With a mission to share the value of Africa with itself and with the world, TV and film production company Coal Stove is living up to this goal.  Sunday nights have been jazzed up with the monthly screenings and panel interactions, Off the Shelf, hosted by Coal Stove in downtown Joburg.

We featured Coal Stove and their innovative screenings in last month�s newsletter (click here to go to the story in September 2008 issue), so this month, we thought we�d report back on their last viewing which took place on the rooftop of the downtown Lister Building on a Sunday stroked by a touch of winter.

Off the Shelf gives independent and student filmmakers a platform to show their work o audiences and engage them in meaningful conversation. Coal Stove sees this as one of the many ways to grow the market for locally produced films in South Africa.

In Focus spoke to one of the Coal Stove founders, Fidel Namisi, who said the turnout was amazing.

More than 80 people squeezed into the now seemingly tiny rooftop cinema, with no room left to sit, and not much for standing either. The audience started pouring in at 6pm, and the flow did not abate until well after the first film, Jordan Harland�s Cut, was almost over. If anything marked this session of Off the Shelf, it was the festive atmosphere as well as the quality of the films. Never had a more vivacious panel of filmmakers taken the floor, nor a more responsive audience fired questions at them.

First viewing was Jordan Harland�s experimental film Cut, whose haunting soundtrack closely underscored the thousands of images that flickered across the screen faster than the eye can blink. In the discussion afterwards, Jordan explained that the uncanny soundtrack was the sound of quasars, high density stars that are thousands of light years away. The audience didn�t ask any more questions after that gem of profundity.

Next was Youri Licht�s second year research film, Happy Anniversary. A humorous take on the conventions of film noir and silent cinema, the highly entertaining movie left the audience in a very jovial mood that was much needed for the next item on the line-up, Meijan Talo. Produced by Wits University�s Sihle Hlope, the film whose title in English is Our House, traces a few days in the lives of young artists in Helsinki, Finland, who choose to live their lives as squatters. Many of the audience members remarked afterwards that the film was quite an eye-opener for them, because they had never imagined that well-to-do people could actually choose to live as squatters. This realisation was however mitigated by the familiar thoughts and comments along the lines of �Only in Europe�.

The grand finale was At Thy Call, by Chris Dos Santos (DS Films). Having screened another film of Chris�s at Off the Shelf last year (the Coal Stove Award-winning Ortega Prospekt), At Thy Call was a study in the development of the personal style of Chris as a filmmaker. If there is one word that could be used to describe Chris, it would have to be gutsy. Why else would a kid from AFDA make a historical war epic that explores racial tensions between Afrikaners and Englishmen during the border wars of the 1980�s? This is a film definitely worth seeing. As audience members attested in the discussion afterwards, had At Thy Call been a feature, they would definitely go the cinemas to watch it. Most certainly, it�s a strong contender for a Golden Coal Stove at the Coal Stove Awards next year.

With the onset of summer, the regular screenings will commence at 7pm at the Lister Building, as opposed to the traditional 6:30 pm. For more information, call Scottnes Smith on +27 11 836 8911 or email him on scott@coalstove.co.za, or visit www.coalstove.co.za