‘There are many African filmmakers, but there no African cinemas’
The need for an independent net of distribution and for an alternative funding, key aspects of the first FCAT Espacio Professional
Córdoba, 15th October 2013. FCAT Espacio Profesional, a spaced conceived for the critical debate on African cinemas, has started today at the African Film Festival of Cordoba. The activity has consisted of a twofold panel – on the one hand, the presentation of the book Les cinémas d'Afrique dans les années 2000 by the expert on African Film Criticism, Olivier Barlet; and a round table with African filmmakers and Barlet himself revolving around the present of African cinemas.
Olivier Barlet, has been accompanied by Carlos Domínguez, director of FCAT Espacio Profesional, eager to prompt the translation and publication of this book, into Spanish, firstly and secondly, in English; María Sylveyro, Head of the Editorial Ocho y Medio in Spain, who has stated that the idea of Ocho y Medio is to have this book published into Spanish by this date next year; and Marion Berger, FCAT Curator, who has highlighted from the book the questioning of the Western thoughts on Africa and the dynamism of the notions revolving around Africa. Olivier Barlet is one of the most prolific and relevant film critics specialized in the cinemas of Africa, as well as a key promoter of the film critic profession and genre in Africa. According to him, Les cinémas d'Afrique dans les années 2000, is a book following Mbembe’s idea of Europe not being the centre of the world any longer. ‘Africa teaches us how to understand the world, since Africa has already encountered the other, and they are used to the unexpected. Their capacity of action is very different and can teach the Western world a lot’, Barlet has stated. The book, whose departing points are not Western but Africans, has two aims – to understand the world and to learn about cinema.
In addition to Olivier Barlet, the second panel has hosted some of the most relevant experts on this field to discuss the current situation of African cinemas. Among them, South African filmmaker, Arya Lalloo, whose documentary film Jeppe on a Friday (2012) is in the official selection of FCAT Cordoba 2013; Algerian filmmaker, Lamine Ammar Khodja, and Senegalese filmmaker William M’baye, whose documentary film Président Dia (2012) is also lined up for the official selection of this festival. The panel has revolved around the need for finding new ways of funding both popular cinema and ‘cinéma d’ateur’ and for finding a solution to the lack of distribution that most of African countries are experiencing today.
“There are many African filmmakers, but there are no African cinemas”
Ousmane William M’ Baye, director of the documentary film Président Dia (2012, 54’), has provoked the very engaged audience and speakers at FCAT Espacio Profesional, by stating – ‘There are many African filmmakers, but there are no African cinemas’. M’Baye was referring to the presence of worldwide acclaimed filmmakers, that are usually framed as ‘African’, but the lack of exhibition of African cinemas in the continent. In the end, African films are screened elsewhere in European film festivals. This statement has very much entailed with Barlet’s reflection on the digital era, where Africans can easily create their own films, as ‘the image has always been a key aspect for communications in Africa’. However, there is not a learning process on this image and thus, the resulting images can be highly problematic and misrepresentative of Africa’. M’baye has claimed ‘an aesthetical wave in Africa, which is how we should respond to crisis’. In this way, the contribution of Arya Lalloo have been of great relevance, as she has highlighted the importance of ‘audience participation’, so we answer to the questions of ‘what cinema are we doing and for whom? There have been many changes, but the solution in cinema must be addressed through the film language itself’. This is why cinema as a mirror is not as relevant any more as cinema as a reflection. The South African filmmaker has highlighted the importance of a creation of an alternative circuit, as today the reason for the large number of co-productions is the lack of funding for independent creations.
The need for an independent distribution network
Algerian filmmaker, Lamine Ammar Khodja, shared as well his concern of the lack of distribution in Africa in general and in Algeria, in particular, where ‘there is just a State cinema with over 100 films per year, yet where people do not watch independent cinemas’. This is a frustrating situation, according to him, that could be solved if the State leave cinema for filmmakers, and engaged in the promotion of a fluid net for the ways of funding those cinemas.
Finally, Olivier Barlet has demanded as well the need for the co-existence of the duality popular cinema and cinema d’auteur – ‘The filmmaker must think of the artistic side of his work’. Barlet explained that the creation of new cinemas has nothing to do with the success regarding audience. For instance, in Chad there was a creative boom, a very big cinema was build up in the capital, but it barely gathered 21 spectators per day. He indicated as possible solutions the creation of schools of cinema and Film Reviews magazines in order to mobilise the audiences.
Further panels at FCAT Espacio Profesional 2013
FCAT Espacio Profesional will be running until Friday the 18th of October, every morning at Casa Árabe. Tomorrow, the panel will be aimed at women, with Arya Lalloo, Laurence Attali (filmmaker and producer from France/Senegal), Latifa El Berki (Moroccan producer) and Narimane Mari (Algerian-French filmmaker and producer) chaired by Guadalupe Arensburg, author specialist in African films.
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‘The future of African cinema lies on reinventing smart cinema’
The online distribution platform Africafilms.tv cements its collaboration with the African Film Festival of Cordoba-FCAT, offering five titles from the 18th October
Cordoba, 18th October 2013. The professional forum at the African Film Festival of Cordoba-FCAT, known as FCAT Espacio Profesional, has given voice today to the filmmakers of emerging projects aimed at the online distribution. The round table, ‘An outlook on the audiovisual sector in Africa’, has started with an outlook of the history of African film festivals, the relation with festivals and the digital, and the capacity of the festivals of building audiences and allowing the existence and distribution of African films. These points, supported by Dr Lindiwe Dovey, founder of London Film Africa, and professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies (U. London). This panellist has been followed by Enrico Chiesa, director of Africanfilms.tv, who has been contributing to the festival since the foundation of the online site in 2011. Chiesa has explained that they have just launched an initiative consisting on providing audiences with a series of films taken from the FCAT film archive. This initiative, that will start on the 18th of October, dovetailing with the closing and awards ceremony of the festival, will allow audiences to stream and watch these films in their own computers. ‘African film must enjoy the great advantages of the new ITCs in order to meet the enormous audience’, Enrico Chiesa has stated. The VoD (Video on Demand) site, funded by the ACP States and the European Union, aimed at promoting the African film sector and the cooperation among professionals in Africa, Spain and beyond. The project, based in Dakar, is also available in Mali and France, other than in Senegal. During his speech, the director of Africafilms.tv has highlighted the importance of reinventing smart cinema to prompt a popular cinema.
The five selected films to be provided out of charge to the surfers for a week are Ezra, by Nigerian filmmaker Newton I. Aduaka; the German-Kenyan coproduction Soul Boy, by Hawa Essuman; Surfing Soweto, by Sara Blecher; Il va pleuvoir sur Conakry, by Cheik Fantamady Camara, screened at the festival; and Jimmy Dakar Soul, by Marina Aguirre and David García, an international premier at FCAT Cordoba 2013.
However, Africafilms.tv is not the only one aimed at the online distribution of African cinemas. The round table has also counted on Russell Southwood, who has presented Smart Monkey Tv , a Youtube channel linked to Balancing Act, an online site devoted to information and communication of African issues and cultures. Southwood has shared Chiesa’s point on the necessity of enjoying the new tools, such as the smartphone, which has become the “medium of choice in Africa”.
FCAT Espacio Profesional concludes today with the forum of production and co-production in Africa and Spain. The festival will celebrate its closing and awards ceremony this evening, revealing the five winners out of the 27 films on competition.
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