WERNER SCHWEIZER made his first film in the mid 70s, at the age of 21, whilst reading sociology at the University of Zurich. Typically, it was a collaborative effort and political, two principles that were to characterise his work in the future. As a founder of the Videoladen co-operative, using video technology, he helped pioneer a new form of montage, a rapid succession of heterogeneousimages creating a subjective, polemic, rap-like language. Videoladens best-known film employing this technique was the documentary Zurich is Burning, about the youth movement in that city.
In the early 90s, Werner formed Dschoint Ventschr Filmproduction [Joint Venture] with Samir. Together they specialise in producing films for cinema and TV, with three focal points: politics, society and cross-culture issues; and new forms of visual language. In the last ten years, they have produced eight fiction films and more than twenty documentaries, most of them released in the cinema. It is interesting to note that in Switzerland a large number of documentaries are finished on 35mm and have a theatrical release. Dschoint Ventschr specialises in working with young filmmakers; ID Swiss is a case in point. "My goal is to make and produce films with an ingenious creative power, an intriguing story, with drama, emotions, and new points of view. I would like my audience, after the screening, to have felt the filmmaker's personal involvement, and perhaps also to have learned something new about people, society, history and the world we are living in."
JAN HEIJS learned to love the cinema at school. Then, as a political science student at university in Amsterdam, he had a job in the box office of the Dutch Filmmuseum and watched hundreds of films. It was in Berlin, programming for the famous Arsenal cinema and helping organise the Berlinale section of the International Forum of Young Cinema, that he met Hubert Bals. Bals was the founder of the then infant Rotterdam festival. It was under his tutelage that Heijs learned "to watch films as films, as cinema and not only as tools for other [political] purposes; and to appreciate film directors as artists, with all their problems, trying to make what they wanted to make." Whilst still a film critic for De Volkskrant and editor-in-chief for the monthly De Filmkrant, Heijs became a Film Producer making, among other films, City Life. This was a series of 12 short films by directors such as Kieslowski, Sen, Klopfenstein, Tarr and Agresti about their home towns. In 1992 he joined Ruud Monsters Jura Films and has produced a few dozen films, mostly documentaries "because its still reality that is most gripping and contains most drama; and because I like to see films about real people."
Heijs used De Filmkrant as a tool to help people develop their film journalist skills and now uses Jura Film to help young filmmakers realise their dreams, to bring their films to the international screen for an international audience.
DARCUS HOWE, ex-Black Panther, son of an Anglican priest, Britain's leading black radical commentator. He broke with Establishment at age 19, left Trinidad for London, entered the Middle Temple, swapped it for journalism. Uncle and mentor, radical intellectual C.L.R. James, inspired Darcus to combine writing with political activism. A brief spell as assistant editor on the Trinidad trade union paper The Vanguard was followed as editor of British magazine Race Today. A Mangrove Nine trialist, Darcus was acquitted of riot and affray. He organised the 20 000 strong Black People's March of 1981 claiming official neglect and inefficient policing of the investigation of New Cross fire in which 14 black teenagers died.
His UK broadcasting career launched in 1982 on Channel 4's Black on Black. He produced and presented C4's Bandung File, pulling no punches in interviews with Rajiv Ghandi and Robert Mugabe. In 1992 Darcus became The Devil's Advocate on C4's cult studio debate show honing his inimitable polemical style. He scribes a weekly column in The New Statesman.
CLIFF BESTALL must be one of South Africas most prolific filmmakers having made over 50 documentaries in the past 20 years. He has won many international awards for his work both as a cinematographer and a director. An innovative filmmaker, Cliff avoids the classic mode of objectivefilming, using a range of perspectives and often striking contradictions that encourages the exploration of the subtle textures of the truth.
In 1999, at the first Encounters Documentary Festival, we screened his Nelson Rolihlala Mandela - an intimate portrait and he tutored on the Close Encounters Laboratory. He also shot the award-winning Close Encounters documentary, JG Strijdom is Very, Very Dead, for Pule Diphare.
The Foster brothers are a formidable team of multi-award winning filmmakers. Though born and raised in Cape Town both have extensive technical and creative experience gained from the film industry in England and America.
Their passion for the outdoors, the coast and ancient desert landscapes, drew them to the Kalahari and the opportunity to have Africans tell stories through the medium of non-fiction television and cinema.
Their technical abilities enabled them to develop the special cameras required for the complicated film shots and amazing "action" sequences that have made The Great Dance the winner of over 20 international awards including Best Picture at Wildscreen 2000 [Golden Panda]; the 24th USA International Wildlife Film Festival 2001; and Telluride Mountain Film Festival 2001.