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Fortissimo Is Handling International Sales
On Breathe Umphefumlo (La Bohème) From
Director Mark Dornford-May Which Premieres
At EFM & Out of Competition Berlinale Special

Breathe Umphefumlo (La Bohème)
 
Fortissimo Films has acquired world-wide rights (outside of South Africa) to Mark Dornford-May's highly-anticipated Breathe Umphefumlo, which has its World Premiere as an Official Selection Berlin International Film Festival, and also screens in the EFM

Mark Dornford-May, acclaimed director of U-Carmen (the magnificent South African film which won a Golden Bear at Berlin in 2005), Breathe Umphefumlo is based on Giacomo Puccini's internationally renowned opera, La Bohème. Breathe Umphefumlo transports the beloved story from 19th century Paris to the township of 21st Century Khayelitsha, South Africa and follows a group of struggling artists, writers and actors surviving through wits on the margin of society.

The deal was negotiated by Fortissimo's Managing Director, Nelleke Driessen, together with the film's Executive Producer, Mike Downey and Producer Vlokkie Gordon. On finalizing the deal, Driessen commented: "This is a film where the setting, the renowned and wonderful La Bohème, inspired operatic songs sung in Xhosa, combined with the raw emotions of the story, come together in a powerful and moving portrayal of the realities of life, love and death in contemporary South Africa."

Echoing these sentiments, Mike Downey stated: "Breathe Umphefumlo is a very special film for all of us who had the privilege to work on it with the whole South African crew. In re-imagining Puccini's Christmas Eve as South Africa's June 16 Remembrance Day of the 1976 Soweto slaughter – and in the context of the TB pandemic, the story takes on extraordinary resonance. Vlokkie, Mark and I are thrilled that it will be handled globally by Fortissimo Films, who did such a fabulous job of positioning and selling U-Carmen all over the world."

Khayelitsha has one of the world's highest rates of tuberculosis and for this group of friends, many of their loved ones are living with the realities of the disease. For them, La Bohème is not a glittering piece of musical history, but a searing emotional cry for international understanding and action. Breathe Umphefumlo is a musical feature, written by Dornford-May and Pauline Malefane, with musical direction by Mandisi Dyantyis and includes songs in Xhosa, one of the official languages of South Africa.

Breathe Umphefumlo marks the fourth feature film for Dornford-May, whose first feature, U-Carmen, won the Berlin Golden Bear in 2005 and went on to become both a global critical and commercial success. His second film, Son Of Man, opened Sundance's World Cinema Competition, while Unogumbe played in competition at the 2014 Berlinale as well as the Toronto International Film Festival.

La Bohème is a partnership between Advantage Entertainment and Isango Ensemble and Executive Produced by Mike Downey (Son Of Man) and Sam Taylor (Before The Rain) of Film and Music Entertainment. A theatrical release is set in South Africa for later this year. KykNET, the Afrikaans division of pay-TV operator M-Net, has acquired Breathe Umphefumlo. The film is also backed by ARTE, South African rebate funding, and the HOPE Project of the University of Stellenbosch, which supports the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation. ARTE has pre-acquired certain television rights in France and Germany via local minority company Propeller Films. Fortissimo, who previously handled U-CARMEN, will commence sales at the EFM.

Breathe Umphefumlo has it world premiere on Sunday, February 8th as an Out of Competition Berlinale Special.

About Fortissimo Films
Fortissimo Films is an international film, television and home entertainment sales organisation specialising in the production, presentation, promotion and distribution of unique, award winning and innovative feature films from independent filmmakers from all over the world.

About Advantage Entertainment
Founded and run by Vlokkie Gordon, Advantage Entertainment has a close association with Silverline360 - (Media Film Services, Searle Street Post, The Refinery and Movie Mart). Advantage's alliance with South Africa's largest and pre-eminent Film Studio, Equipment Hire Company and Post-Production Facility places the company in the unique position to provide the full suite of production services, and offers the value add of sourcing SA finance. The company is based at Cape Town Film Studios. In a career spanning 30 years in the entertainment industry, and numerous international co-productions, as a producer her specific skill-set is Finance Structure, and she is regularly engaged with South Africa's key funding organs.

About Film and Music Entertainment
Co-founded by Mike Downey and Sam Taylor in 2000, Film and Music Entertainment (F&ME) is a UK independent production company. Over the last 15 years, the company has produced more than 50 feature films, along with company chairman and four-time Academy Award nominee, Stephen Daldry. F&ME's extraordinarily eclectic catalogue has become synonymous over the years with the production of quality international feature films from a wide variety of British, European, American, South African and Antipodean authors including his partnership with the VICE group.

About Isango Ensemble
The South African company Isango Ensemble is based in Cape Town. The core of the company was formed by director Mark Dornford-May and music director and singer Pauline Malefane in 2000. The company predominantly draws performers from across the townships surrounding the city. The company's work to date has focused on re-imagining classics from the Western theatre canon, finding a new context for the stories within a South African or township setting, and creating new work, which is relevant to the heritage of the nation.

Films created by Mark Dornford-May and other members of the ensemble include U-Carmen eKhayelitsha, an adaptation of the company's stage production, which won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival and Best Feature at the LA Pan African Film Festival, as well as garnering several awards for its star, Pauline Malefane; and Son of Man, which premiered at The Sundance Film Festival in the USA.

The Isango Ensemble designed, developed, and opened The Fugard Theatre in the District Six area of Cape Town in February 2010 and was the company in residence for the first year. During this residency, their productions of The Magic Flute - Impempe Yomlingo and The Mysteries - Yiimimangaliso played in repertoire to sold-out houses as the opening season and two brand new productions were premiered: Aesop's Fables and most recently a new adaptation of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists – Izigwili Ezidlakazelayo, written by Stephen Lowe.

The Company's structure embraces artists at all stages of their creative development, allowing senior artists to lead and contribute towards the growth of rising talents. At its heart are the extraordinary and varied musical abilities of its group of performers. In 2011, the company became a Section 21 Company, a not-for-profit organisation, and took as its new name Isango Ensemble.

Isango Ensemble is committed to creating theatre that is accessible to all South Africans and encourages the building of a united South African nation. Their first award-winning film U-Carmen eKhayelitsha and second film Son of Man were filmed on location in Khayelitsha and propelled this historically disadvantaged township into the international spotlight. Local residents were given the opportunity to be part of the films and U-Carmen was premiered in Khayelitsha's O. R. Tambo Sports Centre, playing there for three weeks to excited audiences.

About Mark Dornford-May
Mark's first feature film U-Carmen eKhayelitsha won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. His second film, Son of Man, received the award for Best Feature at the LA Film Festival and the Founders Award presented by Michael Moore at the Traverse City Film Festival. His third, Unogumbe – Noye's Fludde, was an official selection at both the Toronto and Berlin film festivals.

From July 2009 to February 2010, Mark oversaw the building of the Fugard Theatre, Cape Town. The Magic Flute and The Mysteries formed the opening season of the Fugard Theatre, and Isango Ensemble staged two world premieres: Aesop's Fables and The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists – Izigwili Ezidlakazelayo at the theatre.

In 2012, Mark directed and adapted Venus & Adonis for Isango to open the Globe to Globe season at Shakespeare's Globe, London. Following its success, this production returned to the Globe in May 2013. In 2012, Isango also produced La Bohème, supported by The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in a unique partnership. After a run in Cape Town, supported by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, La Bohème played Hackney Theatre in London for four weeks.

In South Africa, Mark has directed The Mysteries –Yiimimangaliso, The Beggar's Opera - Ibali loo Tsotsi, Carmen, The Magic Flute – Impempe Yomlingo, Aesop's Fables, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists – Izigwili Ezidlakazelayo, and Christmas Carol – Ikrismas Kherol, which won the Whatsonstage Theatregoers' Choice Award for Best Off-West End Production. The Magic Flute has since toured the world and won numerous awards including the 2008 Olivier Awards for Best Musical Revival and the Globes de Cristal for Best Opera in Paris.

In March 2007, following a traditional ceremony, he was officially included in the Sotho Clan.
 
 


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