GETTING AFRICAN CINEMA OUT OF CAPITALISM

Discussing the funding of African cinema during what the Berlinale called “Africa Day”, I felt an embarrassment seeing how young Africans producers were being lectured about how better meet the standards of the capitalist economy while everyone in town talks about Deutsche Bank being at risk of a financial crumbling. The first thing that is striking is that there were no serious film business people in the room the second thing is that the World Cinema Fund who was the host is itself granted with less than 400 000 euros for the whole “world” the price of a couple luxury cars driving stars around Berlinale. In listing the problems and the solutions most of them were embedded in capitalism while if we talk about capitalism, Africa is not just victim of that system from slavery and colonialism that were themselves different forms of capitalism, Africa despite the wealth of its raw materials is still poor; inequality are shocking and Africa is at the very bottom of that capitalistic model. What makes African producers and German public funders dream about capitalism as the only solution to film production and distribution in Africa?

While Africa has model of production that are effective and non-capitalistic. Let’s look at weddings or funerals in Cameroon and Nigeria for example. Here are people who gather to produce an event with no intention to make any profit. They invest their time their money and many other resource they have to marry or bury their friend, their parent or their colleague. I see that model applied to film production but films being produced here should be beyond entertainment. I see for example a historical film where people have a stake in the collective memory of the community being produced in the same way. A story they want to leave to their children and that will be shown in schools etc. considering the fact that even education itself is endangered by the same capitalistic model where knowledge has become itself a commodity where people die everyday because of ignorance.

It is true that the rest of the world is mimicking the American model , at least what they think it is – from the script until the star system marketing- looking at it supposely success and ignoring all about its price. It is sad to see that after bollywood (India) and nollywood (Nigeria) everyone is dreaming in Africa of its « ollywood »; which is a way to cover misery and forget about building nations where a terrorist group nollywood films didn’t see coming can take over 200 girls and kill thousands whithout anyone being able to do anything. When cinema cannot show anymore what is it doing? « diverting » us? (from French diverstissement that means entertainment); making us blind instead of showing us what we can’t see.

What we see here is that with capitalism entering all aspects of African life, there is very little chance that those community will survive, and when they do they will just increase the number of those defined by the market economy as “the useless”; those who can’t consume and can’t be employed.

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