Event Preview: Joburg Film Festival

The Joburg Film Festival has grown by leaps and bounds in its short existence. Taking place February 27 to March 3 at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, the event is “now counted among the top film festivals on the continent, alongside very established festivals that have been around for years,” says Timothy Mangwedi, executive director and founder of the Joburg Film Festival.

“Founded on the premise of being disruptive and rewarding purposeful creativity, the festival has come into its own in a short space of time,” Mangwedi adds. “Going from a small local festival in Johannesburg at its beginning to an internationally recognized film festival six installments later is a huge achievement.”

Following the successful hosting of the fifth-anniversary milestone in 2023, which showcased over 77 films from 31 countries, the upcoming sixth edition is set to continue on this trajectory. “Positioned to become Africa’s premier film festival, the Joburg Film Festival is well on its way to achieving this, given that 65 of the 77 titles showcased in 2023 were either country, continent or world premieres, and of these, 19 were women-directed films,” Mangwedi says.

The festival has expanded its offering over the years. Key developments and highlights include the Youth & Audience Development Programme, which has facilitated access and skills development in the art of film and television to over 1,000 previously disadvantaged youth from townships across the province of Gauteng. Meanwhile, the Young Voices competition has given young content creators a platform to create their own short films and expose them to the world of filmmaking. Joburg Film Festival has also launched JBX, a B2B content market connecting key industry players, as well as the Joburg Film Society, an “always-on” platform that not only provides regular screenings and conversations but also contributes to the development of film audiences.

The festival also counts the MultiChoice Group and Absa Group as key partners in delivering a world-class event. “MultiChoice understands the power of African storytelling and perfected distribution in a way any great festival needs,” says Mangwedi, “while Absa’s financial muscle and commitment to development on this content help filmmakers realize their dreams.”

The combination of these two industry powerhouses, together with other partners, not only ensures that great films are made but also that they are seen and celebrated, which is the festival’s ultimate aim.

“2020 to 2022 was an incredibly difficult period for the festival and for the sector as a whole due to the global pandemic,” says Mangwedi. “Trying to stay afloat and maintain brand presence was challenging and required a great deal of patience and resolve. Smaller and more subdued offerings were presented during this period until such time that we could return to ‘normalcy’ with all the fanfare and glamor that comes with film festivals. 2023 was the first post-pandemic offering, which clocked in a record number of 8,000 people across the six-day festival and its activities, and the upcoming sixth installment is not expected to deliver anything less.”

The 2024 edition is set to host a dynamic film program with over 60 titles that tell stories that haven’t been heard before. There’s also a robust three-day industry program with local and international speakers. New for this year is the introduction of the pitching showcase. Also, the JBX Content Market has been extended from two days to three, featuring top buyers and sellers from across the continent.

“The Joburg Film Festival is committed to showcasing exceptional cinematic works while nurturing the growth of the African film industry,” Mangwedi says. “It is dedicated to providing a platform for our stories to be told and heard and, more importantly, celebrate this cinematic excellence! From the incredible film selection to the robust industry program and content market, the Joburg Film Festival is the place to be for all things film and television.”

With a focus on diverse storytelling and fostering dialogue, the festival brings together filmmakers, industry professionals and audiences for an enriching cultural experience. Mangwedi says it “embodies the spirit of new Africa, one that is eager to showcase its creative prowess and engage with the global community. We are thrilled to be welcoming films from over 20 countries and across six continents for the sixth installment.”

Above all, Mangwedi hopes that attendees “will be inspired by the stories we have presented and continue supporting film and the art of storytelling.”