African Filmmakers Demand Better Deal

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK Some African national public broadcasters discriminate along ethnic and gender lines against those with differing points of view and they are biased propagandist machinery for African ruling parties. This is one of the serious charges made by more than 200 African visual and cinema practitioners in a formal declaration after a four-day African film summit under the auspices of the Federation of Pan-African Filmmakers (FEPACI) in South Africa. The local film fraternity was represented at the watershed meeting in Pretoria by filmmakers Vickson Hangula, Abius Akwaake and Cecil Moller in their individual capacities. Yesterday, the three filmmakers formally handed a copy of the Pretoria declaration to the Namibian Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, at her office at which the Deputy Minister of the same ministry, Raphael Dinyando, was also present “Most African countries have only one public broadcaster, which often does not have the will, the funds nor the capacity to show local content films. The perception exists that such national broadcasters are nothing more than mouthpieces of ruling parties,” the declaration states. The African Film Summit was a sequel to a decision by the Assembly of the African Union in Maputo, Mozambique, encouraging the establishment of an African audiovisual and cinema commission and a fund to promote films and television programmes in Africa. According to the declaration in many African countries a filmmaker has to pay the local public broadcaster to show works. “Television must be seen as not only an entertainment medium, but one which can be used as an educational tool, serve diverse social groups and cater for cultural aspirations. Broadcasters need to make greater contributions to nation-building through proper use of television. Dumping of foreign films on local markets is of great concern as it is cheaper to buy from overseas than it is to purchase locally made content,” the statement said. The filmmakers felt that dumping has had enormous negative economic impact on the African film industry, effectively rendering locally produced material uncompetitive. “There is far too little content, which is truly African, being owned by broadcasters on the continent. There seems to be an influx of content from overseas countries, having nothing in common with the continent, its people, its cultures or its needs. Mandatory local quotas should be directed at creating a stimulus for genuine local productions, rather than opening up avenues for airtime to be filled in with endless talk shows and phone-in programmes,” the filmmakers asserted. They further strongly recommended national broadcasters invest resources into researching African stories and content, making films of such stories and distributing them effectively. “National broadcasters should be governed by independent boards, which should operate transparently and which are protected against interference particularly of a political nature. Partnership between independent film sectors and public television sectors must be established and public broadcaster commissioning practices must be redefined to accommodate independent practitioners into the process.” In the filmmakers’ view: “The functions of the envisaged Pan-African Film Commission will be to persuade governments to recognise the importance of cinema in the social, economic and cultural education of their populations. “To adopt cinema policies that stimulate the development of cinema in their countries and regionally and to take into consideration the concerns of the Diaspora,” the statement said. One of the primary demands of the continental film fraternity is support for government institutions to use African films as educational tools. “The to-be-established Pan-African Film Commission needs to encourage the enhancement of a positive image of the African continent, the rectification of the portrayal of the image and identity of Africans; thus the preservation of the African image, identity and heritage is paramount. The commission should focus on developing self-sustainability in the film industry to minimise dependency and create opportunities for Africans to improve their lives,” the filmmakers collectively said.