Telling the African story

Monday, November 11th, 2019 04:55 |
Kenya Film Commission CEO Timothy Owase, Nakuru county Gender, Culture and Social Affairs chief officer Tumme Abduba, county trade and tourism minister Raymond Komen and filmamaker John Karanja at the launch.

The African film landscape still suffers serious shortage of funding,  among a raft of other challenges. But as WEBSTER NYANDIKA and ROY LUMBE write, colla-borations, partner-ships might just save the day

For the first time in history, Kenya played host to the fourth edition of the Lake International PanAfrican Film Festival (LIPFF) at the Nakuru Players Theatre, last week. The annual event aims at empowering the youth on the power of film for social change and to sensitise young performers and filmmakers on film entrepreneurship. 

This year’s four-day event kicked off on November 6, with a special focus on financial support for filmmakers and the global film distribution. It offered one of the best platforms for filmmakers in the continent to showcase their productions and provided opportunities for production collaborations and market.

The festival attracted filmmakers from across the world, with a number of categories up for awards with Kenyan, Tanzanian, Nigerian and South African films leading the nominations. Some of the nominees from Kenya included Fixed, Tithe and Offering, Started, Isolated, Confessions of Brenda, Subira and Jiji. Nigeria had Last Days, Nimbe and Omolara, among others. Entries from South Africa include Ubizo and Sipho Dlamini, with Being Mizani among Tanzanian entries.

Xousa Mpafa, a filmmaker from South Africa says the continent has the potential to be a film powerhouse if the industry players, media and relevant political entities such as local governments and film commissions, agreed to put their differences aside and forge partnerships that would see a renewed push for a united film sector. Speaking with the Spice, Mpafa urged filmmakers to embrace authenticity by avoiding “copy-pasting” content from established Western and Asian filmmakers.

Originality question

“The day Africans will accept the originality of their stories and African production styles, only then can we as a people be able to make productions liable for competition on an international scale. But we, Africans, have a bad culture of ‘copy-paste’ not only in academia, but also in film and media production as a whole,” he said.

Mpafa’s sentiments were echoed by award-winning Nigerian filmmaker Esther Kemigbadamosi, saying Nollywood movies were able to generate big income the moment Nigerian producers developed a culture of using localised style of production. She said this propelled the multi-billion dollar industry to build a global reputation as the African film powerhouse.

“Nigerian films, though poor in some aspects of quality, have gained a reputation of telling African stories in an African cultural manner. And this is what we, as African story tellers, need to embrace if at all we need this sector to realise positive economic gains,” she said.

Nakuru county trade, cooperative, tourism, marketing and industries minister Raymond Komen, who was the guest of honour during the festival’s launch, emphasised on the need for partnerships and collaborations with relevant bodies to ensure proper funding, legislation and distribution of African film content. He pointed that with the recent collaboration between the Nakuru county government, Nakuru Players Theatre, Kenya Film Commission and a wide array of other film conscious organisations, the process of producing and distributing local films had eased, especially with the introduction of funding and financial services rendered to upcoming filmmakers.

“Young people should take advantage of these funding programmes to to tell our own stories in a professional but traditionally-inspired way. Funding initiatives such as the Film Enterprise Fund and grants from different organisations are some of the major keys to ensuring film prosperity in the continent,” said Komen.

Financial handicaps

The African film has dragged over the decades mainly due to lack of finances and other resources to not only produce quality films, but also to build a formidable distribution networks. This creates a huge gap between the filmmakers and target audiences across the continent.

Western cultural influence has also been a major huddle because of the influx of pop culture and pulp fiction. These factors have drowned the creativity of many young African filmmakers because of the mentality that only ‘American class’ films can make it big on the silver screen.

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