For a very long time, Africa has been identified as a continent known for its wildlife, diverse culture, deserts and safaris. Unlike other regions in the world, it’s difficult to find common ground in Africa. You either find shared commonalities amongst nations, or discover a distinction amongst its multitude of peoples and ethnic groups.
African filmmakers have been able to examine this reality by authentically showing Africans as holy, flawed, sane, crazy, confused, loving, daring, worried and competent, just as they are. Even with the issues of poor structures and financial capability of most African countries in the postcolonial era a highly realistic film genre standards has developed. One just has to go to various international and of course specifically African film festivals like in Durban, Cape Town, Nairobi, Cannes, among others to see for oneself. But this is more or less, where the buck stops.
Photo from Actress Adeline Wairimu Profile
Film also profoundly shapes how Africans see their own continent. Few have access to news channels. They derive many of their opinions on neighbouring countries from the movies. More than once your correspondent has heard Africans say they had not been to such-and-such a place but knew it from a film. That the films they watch are made by other Africans is a source of considerable satisfaction. For decades many Africans have complained that the Western media misrepresent their continent, showing only calamities like war, disease, corruption and famine. They have come to see film as an antidote.
The film sector in Africa is a major economic driver and is poised for growth through the support of institutions such as the Pan African Federation of Filmmakers (FEPACI) which is leading efforts in mobilising $200 million over the next two years towards funding the continent’s audio-visual and cinema sector. The fact that different government entities and institutions in Africa have recognised the importance of the arts as a revenue earner is cause for celebration.
Besides being a driver of economic growth in Africa, film also presents an opportunity to bring real prestige to a nation and enable social development by providing a safe, creative space for new voices and ideas. The man challenge experienced is creating spaces for filmaking while having in mind that resources, and skills, are limited. It takes time for social and political impact to be felt and understood, and the expanding film industry in Africa must be aware that commercial success is not the only goal here. A film can be served to different audience all over the world and in different languages.