“The Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO) is a film festival in Burkina Faso held biennially in Ouagadougou, where the organization is based. It accepts films by African filmmakers and chiefly produced in Africa. FESPACO is scheduled in March every two years where its opening night is held in the Stade du 4-Aout, the national stadium. The festival offers African film professionals the chance to establish working relationships, exchange ideas and to promote their work. FESPACO’s stated aim is to contribute to the expansion and development of Africa cinema as a means of expression, education, and awareness-raising. It has also worked to establish a market for African films and industry professionals”. (Wikipedia)
According to the BusinessDictionary, “development is the process of economic and social transformation that is based on complex cultural and environmental factors and their interactions”. Whereas a film can be described as a story chronicled by a camera as a set of moving images and shown in a cinema or on television to communicate an idea.
The making of films has always said to be one of the many avenues through which a nation can be developed and attain self-sustainability and emancipate itself from foreign influence. This paper will, therefore, look at how film can be used as an instrument for national development with references from the just ended Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO). Some of the critical things this paper will touch on includes; sustainability of the movie industry, projecting the African image and the dilemma of film funding in Africa.
To begin with, FESPACO is the oldest film festival on the continent and the country in mine opinion has done a marvelous work by maintaining and organizing the event for the past fifty years and in its twenty-sixth edition. The five decades of FESPACO got me thinking on how movie industries in Africa, specifically in Ghana can be sustainable by taking some lessons from the francophone country.
During one of the workshops as part of the activities of the festival called CODESRIA, the issue of how the film industry can be maintained came up and it was clear that the twenty-first-century filmmakers are not concerned about the sustainability of the industry but rather how to make money/exploit the citizens.
In Ghana, for instance, the movie industry is completely on the low and this I think is because the industry players think of themselves as the boss. How then can our precious industry through which the African story can be told thrive?
Subsequently, how can the true and authentic image/story of Africa be projected when the creativity of African filmmakers is influenced/altered by the sort of European, South American and Asian films that they consume? I attended a workshop during FESPACO and it was agreed that filmmakers must make a conscious effort to decolonize their minds in other to tell the African story as it is.
And I perfectly agree with that. The modern-day African filmmaker must go back to their root and understand the traditions of the community in order to project and create what is Africa. Of course, when the Europeans came to colonize Africa, there were some traditional practices that they termed as “pagan rites” which were banned. Fast forward, some African governments have legislation criminalizing such practices which personally, I think has prevented filmmakers from learning the African tradition and has effectively shut the creativity of movie makers. However, there are many ways of killing a cat and therefore, there should be various means of projecting what is Africa.
FESPACO as a festival of its stature received massive support and funding from the Burkina Faso government which has now become a cultural celebration. Not to forget funding from cooperate bodies, NGOs and situated in a francophone country, obviously, it was also sponsored by their colonial master which is France. If cooperate bodies and other institutions can support the making of films in Africa the way FESPACO is sponsored, then filmmaking on the continent can compete with the likes of Hollywood, Bollywood and the other movie industries in the world.
Again, there is an argument on how filmmaking should be sponsored. Whether there should be some kind of legislation instrument that will compel cooperate bodies to fund filmmaking. It is somewhat understandable when the African movie industry is not getting the support it needs because there is not much quality in the content of films that are produced. Funding is a form of risk and no entity would like to invest in something which is not up to standard. For instance, Burkina Faso invested one billion to support the film industry but failed to ask what sort of content to be produced.
Should investors have a say in the sort of content that should be produced in other to ensure that the money does not go to waste?
How can a nation be developed when it has no identity?
Again, how can a nation be industrialized when it has lost its cultural attractiveness?
The various African governments must, therefore, make a conscious effort to invest in the film industry and ensure that movies produced to tell the African story and bring development. There should also be government policies that will support local content production. It is, therefore, the responsibility of every young filmmaker to go to their grass root to understand their tradition and culture to enable them project what is Africa.
Writer: Nicholas Brown
The writer is a level 300 Theatre Arts student at the School of Performing Arts, University of Ghana, Legon.
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