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Wits U brings digital festival back to Joburg

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Wits University will be hosting the second Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival, with this year’s event focusing on digital innovation in Africa by Africans.

Wits University has announced that it will be hosting a second Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival in conjunction with headline sponsor, the City of Johannesburg. Spanning over three weeks during August and September, the 2015 festival will be held at the Tshimologong Innovation Hub in Braamfontein and will include a spectacular audiovisual laser performance on the opening night.

Prof Christo Doherty, co-founder and Director of the Fak’ugesi: African Digital Innovation Festival and Head of Digital Arts at Wits University says that the emphasis of the 2015 festival is on digital innovation in Africa, by Africans: “Africa needs innovation and the tremendous possibilities of digital will be the basis for an explosion of technological and artistic innovation. We are offering participants an excellent opportunity to learn, network and play again. The 2014 Fak’ugesi Digital Africa Festival was a great success and we are looking forward to another stimulating programme focused on digital innovation through the fusion of technology and creative arts.”

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Prof Christo Doherty, co-founder and Director of the Fak’ugesi

Aimed at the youth primarily, as well as programmers, artists, digital entrepreneurs, gamers, musicians, 3D makers, dancers, choreographers, and hackers, the Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation festival is the perfect opportunity for anyone wanting access to inspiring digital innovation.

Doherty says that the 2015 programme will bring together top African, South African, and international talent: “Previously we have had excellent talent exchanges with the Goethe-Institut; British Council; French Institute, and Pro Helvetia and this year we have many exciting events lined up.”

The opening event at the historic Alexander Theatre will feature a live audiovisual laser performance by Robert Henke entitled Lumiere II.  Henke, brought to South Africa with the support of the Goethe Institut, is an artist working from Berlin in the fields of audiovisual installation, music and performance: “Coming from a strong engineering background, the beauty of technical objects fascinates Henke and developing his own instruments and algorithms is an integral part of his creative process.  We are extremely excited to host an artist of this calibre.”

“I am very excited to come to South Africa. It will be my first time and I only have a vague idea what to expect. Lumière is about rhythm, about perception of time, about repetition and change. A lot of music, which is important to me, has been hugely influenced by African music. The American minimalists inspire me, and also there is a connection between some types of early techno music and African rhythms and instrumentations. Thus, bringing Lumière to South Africa is in a way closing a circle, and then hopefully turning it into a spiral that repeats and evolves.” said Henke.

Dr. Norbert Spitz, Regional Director Goethe-Institut South Africa says: ”We are proud to continue our partnership with the Fak’ugesi: African Digital Innovation Festival in 2015, by presenting an extraordinary audiovisual laser performance of Berlin based artist Robert Henke, which will explore the limits of what can be done with computer generated sound and laser technique. Additionally, and in line with our goal to strengthen pan-African dialogue through the arts, we are once more inviting digital artists and game developers from all over the continent to the 4th AMAZE Games and Playful Media Festival in Johannesburg, which will also be part of Fak’ugesi Festival.”

The Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival will run from 21 August to 13 September in Braamfontein.

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Netflix to make SA series

The world leader in streaming movies has announced the first South African production to join its Originals roster.

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World leader in entertainment streaming services Netflix this week announced its first Original series in Africa, with South African series Queen Sono.

The news comes immediately in the wake of local rival Showmax announcing it’s first original drama production. In this context, it heralds a new phase in the evolution of streaming video-on-demand in South Africa.

The action-packed series follows Queen Sono, the highly trained top spy in a South African agency whose purpose is to better the lives of African citizens. While taking on her most dangerous mission yet, she must also face changing relationships in her personal life. The series will be created by Director, Kagiso Lediga and Executive producer Tamsin Andersson.

South African actress, Pearl Thusi, will star as Queen Sono, with the character having been created with her in mind. Thusi is also known for her performance in the romantic dramedy, Catching Feelings, available on Netflix.

Pearl Thusi stars as Queen Sono in Netflix’s first original series in Africa.

“We are excited to be working with Kagiso and Pearl, to bring the story of Queen Sono to life, and we expect it to be embraced by our South African users and global audiences alike.” said Erik Barmack, Vice President of International Original Series at Netflix.

“We are delighted to create this original series with Netflix, and are super excited by their undeniable ability to take this homegrown South African story to a global audience. We believe Queen Sono will kick the door open for more awesome stories from this part of the world” added the director and executive producer of the series, Kagiso Lediga.

The series is due to start production in 2019.

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Showmax shoots its first local drama

Showmax has completed filming its first commissioned drama, as it builds out its roster of original content.

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The Girl From St Agnes, Showmax’s first original drama, wrapped on 28 November 2018 after filming in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and Johannesburg. The eight-part whodunnit premieres on Showmax on 31 January 2019. It is the second series in a programme designed to build out its roster of exclusive, original content.

As Netflix takes hold as South Africa’s preferred streaming video-on-demand service,  Showmax owner MultiChoice has made a string of strategic announcements designed to take the DStv paid satellite broadcasting service into the streaming era. Original content is critical to this strategy, as Netflix is on track to become the world’s biggest movie studio.

Showmax is available in 70 countries.

Photographer: Patrick Toselli

“Our first Original – last year’s light-hearted comedy Tali’s Wedding Diary – had the most successful launch day of any series on Showmax ever,” says Candice Fangueiro, head of content at Showmax. “This is a complete change of direction: The Girl From St Agnes is a dark murder mystery that will keep you guessing and taps into the current conversations in South Africa about #metoo and teen sexuality.”

At St Agnes, a prestigious all-girls boarding school in the Midlands, a popular and beautiful student is found dead at the base of the old mill. Fearful of the scandal it might cause, the school is quick to declare the death of Lexi Summerveld a tragic accident.

But drama teacher Kate Ballard doesn’t believe it. On the night of her death, an upset Lexi had been trying to contact her, and Kate had ignored her. Now wracked with guilt, Kate attempts to piece together the terrible truth.

The more she investigates, the more Kate realises that she didn’t know Lexi or the school at all. Behind the imposing walls of St Agnes, Lexi’s killer won’t be the only person exposed…

Newcomer Jane De Wet was handpicked to play Lexi by legendary South African casting director Moonyeenn Lee (Tsotsi), who’s been nominated for two Emmy Awards in the last three years, for The Looming Tower and Roots.

Kate is played by Nina Milner, who modelled for Vogue Germany and at Paris Fashion Week last year and most recently starred in Troy: Fall Of A City as Penthesilea, queen of the Amazons.

Jane and Nina are joined by an impressive supporting cast that includes internationally recognised South African talent like Robert Hobbs (District9), Tyrone Keogh (24 Hours To Live), Tessa Jubber (Wallander), Karl Thaning (Dredd) and Shamilla Miller (Troy: Fall Of A City) opposite local favourites like Celeste Khumalo (The Queen), Richard Lukunku (Happiness Is A Four-Letter Word), Zakeeya Patel (High Rollers), Graham Hopkins (The Lab) and three-time South African Film and Television Award (SAFTA) winner Jerry Mofokeng (Heist, Tsotsi), not to mention hot new talent like Paige Bonnin and Tristan de Beer.

The Girl From St Agnes is being produced by Quizzical Pictures, winners of the SAFTA for Best Drama for six of the last eight years, as well as a Peabody. Producer Harriet Gavshon, Quizzical Pictures’ managing director, is drawing on her own private school experiences, which sparked the original idea for the show. This is the first time Harriet has produced a series, rather than just executive producing, since 2009’s Hopeville, which won Best Drama and Miniseries at Rose d’Or, was nominated for an International Emmy, and was a finalist at Monte Carlo.

Catharine Cooke, who won this year’s Best Director In a TV Drama SAFTA for iNumber Number, co-directed the shoot with Cindy Lee, a commercials director helming her first drama series, having previously worked as the social media director on the Emmy-winning Black Mirror. Double SAFTA winner Gillian Breslin (Umlilo; 4Play: Sex Tips For Girls) is head writer. This makes Girl From St Agnes a rare TV series commissioned, produced, written and directed by women.

“What links Girl From St Agnes, Tali’s Wedding Diary and the other Showmax Originals in the pipeline is our aim to work with the best South African talent and be the home for brave, quirky and at times edgy local stories you wouldn’t find anywhere else,” says Candice. “Creating new characters that audiences come to love and follow is an incredibly rewarding experience and we want to establish a platform for more ‘Tali’s’ across varied genres.”

All eight episodes can be binged on Showmax from 31 January 2019.

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