South Africa bagged five awards at the fifth annual AfricaMagic Viewers' Choice Awards (AMVCA), held in Lagos, Nigeria.
Two of the films were shot in Johannesburg. Happiness is a Four Letter Word won Best Cinematographer, while Vaya won Best Writer and Best Sound Editing. The Best Movie SA award went to All About Love, while Best Documentary was won by Alison.
Each year, the AMVCA crowns the best in African film and television talent. This year, the ceremony, held on 4 March, was broadcast live across the continent. It was hosted by IK Osakioduwa and Minnie Dlamini for the second consecutive year.
Romantic drama Happiness is a Four-Letter Word broke new ground at the local box office in 2016, grossing almost R13-million as it became one of SA's biggest earning films by a black director. It was the penultimate movie by South African film stalwart Junaid Ahmed, who died on 1 November 2016.
Part of the NFVF/Junaid Ahmed Productions slate of movies that aim to develop black filmmaking talent, Happiness was directed by Thabang Moleya and produced by Ahmed, Helena Spring and first-time feature film producer Bongiwe Selane. Busisiwe Ntilintili adapted it for the screen from the award-winning novel by Cynthia Nozizwe Jele.
Speaking ahead of the film's release in February, Ahmed said: "It's important for us to grow black excellence in the film industry. The fact that Happiness is a story about ambitious black women is an added and much-welcomed layer."
Filmed in and around Joburg, Happiness is a Four-Letter Word was produced by Blingola Media with support from the GFC, National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) and Department of Trade and Industry.
Nigerian-born, Johannesburg-based filmmaker Akin Omotoso continued his exploration of the dramatic and cinematic potential of his adopted home town in his movie, Vaya.
With Vaya, Omotoso gives the viewer yet another take on southern Africa's richest and busiest metropolis. Based on real stories of homeless people, the film follows the journeys of three strangers newly arrived in Joburg from Durban.
Nhlanhla (Sihle Xaba), desperate for money to pay lobola for the woman he wants to marry, is excited at the prospect of the job in the big city that his cousin Xolani has promised him – until he finds out what the job is.
Zanele (Zimkhitha Nyoka), charged with delivering young Zodwa to her mother in Johannesburg, believes this could be her chance to change her own life – until she realises she's placed Zodwa in grave danger.
And Nkulu's (Sibusiso Msimang) business in the city, that of fetching the body of his deceased father, seems straightforward enough – until he finds he might not be the only one interested in the body.
Vaya interweaves their stories in a gripping, often funny and deeply moving film about survival and dignity on the harsh streets of Johannesburg and Soweto.
The film was screened to much acclaim at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2016. Cinematographer Kabelo Thathe was praised for his work. A TIFF review wrote: "Like a helicopter tour of Johannesburg, his stunning aerial photography takes us from the high-rise buildings, to the suburbs, and all the way down to the dump, where the city's poorest are left to scavenge. The imagery is truly the film's star, conveying much of the plot's underlying tensions through Thathe's indelible images."
The AMVCA was not the first to recognise Vaya. In November 2016, it won the Special Jury Award for Outstanding Film at the sixth African International Film Festival (Afriff), also in Lagos, Nigeria.