The shame and disgrace of the Saftas

2011-02-09 15:43
Very few people in the TV and film industry will actually say it outright – although many whisper it – but The South African Film and Television Awards (Saftas) are an utter shame.

The institution is devoid of credibility, unable and unwilling to improve, and is an industry-wide laughing stock with an award show (two this year!) that's probably a homage to Nigerian movies – the shoddy production values are on par.

This year's ceremony is called the 5th ''annual'' Saftas but it's not really an annual event. For that to be true you'd need to have had it every year. But why bother with details if you're the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), custodians of the Saftas, who seem to love their tacky show just the way some people love their zirconium crystals? Quite common but so shiny!

The Saftas event, which will this year be split up into two award ceremonies (since inflicting one bad mess on the South African film and television industry is not enough) on February 20 and 27, continues to be a shameful disaster. This horribly amateur event purporting to honour the best of local television and film is once again a failing and flailing fake fiasco that inflicts serious damage on the actual credibility of the South African TV and film industry. Who would ever have thought people would miss the Artes Awards? (At least the Artes always had nominees for all their categories).

The South African television industry deserves better than this amateurly run, badly organised, utter disgrace that's once again this year (as in the past) devoid of substance or any semblance of judicious thought, selection criteria, or fairness. Weeks before it breaks into those two travesties this tawdry and tacky event doesn't have a broadcaster willing to touch this mess this year. Which is probably a good thing. Last year – that would be the 4th ''annual'' Saftas – the ceremony featured a hobgoblin prancing around with bad jokes and such atrocious production values it seemed on par with the best of the worst Nollywood videos you can get at the traffic intersection. If televised, this disaster will probably once again marinade in hopelessly unprofessional production getting marred with pathetic sound, technical problems, amateur presenters and nominees who don't even care to show up.

The NFVF, who just got millions of rands again from the government in tax money and whose job it is to organise this spectacular bête noire, have seemingly no idea what they're doing – and they simply don't care to ask. Like the ailing old family dog – blind, deaf and hardly able to walk – nobody has the courage to put the Saftas out of its misery or totally reinvent it with some actual industry cred. So it keeps limping along… clueless and largely irrelevant, but using taxpayers' money to put up an award show devoid of contemporary relevance for an industry that really deserves so much better. And the poor contenders – desperate producers and actors starved for recognition in a harsh industry on a good day – conspire to settle for less, even if, like African poachers, all they can get is a Golden Horn trophy.

With no fixed number of contenders per category and more than one nominee from the same production per category (how did you separate them, organisers?), winning anything at the South African Film and Television Awards doesn't hold any real meaning. M-Net, who has more quality local TV productions than the whole of the dilapidated SABC 1, clearly doesn't care much and henceforth barely features. Likewise is a small remora swimming passive-aggressively alongside this shark called the Saftas, careful to be not too overt lest it lends credence to this shamfest, yet secretly hoping, wanting (and fully deserving) some recognition within the TV industry for good work.

It's shameful that the Saftas have no category(ies) for news, current affairs or even special event coverage. Documentaries and educational programming – which are hugely different - are lumped and dumped together. Hopeville, which was actually a TV show on SABC2, cobbled together enough footage to turn it into a film and is thus nominated in the feature film categories – six of them. It's hilariously sad. Just like an old, empty swimming pool. In the dime-a-dozen soap operas littering every broadcaster's schedule, the Saftas were unable to find in several categories even three finalists (and there are deserving actors).

And how you can have categories for lead actor and lead actress in a soap – a soap! – as well as supporting ones where the whole cast is actually an ensemble! It boggles my mind. The 5th Saftas couldn't even find a single best actor in a drama series, so this year they're making as if that category doesn't exist. It's all plainly pathetic. And more than that, the Saftas are just sad.

The South African Film and Television Awards are devoid of contemporary relevance and an insult to an industry that deserves so much better
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