'Big strides have been made over the three years of the NFVF's existence,' said an upbeat Eddie Mbalo, chief executive of South Africa's National Film & Video Foundation for the last year.

'We were originally conceived as a funding body, but now see ourselves in a much wider role, responsible for helping the local industry and for attracting incoming international films.'

The NFVF has seen its budget for the current year boosted by 50% to $1.8m (R18m) from $1.2m and has begun greater efforts to fund script development and skills training. In addition it has secured government approval for a further $3.5m-$4m of feature production funding. 'If we want to be seen as a film-making nation we have to put up the money,' said Mbalo.

Letebele Jones, NFVF vice chairperson, said that the NFVF is trying to convince government of the economic value of the film industry, not just its cultural importance.

'We are about to start a process of evaluating the value of the one co-production treaty we have, with Canada, and an industry study that more clearly explains the economic impact.'

Mbalo and Jones, however, identified the country's exhibition and distribution infrastructure as an issue in need of change. 'There are not enough exhibitors and their objectives are not always aligned with that of local film. There are many townships without cinema screens,' said Jones. 'It is becoming clear that part of our role is convincing people that there is a market out there.'