African cinema has adopted a self-financing strategy

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The share of African films represents only 3% of the total film market on the African continent, while American films represent 70%. Countries such as Morocco and Nigeria are developing an industry and a production that is taking the continent to a higher level.

Reflecting the realities and aspirations of the continent, many directors see their art as a way of preserving cultural heritage, and educating viewers about the most pressing problems on the continent. Therefore, African filmmakers announced at the last Cannes Film Festival a pan-African fund to support the African cinema.

African filmmakers, gathered in the Pan African Federation of Filmmakers (FEPACI), intend to finance African productions. Public and private stakeholders are invited to contribute to the Pun-African Fund to support the cinema on the continent.

The fund aims to provide the necessary impetus for the restructuring of the film industry on the African continent. African filmmakers want their governments to raise awareness of the need to finance the continent’s cinema.

The fund will certainly have a direct relationship with the AU. For now, the pan-African organization is familiar with the question. But in this first phase of the fund’s implementation, the main partner is the Organisation Internationalle de la Francophonie (OIF).

For four years, the Film Fund of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs has provided a budget of 8.5 million Euros for the production of African films. This funding envelope helped finance 66 films. Since 2010, its target figure - 10 million Euros - implies the co-production of a catalogue of 15 films over 5 years. By financing films, France only assumes the right to broadcast through the French cultural centres’ network.

Nigeria is regarded as the giant of African film production, a phenomenon explained by the boom in home videos of its movies. There are some impressive numbers: 650 official film releases in 2000 (more than double in pirate releases), 15,000 video clubs identified, more than 260 production companies ... but only 5 cinemas in Lagos, Nigeria's movie capital. If the traditional cinema circuit is so none-xistent, it's because films do not come out in the cinemas, but they come directly as DVDs or VHS.

This success is contagious. Today, analogue production has turned digital and it sells 10 to 20,000 copies for about 1 Euro per tape. The offer has multiplied exponentially. The Nigerian home video is exported so well that it generates a turnover exceeding 750,000 Euros.

If cinemas are still scarce considering that there are a billion Africans, the other broadcasting channels, including digital and cable ones, have the wind in their sails. A private television channel in South Africa, M-Net has created an archive of key African films by buying the rights for them and putting them into digital format.

The rights are valid for twenty-five years on all broadcasts made on the African continent - and sometimes beyond that - whether they take place in cinemas, via Internet, cable and even mobile phones when this technology gets developed in Africa.

Ultimately, festivals remain vital appointment for the African 7th art: Bamako, Carthage, Johannesburg, Marrakech, Ouagadougou, Yaoundé: each year all these cities celebrate African cinemas. These festivals represent real showcases for the African cinema and they also have forums where directors of can discuss all sorts of issues.
Source: Afrique Avenir, November 30th, 2010