THREE African countries have started an alliance that will enhance a push for the creative endeavors of filmmakers on the continent. Tagged the African Film Forum, the countries – Nigeria, South Africa and Namibia were presented by leaderships of film agencies in their respective countries. They include Mr. Adedayo Thomas of National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB), Mr. Philip Molefe of National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) and Marinda Stein of Namibia Film Commission.
According Molefe who was appointed Chairperson of the foum, the idea which brought African countries represented at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival
(TIFF) to neighboring pavilions, began as an African hub at the last Durban Film Festival.
He said: “The African hub was conceptualized in Durban, South Africa, during the Durban International Film Festival because we realized that when we come to these major international film festivals as separate individual African states, we miss the opportunity of presenting a united, collective African front. So, we then realized that when we put our strength together, we are able to tell our story even more effectively, because a United AFRICA is stronger than a divided Africa.”
Molefe noted that one of the objectives is to develop the economies of African countries. “Come to look at it economically, the market tends to look at Africa as a bloc. When the market are reviewing an individual’s economy of a country, they tend to look at other factors happening in the neighboring states. So whether we like it or not, we are enjoined by our history and our identity as one people. So we decided to African film hub which will give us a much stronger presence at international film festivals such as the Toronto International Film Festivals, Cannes International Film Festival and so on.’
On the need for a structure for the African Film Forum, he said: “Following the. Launch of this hub at TIFF, we have moved a step further by formalizing the hub so that the hub is driven and led by a structure. A structure was adopted here which is called the African Film Forum. The founding members are Namibia, Nigeria and South Africa. I was then asked to lead this forum as Chairperson and Namibia to provide secretariat support.
“In Durban we had other African counties such as Kenya, Tanzania and Ghana and we hope that we will be able to Bing them into the forum.”
He noted that work has already begun, as “Nigeria is already engaging Rwanda, Ghana and other countries. On our part in South Afica, we have already begun a process of engaging and inviting other neighboring countries. Between now and the next film festival, we will be doing the wok of bringing other people on board. It is in our interest to have a united front because that is what is being done in other continents. Just around here they have the Europe stand, so Europe realize that despite being an economic developed bloc, they still find more strength in a united front.”
Asked how they intend to sustain the forum, Mofele explained: “The work of the film commission is not determined by the agenda of the individuals. It is an agenda that is determined by national goals. And from our national goals, we have the African Union goals as a continent. So it’s not an individual who says Africa unite. It is the African Union that says as Aficans, work together, present a united force… When I leave office, there is what is called the law of succession. Those who takeover must carry on the mandate as implemented by their predecessors.
“Our roles, particularly in our respective countries is to create a viable environment. Our role is that of enablers. We enable filmmakers to do their work better. We create an environment that will allow filmmakers to really do their work better and in fact focus on what they know best; the creatives. And how opportunities are unlocked, how benefits are leveraged, that eat for the. Commissions to do. My work as Chairperson of National Film Commission of South Africa her in TIFF is to engage with the business community, network with other film commissions with the goal of creating an environment for filmmakers to come and take from the opportunities that I have created.”
On the need to ensure that all the countries follow the guiding principles, he said: “We have to be aligned. We cannot drive a car that is out of alignment otherwise the continental goals will not be achieved. We will also look at different models in different countries in Africa and make sure we adopt a model that will be applicable to all of us. In South Africa for example, we are very strict on matters of governance, integrity and transparency to make sure that as we disburse public funds, it is done in an environment that is free off corruption, and very solid on issues of governance, integrity and transparency. These are our values, so of course when we come together to form a continental body, that continental body must find resonance with the theme that we strongly believe in, to make sure that we advise each other on best practices, on good principles in pursuit of our mandate.”
He explained how the film commission in his country has operated by enhancing the careers of filmmakers. “Being the National Film Foundation in South Africa, we work with a very diverse community of filmmakers; big and established filmmakers, young aspiring and upcoming filmmakers because we carry the national mandate. And we are responsible in disbursing national funds. We are merely stewards on behalf of the public. That culture of encouraging diversity will be something that we want to see happen on the continental level. For example in Nigeria, to make sure that funding is not geographically screwed in favour of one region at the expense of another, one of the things that are best achieved in continental bodies is to have a set of best practices, best principles to be followed and we advise each other on those things and there is pure review mechanism so that we are able to say no no no, you cannot be part of the club if this is how you conduct your business.”
The members had engaged with the business community at TIFF at a breakfast forum on September 11 at Lunar, Lightbox – Toronto.
Speakers at the event include Consul General, Nyameko Goso; National Film and Video Foundation Chairperson, Mr Phil Molefe; Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)’s Mr. Dean Hoff; National Film Video Censors Board’s Executive Director, Mr Adedayo Thomas and Namibia Film Commission’s Ms Marinda Stein.