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African Folktales, Reimagined: How the Netflix and UNESCO Competition will Promote Original African Stories

The ‘African Folktales, Reimagined’ competition with submissions deadline this November aims to showcase Africa’s arts and culture while supporting the development of young African filmmakers. Netflix Director of Content for Africa, Ben Amadasun, spoke about the partnership with UNESCO to support the next generation of African filmmakers to tell original African stories. Submissions are currently open on www.netflix-growcreative.com/unesco.

Netflix has been a huge investor in the African film industry. What are winners of the “African Folktales, Reimagined” expected to receive? Will their films be funded for production?
Netflix continues to support the African film industry and this competition further tells our commitment. Each of the six winners will receive $25,000 plus a production grant of $75,000 to develop, shoot, and post-produce their films which will be administered by a nominated local production agency. Within each film’s budget, the team will ensure that filmmakers and everyone involved in the production is paid. The six winners will have their short films (12-20 minutes long) launched on the Netflix service in 2022, as an anthology of “African Folktales, Reimagined.”

According to requirements, talents must be from sub-Saharan Africa. Is Netflix and UNESCO looking for filmmakers from specific countries?
Netflix and UNESCO share a mutual commitment and belief in the importance of promoting diverse local stories and bringing them to the world. The competition is open to emerging filmmakers from the Sub-Saharan Africa region. We would like this group of talents to be truly inclusive, no matter what the language, race/ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation may be. For interested filmmakers who are not from the origins of sub-Saharan Africa, you just need to be based in any of the countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa region to be eligible. To be more inclusive, we accept proposals in English, French, or Portuguese.

Netflix has championed the production of African films and series across different genres since it arrived on the continent. What inspired this partnership with UNESCO, and why the focus on folklore?
Netflix and UNESCO understand that many emerging filmmakers in Africa may struggle to access resources that could enable them fully to unveil their talents and advance their creative journey in film. This competition is a step towards reducing the gap between talent and funding, by providing a platform for storytellers to showcase their content to a global audience through Netflix. In summary, we want young filmmakers looking to tell African stories, fulfill their dreams.

The competition focuses on the theme, “African Folktales”. How does this theme impact Netflix and Africa, and what kind of ideas are you looking for?
An African folktale is a timeless story circulated verbally among Africans and handed down from one generation to the next. Folktales have always been an important way of passing on culture and heritage to future generations. This competition aims to harness this important tradition while leveraging new platforms for content distribution, such as Netflix.

The competition aims to promote original African stories, and African folktales are tales of African legends which have only been passed down by word of mouth. This is an open call for emerging filmmakers from across Sub-Saharan Africa, many of whom are in parts of the continent that are often overlooked. We value the wide diversity of African cultures and want to promote them globally. We encourage any emerging filmmaker from Sub-Saharan Africa with a story to tell to go for it! So, if the brief (“African Folktales, Reimagined”) strikes a chord with you, this competition is for you.

Read also: Mann Robinson: The man behind Atlantas newest film studio

There must be hundreds of applications. How will proposals and winners be shortlisted or selected?
The finalists will be selected by an independent panel of judges under the guidance of Netflix and UNESCO. Submissions will be reviewed by a designated local agency according to criteria established by Netflix and UNESCO. Selection will be done by an evaluation committee comprising industry experts from across Sub-Saharan Africa. The 20 shortlisted finalists will be invited to pitch their concept to a judging panel, under the guidance of Netflix and UNESCO. Finally, the panel will choose six winners to develop their short films.

Africa has a blossoming creative industry. What level of experience are you looking for and how will proposals and winners be shortlisted or selected?
For this competition, the emerging filmmakers must be within 2 – 5 years of demonstrable professional experience in the audio-visual industry and have developed and produced 1 to 2 theatrical feature films, television fiction, documentaries, and/or 2-3 short films and/or commercials. This competition aims to unearth new talent, so we hope to be surprised by the talent we haven’t heard of yet.

What other information do applicants need to know about the competition and how can they apply?
We would like to inform talents that the application has a maximum of 500 words for them to tell us the synopsis of their short film idea in the creative statement. There is also a need to include proof of experience from previous work (excluding shows that were produced, financed, distributed, or initiated by a major film studio or television network or have been distributed by a major studio or TV network). We advise all interested participants to visit the official website for more information www.netflix-growcreative.com/unesco.

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