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The fake that could save the real thing

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A local communications agency was given the task of creating awareness of the plight of Africa’s vultures for International Vulture Awareness Day. With no budget, and only one photograph at their disposal, they knew their approach would have to be bold and so the Tuluver was created.

In the lead up to International Vulture Awareness Day on 5 September, one of South Africa’s top conservation NGOs, BirdLife South Africa made an astonishing announcement. BirdLife South Africa announced a recently discovered, rare and exceptionally beautiful species of scavenging bird, and offered a stunning visual of the enchanting ‘Tuluver’.

With the headline ‘New Species Discovered in South Africa’ plastered across lamp posts, radio and news media; it didn’t take long for a social media storm to brew.  While thousands excitedly ‘liked’ and ‘shared’ the news of the gorgeous Tuluver, others questioned its authenticity.

On 2 September, an online video artfully revealed that the ‘Tuluver’ was, in fact, a photoshopped image of the increasingly threatened Lappet-faced Vulture, the largest vulture in Africa.  While it might lack the eye-catching beauty of a Tuluver, the Lappet-faced Vulture is undeniably a bird that, despite its great ecological importance, has earned an unfair reputation and its plight has gone unnoticed.

According to BirdLife South Africa CEO, Mark D. Anderson, “The increased absence of vultures in some parts of the world, such as South Asia, has already led to an increase in feral dogs and, in turn, rabies – at huge cost to human health.”

And yet for years, its population has been in serious decline due to poisoning, electrocution on powerlines, persecution and habitat loss while very few people have been paying attention.  The Tuluver campaign message: ‘If we can get this passionate about discovering a new species, why can’t we get as passionate about losing one?’ certainly clanged the bells across social media around the world.

Through innovative disruption, BirdLife South Africa has succeeded in getting the message across – no matter what they look like, the continued existence of vultures warrants our care and keen attention.

The campaign received an overwhelmingly positive response. The video has so far garnered over 18 000 views and 81 million earned media impressions, with many people expressing that they had no idea vultures were even in trouble.

“We are ecstatic with the results of our Tuluver campaign, and sincerely hope that people are now more aware of the plight faced by vultures, they will view them in a different light and make more of an effort to help conserve them,” said Mark D. Anderson.

Better yet, among others, previous skeptics of the campaign recanted and praised BirdLife South Africa on what has been their biggest awareness and promotional campaign yet.

The innovative campaign was developed for BirdLife South Africa by Utopia, an up-and-coming communications agency based in Cape Town. Utopia and BirdLife South Africa have been working together on a pro bono basis for nearly five years, with many successes to date.

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Load-shedding leads
local searches

South Africans are searching in the dark, according to the latest Google Search trends.

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With more 1 million search queries generated in the space of 76 hours, load-shedding was by far the top trending search on Google South Africa this week.

Valentine’s Day came a distant second.

After news emerged last Sunday of the impending stage 3 load shedding, South Africans had generated more than 1-million load-shedding search queries by the time Tuesday came around:

  • “Loadshedding schedule” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding schedule” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Eskom load shedding” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding Cape Town” – generated more than 50k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding schedule” – generated more than 400k on Monday
  • “Load shedding Johannesburg” – generated more than 20k searches on Monday
  • Load shedding schedule” generated more than 200k search queries on Tuesday

Leading up to Valentine’s Day, South Africans generated close to 300k search queries related to the romantic festival, including searches for quotes and gift ideas:

  • “Valentines Day” generated more than 100k search queries on Thursday
  • “Happy Valentines Day Images” and “Valentines Day Images” generated more than 10k search queries each on Thursday, with “Happy Valentines Day 2019” generating more than 20k search queries on Wednesday
  • “Valentines Day Specials 2019” generated more than 5k search queries on Thursday
  • “Love quotes” generated more than 5k search queries on Thursday
  • “Valentines Day quotes” generated more than 100k search queries and “Valentine messages” generated more than 50 000 search queries on Wednesday

Search trends information is gleaned from data collated by Google based on what South Africans have been searching for and asking Google. Google processes more than 40 000 search queries every second. This translates to more than a billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. Live Google search trends data is available at https://www.google.co.za/trends/hottrends#pn=p40

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Showmax invites
student films

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Thanks to the growing popularity of video-on-demand services, there’s a new opportunity to help kickstart the careers of local filmmakers.

Numerous Hollywood blockbusters (District 9Tomb Raider 2018, and The Avengers: Age of Ultron to name a few) have featured substantial shoots in Johannesburg and Cape Town. While providing great opportunities for SA’s production talent, aspiring writers and directors don’t get the same benefit.

So where can local creatives showcase their work? Broadcast TV isn’t a natural home for unknown short films, and while self-publishing platforms are readily available hosting options, it’s tough to get noticed and get traffic when competing with videos from across the planet.

But with the emergence of video-on-demand services into the mainstream, there’s now a solution. The African film school AFDA has teamed up with the streaming service Showmax to give local talent a much larger platform than ever before. From 18 February, eighteen of the best recent short films made by AFDA students from their Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth campuses will be live on Showmax. Drama, documentary, fantasy, and animation are all represented, in pieces running from under eight minutes to almost half-an-hour long. The full list of movies is included below.

Teresa Passchier, CEO of AFDA, said: “AFDA, Africa’s number-one school for the Creative Economy, is proud to kickstart this exciting and meaningful journey with Showmax and AFDA students, ensuring emerging young African filmmakers’ voices are heard and given a platform. It’s ground-breaking to share young, local, culturally relevant content on the same platform as Hollywood blockbusters. I am certain that this unique initiative will serve to boost and develop the African film industry and the careers of many young South African and African students alike.”

Included in the short films coming to Showmax are the award winners Junior and O-PunchaJunior, directed by Bert Dijkstra, picked up the Audience Award in the Made in South Africa Competition at the shnit Worldwide Shortfilmfestival Awards 2017. O-Puncha, directed by Adam Hansen, won two awards at the 5th annual Eldorado Film Festival: Best Student Made Short, and Best Editing – Alexander La Cock.

Another celebrated film is Sicela Amanzi directed by Mlu Godola, which talks to the subject of water shortage. The film’s heroine Zoleka is a mild-mannered young woman forced to go to extreme lengths when a small community’s only source of water unexpectedly collapses. The power of films like this is they shine a light on critical topical issues in new ways.

Speaking about working with the film school, Candice Fangueiro, Head of Content for Showmax, said: “There’s immense depth of filmmaking talent in Africa and it’s a privilege to be able to give that talent a home and a platform. Showmax is becoming part of the fabric of film and TV production in Africa, and importantly we’re doing this as a partner rather than just as a consumer. This is a key competitive advantage of being local and something we aim to continue to work on.”

AFDA is an Academy Award-winning institution, founded in 1994, and the first and only African film school to win an Oscar – for the Best Foreign Student film in 2006, the postgraduate film Elalini, directed by Tristan Holmes.

The full list of AFDA short films coming to Showmax is as follows:

Film titleDirectorGenre
Lullaby from the CryptKeenan Lott & Raven DavidsAnimation
Ko Ga CherenyaneSibonokuhle MyatazaDocumentary
IzilwaneKyllian RouxDrama
MallemeuleJaco Van BoschDrama
Canal StreetBrodie MuirheadDrama
On the FenceWarrick BewsDrama
The Righteous FewLindo LangaDrama
Hlogoma PeakLuke AhrensDrama
Frozen FlameCameron HeathmanAnimation
WolfBrett van DortFantasy
The Walk HomeSisanda DyantyiDrama
BearWesley RoodtDrama
JuniorBert DijkstraDrama
O-PunchaAdam HansenDrama
UmngenoSiphosethu NdungeDrama
DoreenLuvuyo Equiano NyawoseDrama
ForeverLindo LangaMusical
Sicela AmanziMlu GodolaDrama

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