Strong criticism, including accusations of misappropriation of funds and nepotism have been levelled at South Africa's National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) following its recent allocation of grants of just over $530,000 (R6m) as part of its 2001/2 funding cycle.

According to reports in South Africa's Mail & Guardian, the NFVF snubbed proposals by some of the country's most prominent filmmakers and producers, including Moonyeen Lee, Teboho Mahlatsi, Shane Mohabier and Jeremy Nathan.

In addition, the paper states that for all the millions of rand the NFVF has allocated in grants, few projects it has supported have reached fruition.

The grants are part of the annual funding of projects that form the largest pool of development money available for this purpose in South Africa. The fund was taken over from the department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology by the NFVF when it was formed in 2000.

The latest grants are in line with changes that the NFVF has identified in the industry. "We are aware that we were spreading limited resources over too many projects," says NFVF CEO Eddie Mbalo, "Whereas last year we approved 96 grants at an average of $6,400 (R72,654), we have reduced it this year to 69 grants, averaging $7,100 (R81,015). We are also increasing the focus on training, writing and script development".

These grants, although core to the mandate of the NFVF, are also part of a broader innovative strategy towards development. "We are working on bringing broadcasters, distributors, funders and financiers to the table so that the value chain of the industry becomes a continuous production line. Currently the industry is plagued with fragmentation and disorder, and we are relied on to provide leadership until the private sector consolidates," says Mbalo.

Over and above the grants, the NFVF also funds events such as Sithengi (the annual national film market), and creates a presence at important international events such as the Cannes Film Festival and at MIPCOM as well as conducting research into the economic and skills development of the industry.

Mbalo says, "In terms of production funding (') we're looking at development, for those people who have the stories, but not necessarily the skill, we'll be hosting a training programme; and we're looking at financing more short films with the idea that they could be pilots for features."

The Mail & Guardian quotes Mbalo as saying that a full audit of allocated grants will be undertaken: " In the past three or four years (') 30% of the money that was given out cannot be accounted for. What we're trying to do is ensure that all the money will be accounted for."