Local content on the rise, says Libero Films’ Hassoun
Sylvain Beletre interviewed Jean-Francois Hassoun, director of Libero Films which has done a great deal of work across Africa, most notably with two programmes: "Afrik’Art" and "+d’Afrique".
Q: How did you come to have this close connection with Africa?
A: I was indeed working in Madagascar in the early 1990 as a humanitarian doctor for UNICEF. I had done a first documentary on AIDS at a time when only prevention and education were offered. I then worked for Canal+ in Tunisia. I feel fortunate to continue to travel on the continent and am still surprised by its incredible diversity.
Afrik'Art cultural magazine which I have produced for more than five years for Canal+ Africa Channel.
Q: What is your feeling about the future of Africa?
A: Whenever I am in Africa, I am torn between optimism and a kind of anger. My optimism in this continent comes from the fact that it can only succeed and grow with all his talent and his strength. My anger arises when I see that things are not going fast enough. I am convinced that we must continue and enhance the global exposure of this vast territory, fight against prejudice, show that Africa is not a word nor a concept but a “plural”, complex, exciting region and a continent on the move.
Q: How are African TV channels progressing and do you support African audiovisual productions?
A: I work with many TV channels in Africa. We provide local training to them supported by Vivendi through our "A Film by the Sea" Association. I am therefore directly involved in supporting African productions. In recent years, I have seen a dramatic increase in productions’ quality. I think the local TV channels will go up in power and their standards will rise to reach international levels.
Q: How did you make a success of + d’Afrique?
+ d’Afrique was firstly a formidable challenge and a great opportunity for a producer. My goal was to show Africa as it is, a place that moves and creates. We wanted this programme to meet all the quality criteria demanded by all audiences. The cast of the show was critical and we have assembled a team of professional African presenters, with a distinct “Canal+” branding and with features shot in Africa. The first programme broadcast was met with enthusiasm and we are proud to share this excitement with our viewers.
Q: What projects do you feel strongly about?
A: One project dear to my heart is to highlight the evolution and wealth of the African diaspora in France which I think is underestimated. It's a chance for a multicultural country like France.
I also have the chance to present with Katia Barillot a new health magazine called "What's up Doc?". Co-produced with CIRTEF, it will be launched mid-December on TV5 Monde. It's a short and tonic magazine offering practical health guidance, and for its first season focused on Africa. Each issue will offer a report undertaken on public health problems facing Africa, but also practical advice and lifesaving procedures that everyone should know.
I am also preparing an event channel for Canal Overseas, dedicated to the Carnival of Guyana, Martinique and Guadeloupe. Finally I spend as much time as possible to my feature films. I am currently developing a short film between Morocco, France and Italy, and coming out very soon is my second short film that I shot in the United States.
Q: When was the company created and how many people do you employ at Libero Films?
A: 2006. We have ten permanent and currently fifteen temporary staff. We are also working with production companies in Africa.