South African Wins Africa's Top Film Prize

Sun Mar 6, 4:39 AM ET

Entertainment - Reuters

By James Knight and Katrina Manson

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Director Zola Maseko became the first South African to
win the top prize at Africa's premier film festival, snaring the honor on
Saturday for "Drum," a film about apartheid set amid the jazz clubs of 1950s

Maseko was awarded the Etalon d'Or de Yennenga, the Golden Stallion of Yennenga,
and a cash prize of 10 million CFA francs ($20,000) at the closing ceremony of
the Fespaco film festival in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou.

South African films made a strong showing at the biennial festival, with four
films out of 20 in the feature film category. Only host Burkina Faso could
boast as many.

"Drum" is set in 1950s Sophiatown, the bohemian center of Johannesburg, where
apartheid melted away in busy jazz clubs.

It tells the story of the magazine of the same name and its anti-apartheid
campaigning journalist Henry Nxumalo.

"This is an honor for South African people, their beauty, their strength, their
resilience in fighting and overcoming one of the most brutal regimes of the
last century," Maseko said.

He dedicated his prize to his producer, who was shot dead during a robbery in
Johannesburg last year.

After years of boycotts because of apartheid, South Africa is now Africa's
cinematic powerhouse.

Stunning locations, a balmy climate and low costs have made it an attractive
alternative to the United States, Australia and New Zealand for foreign film
shoots. A string of awards have also put its films on the international map.

Darrell Roodt's "Yesterday" was nominated for a foreign film Oscar this year,
while "U-Carmen eKhayelitsha," the first feature film to be made in Xhosa, won
Berlin's top award.

"This is the first time the most precious award of African cinema has gone south
of the Sahara," Maseko said. "I want to thank the judges for ... recognizing
South African cinema."