Film distribution: Opportunities, challenges

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Part of Isibaya cast

WHEREAS African television programmes have proliferated via the Multichoice Africa platform, the same cannot be said for film content by producers on the continent. Few Zimbabweans would be aware of African movie theatre releases from, for example, Kenya, Zambia and South Africa. Matwetwe, a movie by South African comedian and filmmaker Kagiso Lediga, is one such example. What is the reason why African movies are much difficult to access for the continent’s billion-plus population? The answers to this question form the crux of the interview between IndependentXtra’s Admire Kudita (AK) and Adze Ugah (AU), the Nigerian-born and South Africa-based filmmaker and television producer behind popular television series such as Zone 14 and, currently, Isibaya:

AK: I still believe that all this film content needs to be distributed inside Africa if for no other reason, but that we can have more cultural understanding inside our continent.

AU: I agree, but then networks and resources for this are non-existent but, if Coca-Cola can do it, why can’t we?

AK: It must start with an idea and a coalition of the willing, right?

AU: Yes, my brother. On my side, I am trying to raise funds for a pan-African cinema network, basically a cinema chain that starts in Southern Africa and extends to the other parts of the continent with the sole aim of exhibiting African films only for the mass market, at low cost.

AK: That is dope. What has been the challenge with Ster Kinekor in terms of distributing your content?

AU: Oh, the Ster Kinekor mandate has been solely Hollywood films and the Afrikaans films. They don’t care about black films. It’s clear from their reluctance to expand their cinemas into the townships and the kind of deals they give the black films that they end up distributing, they claim, black people don’t have a cinema-going culture or the money to patronise black films, it’s not true, but that’s okay, McDonald’s is in Africa but they still only sell burgers and chips, not pap or any traditional African food. So it’s up to us to now push our own products through our own networks

AK: Yeah my brother. There is a culture shift which is beginning. We need to get hooked up to people like Tony Elemelu. You may need to consider hooking up with him.
But is there some kind of collective of film producers who are facing similar challenges as you?

AU: Do you mean are there other producers facing the same problem? Or are there other producers trying to do something about the problem?

AK: Both I suppose.

AU: I know all black South African film producers face the same problem, I don’t know if they are all engaged with initiatives at their own level to do something about the problem.

AK: So my question pertains to whether you envisage bringing them all together or there are challenges with that? I am aware that United Artists in the United States was formed that way.

AU: Eish, I doubt if I am that person, but to answer your question, I have already engaged some very prominent people in government and business about the situation over the past years. I have sent them proposals regarding investing in an alternative black African cinema chain, still praying and waiting.

That report I sent was generated by one of my business partners in response to researching about the solutions to the problem.

Additional information: Matwetwe the film by Kagiso Lediga is executive produced by popular DJ Black Coffee born Nkosinathi Maphumulo, who helped bankroll it. Industry watchers say that more collaboration among African creatives will yield desired progress in the face of bureaucratic ineptitude and lethargy in efforts to stimulate the creative sector’s growth on the African continent.

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