15 December 2004The curtain may have come down on the Cape Town World Cinema Festival, but something in the local movie landscape changed noticeably in 2004. World Cinema made a small but significant dent in Hollywood’s hegemony – and a string of new South African films were strongly to the fore.The numbers speak volumes. From audiences of 3 000 in 2003, attendance at the 2004 World Cinema Festival rose to over 15 000, with Capetonians packing the 520-seater Main Theatre at Artscape – mainly to see movies made in South Africa, by South Africans, with South Africans in starring roles.For locals, there was plenty to feel good about. Of the 11 South African movies at the festival, the Cape boasted a surfeit of producers and directors, cast and crew, as well as the lion’s share of the cine-visual landscape, lavishly captured in films such as “In My Country”, “Twist”, “Story of an African Farm”, “Red Dust”, “Forgiveness” and “Cape of Good Hope”.The director of “Twist”, 34-year-old Tim Greene, seemed to personify the Cape effort. A product of Westerford High, Greene shot his feature film debut entirely on location in the Cape, with an all-local cast drawn from celebrity actors to street kids.Tickets to “Twist” were sold out a week before opening, mainly – it has to be said – to people who had a vested interest in the project. But the fact that a thousand backers had given the first-time director R1 000 each to make his dream was testimony to a popular will to invest in the cinematic potential of the Cape. A Twist on SA’s film scene Seeing yourself in your own landscapeAnd something new happened the night “Twist” first played to Cape Town audiences. People saw themselves in their own landscape and appreciated “the integrity of the representation of Cape Town”, said Greene.“Seeing yourself represented on film gives you a sense of yourself and that is what we are struggling to achieve here – a sense of self”, Greene said. “People are expressing a sense of satisfaction seeing the Cape for what it is, in all its glory and all its grittiness.”“Story of an African Farm”, produced and written by Bonnie Rodini, used the Karoo as a backdrop for Olive Schreiner’s classic – and gave thousands of schoolchildren from the Cape Flats the chance to see a school set work come to life on the big screen. The film also benefited from the performance of Richard E Grant, brought in from the South African Diaspora.An animal rescue center in Hout Bay was one of the locations for another tale from the city. “Cape of Good Hope” stood out as a strong human drama without the political hoopla.That’s not to say audiences don’t want to watch stories about politics. Films like “Red Dust”, “In My Country” and “Forgiveness”, which deal directly with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, have touched a nerve locally and abroad.SA film industry the real winnerEven when these films fade to black, the real winner has been the South African film industry, which is growing from strength to strength each year.Sithengi Film & Television Market CEO Mike Auret said this year’s industrial hub had drawn over 2 300 delegates, up from 1 400 a year ago. “It’s an unprecedented turnout”, he said.The turnaround has been helped by a new clutch of South African films that have featured at international film festivals in Venice, Berlin, Gotheborg, Rotterdam and Toronto.But more compelling in the long term will be the infrastructure and policy changes that took place at Sithengi 2004, preparing the ground for more business to come.In the past year, following the signing of an Italian co-production treaty, numerous deals were brokered with South African producers. This year the German government signed up, and Brazil and Sweden are close to sealing protocols.These bilateral arrangements allow producers to go beyond single-country investment, and the alliance with European countries swells the pot to include funds divested from EU member states as well.The Table Mountain Motion Picture Studios in Milnerton added further fuel to the Cape’s film engine – which is likely to receive a turbo-charge with the addition of Dreamworld, the dream-child of Durban-based producer Anant Singh.Auret also introduced a Talent Campus for the first time this year, a collaboration with the Berlinale Talent Campus. More than 50 young and experienced film hands began to tackle the business of shifting product beyond the imaginary borders of the Cape peninsula to a hungry world market.The SABC and M-Net handed out Christmas presents to local producers in the form of explicit briefs for broadcast requirements.Martin Cuff of the Cape Film Commission reckons that “you’d have to live on Mars not to have seen the amount of film activity” that has been taking place.Arts and Culture Minister Pallo Jordan has been a regular visitor to the film fair, not just on official business but because he has taken a personal interest in seeing the industry thrive. He had festival staff scurrying for seats when he turned up unofficially to see a movie in the main theatre.Western Cape premier Ibrahim Rasool was a festival guest, but appeared at several screenings to emphasise his drive to make the Cape the ultimate film province of South Africa.And the business does not end here. There are at least three new movies from the Cape slated for 2005.Platon Trakoshis of Big World Cinema in Cape Town has produced “Proteus”, a period drama set on Robben Island. Maganthrie Pillay becomes South Africa’s first black woman feature director with another Cape-based story, “34 South”. And Videovision has just completed filming a gangland movie, “Dollars and White Pipes”, in the gritty urban landscape of Hanover Park.A sea change has taken place in the Mother City. Local audiences are taking their seats to watch the new wave gather pace. As far as South African cinema is concerned, surf’s up!Source: Sithengi Film & TV Market
11 September 2007The third component of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) opened in South Africa this week.The state-of-the-art research facility, based at the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, will focus mainly on the development of new vaccines against serious infectious diseases such as HIV/Aids, malaria, hepatitis B and C and tuberculosis.It joins sister laboratories in Trieste, Italy and New Delhi, India in serving as the 74-country organisation’s international facilities for high quality scientific research and training in the field of biosciences.Established by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation in 1987, the ICGEB is an inter-governmental organisation that operates as a centre of excellence for research and training in biotechnology and genetic engineering, focusing on the needs of the developing world.The Cape Town component of the ICGEB will eventually be expanded to advance knowledge and apply the latest techniques in biomedicine, crop improvement, environmental protection and remediation, biopharmaceuticals and biopestidice production.Hosting the facility will help South Africa develop an African biotechnology hub – drawing scientists from around the world to Cape Town – and boost the country’s profile as a preferred destination for global science and technology initiatives.The Department of Science and Technology is contributing approximately €4-million toward costs of the Cape Town laboratory over the next four years, with the government and ICGEB management also calling on the private sector to provide funding.Speaking at the opening, President Thabo Mbeki said the centre would help reverse the brain drain on the continent, enable countries to meet their Millennium Development Goals and enhance regional scientific cooperation.He said genetic engineering and biotechnology would make a critical contribution in addressing current and future needs in areas of healthcare and food and energy security, especially in the face of global challenges such as climate change.“Equally, we look to biotechnology to assist us … to enhance our capacity in the areas of indigenous knowledge systems and biodiversity, so that we can develop these areas into sustainable initiatives for the benefit of all our peoples and humanity as a whole,” he said.Mbeki said a critical challenge facing African countries was to ensure that they produced sufficient numbers of experts in science and technology, adding that he hoped youngsters would be inspired by South Africa’s Nobel Prize winners in biotechnology-related fields.These include Sydney Brenner, for his work on controlled cell-death during organ development in 2002, Aaron Klug for work on macromolecular biology (1982), Allan Cormack for co-inventing the CAT scan (1979), and Max Theiller for his work on yellow fever in 1951.SAinfo reporter Want to use this article in your publication or on your website?See: Using SAinfo material
8 June 2010Football fever has well and truly taken hold of South Africa, with public opinion towards the 2010 Fifa World Cup™ overwhelmingly positive and optimism surrounding the national team’s chances remarkably robust, according to latest market research.The findings from the fifth instalment of a six-wave survey, conducted on Fifa’s behalf in May, “reinforce a strong sense of pride in South Africa hosting football’s showcase event (92%), a firm belief that it will be a success (86%), as well as an eager anticipation for the competition to begin (86%),” Fifa said in a statement on Monday.The survey was based on face-to-face interviews with 1 000 South African respondents in all nine World Cup host cities.Asked to name whom they would be rooting for during the competition, 63% of respondents (unsurprisingly) said “South Africa”, followed by 11% for Brazil and 4% England (4%).Strong optimism in the national side, Bafana Bafana, was reflected in respondents’ answers as to who they thought would win the trophy: five-times world champions Brazil (37%) were cited as favourites, followed by South Africa (13%) and Spain (8%).Thirteen percent expected South Africa to reach the final, while 22% believed the host nation would not make it past the group stage.According to the survey, the player the majority of South Africans are looking forward to seeing in action is Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo (17%), followed by Argentina’s Lionel Messi (12%) and Brazil’s Kaka (10%).But regardless of which teams are playing on any particular day, South Africans will be following the tournament closely – a mere 3% of respondents said they would only watch matches when South Africa played.Thirty-eight percent said they planned to watch as many matches as possible, while 29% said they would watch every game.As in the previous surveys, the majority of respondents maintained high expectations for the potential long-term benefits, both tangible and intangible, of hosting the World Cup.Eight-nine percent expected the tournament to leave a lasting legacy and be remembered fondly over generations, 80% felt it would unite the people of South Africa, and 93% believed the images of the country beamed out across the world would lure more tourists in future.SAinfo reporterWould you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See: Using SAinfo material
5 March 2014Energy Minister Ben Martins and the vice administrator of China’s National Energy Commission, Tan Rongyao, met in Cape Town on Tuesday to discuss China’s interest in participating in South Africa’s nuclear energy projects.According to a joint statement released by Martins and Tan, China has proposed an agreement, still under consideration by both parties, which covers the supply of nuclear energy products, infrastructure funding, supplier development and localisation, skills development, and research and development.In 2006, South Africa and China signed an inter-governmental agreement on cooperation in the peaceful use of atomic energy, covering design, construction and operation of nuclear reactors. The two countries followed this up in 2010 with the signing of a general cooperation agreement in energy, covering oil and gas, renewable energy, energy efficiency and skills development.“Since the signing of these agreements, the two countries have continued to exchange information and knowledge,” the joint statement read. “China has started training South Africans in the renewable energy sector, and there are plans to expand this to include capacity building in the nuclear energy sector.”Last week, Tan, accompanied by a high-level delegation, participated in the South Africa-China Nuclear Energy Cooperation Seminar in Johannesburg.On the second day of the seminar, the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa) signed a skills development and training agreement with two Chinese state nuclear energy corporations, the China General Nuclear Power Corporation and the State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation.The agreement will create opportunities for young South Africans to further their studies in nuclear energy and other specialised areas of energy at Chinese universities, with funding of up to 95% from Chinese institutions.Martins said Tan’s visit, and the hosting of the seminar in South Africa, demonstrated China’s confidence in the potential of South Africa’s energy sector.“Policy certainty and predictability in the energy sector has contributed significantly to attracting foreign investors to the successful renewable programme and other energy components of the energy mix,” Martins added.South Africa’s Integrated Resources Plan (IRP) for 2010 to 2030, a 20-year projection on electricity supply and demand, currently envisages 9 600 megawatts (MW) of additional nuclear capacity by 2030.While the department is busy reviewing the plan, President Jacob Zuma confirmed its nuclear component in his State of the Nation address in February, saying: “We expect to conclude the procurement of 9 600 MW of nuclear energy.”South Africa’s 1 800 MW Koeberg nuclear plant, built more than 25 years ago, is the only nuclear power-generating facility on the African continent.SAinfo reporter
Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press OTTAWA — Politicians are increasingly concerned that social media giants have become so big, powerful and rich that they are effectively above the law — at least in a small country like Canada.Their concern was on display last week at a meeting of the House of Commons access to information, privacy and ethics committee, where Liberal MPs raked Google over the coals for its decision not to run any political ads during this fall’s federal election campaign, rather than comply with a new law that requires them keep an online ad registry.“Here’s my frustration,” Toronto Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith told Google Canada representatives Jason Kee and Colin McKay.“You have a company that makes billions of dollars and looks at … a small jurisdiction in Canada and says, ‘Your democracy doesn’t matter enough to us, we’re not going to participate.’ But if a big player decided to change the rules, I guarantee that you would follow those rules.“But we are too small for you. You are too big, you are too important and we are just not important enough for Google for you to take us seriously.”“I’d contest that observation,” responded McKay.He and Kee maintained the decision was strictly a technical one: Google engineers could not, in the short time frame required by the government, come up with a system that would reliably detect partisan and issue-oriented ads during the campaign and ensure they were all archived along with information identifying the source of the ads.Following the last U.S. presidential election, when a spotlight was shone on the use of social media to spread fake news, sow dissension and manipulate the election outcome, Kee said Google created a template for political ad registries that it used in last fall’s U.S. midterms and will deploy in India and the European Union. But he said it’s not compatible with the specific requirements of the Canadian law, about which he said Google was not consulted.Kee said Google will try to comply with the registry law by the next election in 2023.It was clear Liberals on the committee weren’t buying the explanation. It was equally clear their frustration with social media giants extends well beyond Google and the political ad registry.Quebec MP David Graham accused Google and Facebook of ignoring Canadian copyright law. And another Quebec Liberal, Frank Baylis, linked the ad registry and copyright issues, arguing that Google makes billions by posting ads on content it obtains for free because copyright law doesn’t apply to social media platforms.“The minute you start controlling these ads, you move from being a platform to proof positive you’re a publisher and once you’re a publisher, you’re subject to copyright and all that,” Baylis said, maintaining that’s the “real reason” Google has opted out of the political ad registry, not “this technical mumbo-jumbo” offered by the company.Kee said that was “not remotely” the case.Facebook has decided to comply with the ad registry law but the committee had another bone to pick with that company. It adopted unanimous motions to summon Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg to appear at the second meeting of the international grand committee on big data, privacy and democracy, which the Commons committee is hosting in Ottawa on May 28. The grand committee involves parliamentarians from Canada, the United Kingdom, Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, France, Ireland, Latvia and Singapore.The summons came after the Facebook duo failed to respond to an invitation to appear. Zuckerberg has testified at a congressional committee in Washington following last year’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which the personal data of some 87 million Facebook users was improperly shared with the political consultancy firm. But he refused to appear at the grand committee’s first meeting in the U.K. and has repeatedly ignored invitations to appear before the Canadian committee to discuss Facebook’s handling of Canadians’ private information.Federal privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien last month concluded that Facebook violated Canadian privacy laws by failing to ensure Cambridge Analytica got clear consent to use individuals’ personal information. He is going to court to force Facebook — which maintains Canadians were not affected by the scandal and that it has since made “dramatic improvements” to protect users’ privacy — to comply with privacy laws.In an interview, Erskine-Smith noted that social media giants fought against the European Union’s general data protection regulation, which imposed strict new rules for protecting individuals’ privacy and stiff fines for companies that fail to do so. But once the law went into effect, they complied with it because the EU, unlike Canada, “is a substantial jurisdiction that they can’t ignore.”More recently, he said the giants have professed to be in favour of stronger, government-imposed rules on privacy and the spread of hate and misinformation. And Karina Gould, Canada’s minister of democratic institutions, has been signalling that regulations are coming because she’s been disappointed by social media platforms’ efforts to self-regulate.But said Erskine-Smith: “The problem is, unless we have global co-operation in establishing those new rules, we’re still going to open the door to companies saying, selectively, ‘This jurisdiction is too small, the market isn’t large enough to warrant changing our rules so we’re just going to ignore it.’”Digital media expert Taylor Owen said that’s certainly true when it comes to regulation of political ads. But he said it will be more difficult to arrive at internationally co-ordinated regulations on harmful speech and competition, where laws are much more nationally specific.Still, Owen said there’s no reason why Canada alone could not beef up its laws, as other countries have done, to impose steep fines on social media giants that violate privacy laws or don’t go far enough to constrain disinformation and hateful content. And, judging by the markedly hostile tone MPs in the governing party have adopted lately, he thinks that’s coming soon.Whereas politicians initially embraced social media as a positive means to engage with voters, most western governments, including Canada’s, have come to a “radically different” view, said Owen, Beaverbrook chair in media ethics and communication at McGill University’s Max Bell school of public policy.“The tone and the attitude of government is fundamentally changing. There is no trust anymore,” he said.