Art & LifeMusic & FilmA brief introduction to the death of African cinema

Tue,25Sep2018

Posted on Friday, 14 October 2011 11:56

A brief introduction to the death of African cinema

By Mahamet-Saleh Haroun

Celebrated Chadian film director Mahamet-Saleh Haroun says African cinema needs to be supported and financed by African countries if it is not going to disappear.

At a time of heightened media frenzy, it is understandable that all that is invisible does not exist. For a certain number of years, cinema from Africa has disappeared from international screens. We already were hardly visible, now here we are relegated to the shadows. We had been sleeping for too long without asking ourselves questions as box offices from the north subsidised our productions. By continually being on an IV-drip, our cinema adapted to this chronic illness. 


Mahamet-Saleh Haroun. Photo/Jacques Torregano/JAWith the current crisis and this harmattan wind that has swept everything away, things are becoming more and more difficult. Development aid has dried up and, as a consequence, cinematic productions suffered. We must recognise that there is a great danger because African countries pay little mind to this art form. That is without forgetting Burkina Faso, which through its Fespaco film festival distributes glittering prizes to poor directors like us. However, are we worrying about the risks that confront us?


Neglected by African governments, cinema lost its shine. Movie theatres closed one after the other. Many countries no longer have any, such is the case of Cameroon, Senegal, Kenya, etc. The bright lights of movie screens went dark in cities across the continent without an authority being moved to action, without a group of film-makers rallying together.


Faced with this situation of abandonment, the digital revolution was a welcome change. Finally, a lifesaver! Thanks to reduced costs of production and the minimal equipment needed, we would finally see what was there to be seen. But, despite these new technologies, things have not changed for the better. One reason is that national television stations did not support this nascent digital transformation. The central stake in African television should be to allow for the blooming of young talent, giving birth to honest works that could find their place in international markets. Instead of that, we saw African stations demanding to be paid to broadcast these films. Most directors threw themselves body and soul into the production of series, the goal of which was nothing larger than alimentary, bringing us into an unprecedented de facto marginalisation. 


African cinema needs to be supported and financed by our own countries if it is not going to disappear. For that to happen, we need to mobilise film-makers to convince our governments to make cinema a national priority. It is what we have done in Chad, with Issa Serge Coelo and others. 


After the reopening of the Normandie in N'Djamena, the government plans to renovate two other cinemas. It has created a fund to finance productions, and the Office Nationale de Radio et Télévision now buys local series for €500 per 26-minute episode. We are working on plans for the Institut de Cinéma to be built in the next two years. It is a combat that needs to be fought nobly so that African cinema can live on.

Mahamet-Saleh Haroun is a Chadian film director. His film A Screaming Man won the 2010 Jury Prize at Cannes {jacomment on}



Last Updated on Sunday, 16 October 2011 23:18

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