The money will go towards production and/or post-production on a narrative short film made in continental Africa that taps the resources of the local film industry.
The five film-makers selected will retain international rights to their completed shorts. Focus will retain North American rights and the right of first negotiation to expand shorts into features. The submission period runs until July 15.
Africa First was conceived by producer Kisha Imani Cameron, whose Completion Films has a first-look and consulting deal with Focus. Focus creative executive Matthew Plouffe will coordinate Africa First submissions and evaluate them with Cameron, who will supervise the programme.
In addition to on-site work in Africa, the initiative will also arrange a weekend of workshops in New York City with board members.
The Africa First board members are: African Film Festival founder Mahen Bonetti; journalist and documentary film-maker Jihan El-Tahiri; June Givanni, former Planet Africa series programmer at the Toronto International Film Festival; film-maker and professor Gaston Kabore; Pedro Pimenta, a manager of training programmes throughout South Africa; and Keith Shiri, founder-director of the UK's Africa At The Pictures film festival.
'It's about time the American film industry took a more active interest in the enormous filmmaking talents emerging in Africa,' Focus CEO James Schamus said. 'Everyone at Focus is excited to be a part of this initiative.'
'Film-makers selected for the grants will retain the copyrights to their projects as well as artistic, budgetary, and editorial control,' Cameron said. 'But throughout the process - and, ideally, beyond - the team at Focus will lend them support.'
Complete details on Africa First including application information can be accessed at www.filminfocus.com/africafirst.