Act now or we continue filming mediocrity
What you need to know:
- Kenya earns US$70 million from its film industry annually out of a possible $90 million and the industry could well create 300,000 jobs if it were developed.
- While Kenya produces its own movies, it must still fight to become Africa’s film-making destination of choice for international film makers.
When President Uhuru Kenyatta pledged $1 million (Sh90 million) to the African Union to help set up a continental court to handle crimes against humanity cases such as those that faced him and still face Deputy President William Ruto at the International Criminal Court, global media and commentators took immediate notice.
The Daily Nation front-paged the story.
When on February 5, Sports, Culture and Arts Cabinet Secretary Hassan Wario pledged Nairobi would give Sh90 million (US$1 million) every year for four years — yes, the same amount of money multiplied four times — to the Pan African Federation of Film Makers (Fepaci), few noticed!
Indeed, Business Daily carried the story 19 days later on Page 18!
But consider the following: One, Nigeria’s film industry employs one million people, making it the second largest employer after agriculture.
It earns the country US$590 million annually and is a major continental and global purveyor of Nigeria’s cultural beauty, pride and diversity, artistic talent and brilliance and the dexterity and genius of its creative industry.
Two, Kenya earns US$70 million from its film industry annually out of a possible $90 million and the industry could well create 300,000 jobs if it were developed.
South Africa earns US$300 million annually from its film industry and it is still doing everything it can to increase its earnings from the industry.
Three, Africa is no longer what it was for long derisively called the dark continent; it is no longer the continent of coups and counter-coups; it is fast-ridding itself of deranged and bloodthirsty despots; intermittent internecine wars are becoming things of the past.
Africa is the new economic frontier! Africa is rising! And African films need to tell this great story.
That is why Fepaci, which was founded in 1969, exists. It is unique because it is rotational which is why (beginning last month) it will be domiciled here in Nairobi for the next four years. Let me but quote for you only three of Fepaci’s many objectives:
- Set standards of excellence and advocate the use of best practice in story telling for film, in film production and marketing;
- To promote the acquisition, ownership and control of the audio-visual economy in Africa; and
- To persuade governments to recognise the importance of cinema in the social, economic and cultural education of their populations, and to adopt cinema policies that stimulate the development of their countries and regionally.
In a word, Fepaci aims to help develop film making in Africa and Africa’s film makers. And this means helping develop virtually every skill necessary to produce, market and distribute films.
This must be done. Nigeria’s Nollywood is only second to India’s Bollywood in terms of the numbers (volumes) of movies it produces, with the USA’s Hollywood coming in third.
But Nigeria does not feature among the world’s top 10 film producers as listed by Unesco Institute for Statistics, April 2013 report. Why?
The report observes: “Nigeria has a very high number of audio-visual productions — on average releasing 966 films per year between 2005 and 2011 — but they are semi-professional/informal productions, most of them artisanal with limited or no theatrical release …”
When Mr Peter Mutie was Chief Executive Officer of the Kenya Film Commission, he observed in a 2011 interview that film is Kenya’s industry of the future.
But that is only if the Commission and film makers will benefit from direct or indirect public subsidies, special funds or soft loans or taxi incentives which will enable them develop the industry, especially with regard to infrastructure.
I am informed that our own Riverwood, so named because it is based on Nairobi’s River Road, is producing some 25 to 30 films a week.
Now that Fepaci is domiciled here, Secretary-General Jane Murago-Munene must first look to influence government to invest more in development of quality institutions for acting, film making and production, graphics and special effects, post-production labs and distribution.
Second, while Kenya produces its own movies, it must still fight to become Africa’s film-making destination of choice for international film makers.
That is, it must make movies and create jobs for its people and it must also make money from those who will come to make their movies here. To do that it must have business-friendly laws and institutions in place.
Over to you, Ms Murago-Munene.
Mr Opanga is a media consultant [email protected]