's leading finance and co-production market, the Durban FilmMart. The event, taking place from 17 to 20 June, which give the writers an opportunity to attach producers to their projects, which will be publicly presented on a date to be scheduled.

This will be followed by six weeks at the Nirox Artists' Residency in the Cradle of Humankind in Gauteng province, where the writers will be given the time and space to develop drafts of their screenplays under the guidance of some of the industry's top professionals.

Finally, the most promising of the five projects will be selected and funded to participate in the prestigious La Fabrique des Cinémas du Monde in Cannes, receive an EAVE Producers' Workshop Scholarship, and be invited to Torino Film Lab Meetings.

REALNESS 2017 - call for support

REALNESS is presented under the mentorship of Berlinale Talents, in partnership with Nirox Foundation, Durban FilmMart, Restless Talent Management, The French Institute of South Africa and Institute Français's La Fabrique des Cinémas du Monde, Torino Film Lab, EAVE and World Cinema Fund.

Urucu Media is a forward-looking company that envisions a future in which African storytelling occupies a central space in the international arena.

Preparations for REALNESS 2017 are already under way, but support for the second edition is urgently needed. Organisations interested in partnering to secure the future of the project are invited to contact Urucu Media by emailing

REALNESS 2016 writers in residence

Amirah Tajdin

Amirah Tajdin

Amirah Tajdin is a Kenyan artist and filmmaker whose work in the short form has screened at festivals across the world, including Sundance and Cannes Director's Fortnight. She currently splits her time between Africa and the Middle East, doing freelance commercial directing while working on her cinematic projects.

Tajdin's REALNESS project is Hawa Hawaii, a feature film about a Swahili wedding singer in Mombasa who struggles to reconcile his relationship with his mother, and his alter ego as a Bollywood-inspired drag performer.

Hiwot Admasu

Hiwot Admasu

Hiwot Admasu is an Ethiopian filmmaker who took up filmmaking full-time after completing a B.Sc in Electrical and Computer Engineering, and has screened work at international festivals including Venice and Toronto.

Admasu's REALNESS project is A Fool God, in which 11-year-old Mesi, in a moment of tragedy, confronts the limitations of her gender within traditional life, compelling her to leave school and explore new ways of being in the company of a "slow-minded" former lifeguard.

Luke Razanajaona

Luke Razanajaona

Luke Razanajaona is a Madagascan filmmaker who has participated in a number of prestigious programmes, including Berlinale and La Fabrique des Cinemas du Monde, and a residency with acclaimed screenwriter Oliver Gorce. He recently won the Step Fund Prize at the Luxor African Film Festival.

Razanajaona's REALNESS project is Disco Africa, a film about a clandestine sapphire miner who comes to know his father through a stack of West African Afro Beat 45 records through which he relives the exhilarating optimism of 1970s post-independence Africa.

Sheetal Magan

Sheetal Magan

Sheetal Magan is an emerging South African talent who was recently named one of five "creatives to watch" by City Press. She was selected to participate in the Cannes South Africa Factory to make Paraya, one of four short films to open the Directors' Fortnight in Cannes in 2016. Her interests are in both experimental and dramatic storytelling.

Magan's REALNESS project is her first feature film, The Day and Night of Brahma, a layered portrait of domestic life in which a modern Indian couple are drawn into deeper questions of love and self-sacrifice by the event of their first pregnancy.

Wim Steytler

Wim Steytler

Wim Steytler hails from a family of pioneering writers and has been mentored by some of South Africa's top directors. His narrative music video about xenophobic attacks in Johannesburg won him the prestigious CFP-E/SHOTS Young Director Award at the Festival de Cannes. He was also awarded Best Director at the 2015 Silwerskerm Film Festival.

Steytler's REALNESS project is Uitlander, a film about a misfit South African farmer who falls into a Doomsday cult after he meets a mysterious New Age French couple following the death of his best friend.

Source: staff reporter

Contact the Gauteng Film Commission