Through its Media and Motion Pictures Strategic Business Unit, the IDC has had a significant impact on the film industry, helping to bring several award-winning movies to international audiences.
International film makers have long been drawn to South Africa, using its spectacular, diverse scenery and teeming urban environments as backdrops for a variety of productions, from feature films to TV shows.
The local industry, however, was slow to come to the party. But with the Industrial Development Corporation leading the charge, South Africa's movie sector has grown significantly in the past two decades.
As South Africa celebrates 20 year of democracy, the IDC has also cause to celebrate, having played a key role in the production of 40 movies, including many local offerings that have gone on to win acclaim around the world.
Since 2010, 91 locally produced films have hit South African screens – a good indication that the industry is growing in leaps and bounds. The boom follows a bit of a trough: in the 1990s few South African movies were being made. Tax incentives and subsidies had been withdrawn, there was little finance available to producers, distributors did not want to support local content, and audiences seemed to prefer foreign productions. Between 1994 and 1997, there were only 11 locally produced feature films.
To remedy this, the national Department of Arts and Culture drew up the Film Development Strategy in 1996 and established the National Film and Video Foundation in 1999. And the IDC set up its Media and Motion Pictures Strategic Business Unit in 2001 "to develop, grow and invest in the media sector of the economy, focusing on projects intended to enhance the motion picture value chain".
It had an immediate and significant impact: the first transactions to make South African films were approved in the same year. This showed the corporation's appetite for the industry.
Initially, the unit focused on support funding for films being produced locally by international companies for international audiences. This focus rapidly expanded to support local producers wanting to tell South African stories for a local and international audience, and to fund film production facilities and the animation industry.
Since setting up the unit in 2001, the IDC has invested in 40 films, 13 documentaries and nine TV series, among them some international award-winners. They include Stander (released in 2003); Country of my Skull aka In My Country (2004); Tsotsi (2005); Zambezia (2012); Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013) and Khumba (2013).
Not content to rest, the IDC is again taking a leadership position. It is growing the unit's interest into the value chain, now focusing on distribution to make films available to a larger audience.