- The pan-African Fespaco film festival, organised this week in Burkina Faso' capital Ouagadougou, unites filmmakers and cultural celebrities from all over Africa. Among the many issues discussed in Ouagadougou, the problem of funding for Africa's growing film industry was often mentioned. Should African filmmakers always rely on external donor help, or were there other ways to finance the film industry?
The Fespaco festival, organised every second year in Ouagadougou, is not only about exposing African movies to the local audience and handing out awards, it also hosts several other cultural events and is a good occasion for African filmmakers and cultural decision-makers to meet and discuss. As African film grows, finances increasingly become a problem, and this issue is currently debated at several forums in Burkina Faso.
An analysis and review of the status of cinema and audio-visual in Africa "shows an obvious political will to release more films," Emmanuel Konditamdé today reported in 'Fespaco News', the official daily new bulletin of the festival. This was seen with the growing Fespaco festival, where no less than 20 feature films and 20 short films will be judged.
Despite difficult financial conditions, African filmmakers were "doing their best to produce films," Mr Konditamdé reported. By releasing an increasing number of films each year, African filmmakers have now made their way into the cut-throat market of international films. Poor finances were now the "major obstacle" to releasing more African films.
Most African filmmakers still depend on external help to get their films made. A typical African movie, which always has a narrow budget, has received donor aid from one or several UN agencies and the cultural attaché of a Western embassy. Funds from the national government are mostly very limited, if the exist at all.
This is also the situation in Burkina Faso, one of West Africa's film producers. Because the government does not have enough means to support filmmakers, it asks for help from organisations like the European Union, the Francophonie, the French Ministry of Cooperation as well as some private promoters.
Burkina Faso's Ministry of Culture has also been trying to help directors through a national film organisation, according to Mr Konditamdé's report. "Unfortunately, even this support doesn't always make funds available," he however notes.
Funding became more difficult in Burkina Faso after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when the country lost a sizeable amount of support from Europeans, who were interested in helping out filmmakers in former communist states. Young Burkinabe filmmakers are especially struggling with their scripts to get funding. The private sector, most specifically financial institutions, is mostly reluctant to put money in films.
- Without funding, international competition becomes difficult for African film professionals, 'Fespaco News' notes. "But the question remains: Should African filmmakers always rely on external help? It is a question that is very difficult to answer," the organisers of the film festival note.
The finance of films in Burkina Faso however now is at a crossroads. The government and the national film industry are working hard to find solutions to this dilemma. "Large gatherings, such as Fespaco, are the best opportunity for film professionals to discuss funding strategies," Mr Konditamdé notes.
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