By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK “It is a paradox that the film industry through the cowboy genre has taught the world the essentials of finance and yet Africa’s film industries have not put these essentials into practice,” said a film executive from South Africa. Speaking on Tuesday during a discussion of film financing and funding, the Chief Executive Officer of South Africa’s Film and Video Foundation, Eddie Mbalo, said: “We need to make the film sector attractive to all sorts of players who can add value. “In order to achieve this we need to employ appropriate tools of industry analysis so as to come to terms with what needs to be done to create attractiveness. We need to go to the financiers and funders to help us structure new instruments to be used to obtain better deals and to invest our boon.” According to him, the extent of the communities that celebrate and enjoy our film successes is limited. “Most people on the continent, even financiers and funders, do not know how wealth is created through the use of the film media. As a result they shy away from it with the pretext that it is a risky business, meaning risky in their minds. Despite this, we are working very hard to change perceptions that the NFVF is a conduit to distribute funds available from government,” he said. “Structural configuration of the film industry can go a long way to help to minimize the perceptions of risk within the industry. The perception of risk, not the real risk profile, is another great determinant of industry attractiveness. What makes a high-risk profile in the film industry is that risk is seen in terms of production, successes, and failure. This happens in no other industry that risk is assessed in terms of current assets,” he argued. In Namibia, like in South Africa, most stories captured by moviemakers are not a mirror of the cultural horizon of our countries. “Film is still seen as an escape for people after work, when they have made money. It is not seen as the major means of livelihood by the great majority of people. If these claims are true it is not difficult to see why the scope of our product portfolio and genre is limited,” Mbalo said. Besides the pessimistic historical determinants of investment, the current status is starting to show positive signs. “The various initiatives and endeavors such as the provincial film commissions and offices, film indabas, investments in new studios and facilities outlets, forums such as Sithengi, new productions which appeal across the South African demographic profile such as ‘Tsotsi’ and ‘Hotel Rwanda’ to name but a few, will all contribute to the attractiveness of the industry. For all these elements to bear impact, a deliberate turnaround policy, strategy and programs need to be put in place,” he suggested. Shifting resources to cultural industries including film can be highly profitable for the region. “Cultural industries are capable of showing exceptionally high yields when properly managed. The tourism industry bears witness to this truism. Cultural industries do not only have the potential to return high yields on investment but they are also great job creators. So it makes a strategic sense to the economy to target film as a favoured sector,” he concluded.
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