Also, Ian McKellen joins South Africa’s acclaimed Isengo Ensemble as patron.

Mark Dornford-May and Pauline Malefane’s South African theatre company Isengo Ensemble, which was behind Golden Bear winner UCarmen and Son of Man, is set to kickstart new film production activities via a new partnership with UK-based Film & Music Entertainment.

Also, Ian McKellen has joined Isango as a new patron, alongside council members including Stephen Daldry, Alan Rickman, F&ME’s Mike Downey and Berlin Philharmonic Maestro Simon Rattle.

Over the next three months Dornford-May, Daldry and F&ME’s Mike Downey will prepare their first slate of films for announcement in Cannes, likely to include one major film opera adaptation - in the vein of the UCarmen eKhayelitsha update of Bizet’s Carmen.

Other projects could include a modern adaptation of John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera and a filmed version of their 2010 stage hit Robert Tressel’s The Ragged Trousered Philathropists.

F&ME previously worked with Dornford-May on Son of Man, which had its world premiere at Sundance 2006.

Dornford-May said: “With an international production partnership that involves Film and Music Entertainment, and Stephen Daldry. We are looking to expand back into film alongside our core theatre work, and spread the word South Africa has a major contribution to make to culture at all levels.”

“The undoubted talent of the Isango Ensemble is its greatest treasure,” added F&ME’s CEO Downey, “By expanding the current theatre work into the world of cinema we can take the quality platform that is daily quietly doing its amazing work in the township, and give it an international voice that can spread the word about the amazing talent there is in South Africa.”
McKellan recently performed in Sean Mathias’ Cape Town production of Waiting for Godot at the Fugard Theatre (where Isenga was the company in residence for 2010). Of his new appointment, he said: “I am often asked to become a patron of organisations I admire, and my reply is usually the same: ‘Forgive me, but I don’t have the time to support you properly.’ But the Isango Company is different; it is unique, producing work of international standards, linking high art to the lowly lives of its astonishing performers. I am honoured to be asked to be your patron and enthusiastically accept.  The future of Isango is important not just to its company members but to South Africa and to the world beyond.”

“We are thrilled with Sir Ian becoming Isango’s new patron, especially at such an exciting time as our move to Gugulethu and all the opportunities there,” said the company’s music director and opera star Pauline Malefane.