The struggling African film industry contemplates going back to basics (Part II)

GP aims to provide an affordable, movable, outdoor and most importantly, non-profit travelling cinema to all in the SADC region


Though the African film industry needs financial help and policies that are favourable to its growth, Makgato strongly believes that African filmmakers are professionals that have the capacity to find intelligent solutions that encourage revenue generation without falling over at the doorways of parliamentary houses begging for handouts.

In trying to play their part while asking the government to play its part in encouraging the industry that will not only create employment but restore to Africans their African dignity and strengthen their cultures, filmmakers like Mogorosi are contemplating going back to basics to where it all started. “It is the triple B,” he says. “We are considering ‘bringing back bioscopes. Back in the day we had these in every village. So we want to project our productions and works of others who led us across the nation. That way people will know who we are and what we do, and in turn the industry will grow.”

On the other hand, Makgato, who has been on a two-year film industry hiatus, is back with a project that targets the Black Panther movie premiere at local cinemas. In anticipation of the movie screening, he launched a donation campaign in which local cinema tickets are donated to children from poor families that would otherwise never afford access to the cinema.

“There are a select few things that you will experience for the first time and they will vividly stay with you for a lifetime, therefore directly influencing the person you become. A first trip to the cinema is one such thing. Black Panther is a very important film because unlike cinematic heroes of old, this is one protagonist who is not brazenly saying to black/African children, “‘You are other. You can idolise me but you cannot be me,’” Makgato says. “Black Panther is a proud, strong, gracious, honourable, fierce African king, husband and leader.

“He wears his Africanism proudly and makes no excuses for his blackness. If a child is going to have a memory that lasts them a lifetime, one that will mould and shape them, what better memory can we offer them than that of being introduced to cinema by such a titan of African power? A symbol of unmitigated greatness that says ‘I am you, therefore you are me,’” expounds Makgato.

Some NGOs have long initiated similar efforts. Not only NGOs, but private companies like the Global Post have since re-introduced ‘bioscopes’ to villages in African countries like Tanzania, Namibia, Zambia, South Africa and Botswana. Called Cine Travel, or On-the-Move Cinema Project, the Global Post does not only ensure the African poor get the cinema experience they would otherwise not afford, but it also gives African film productions an alternative platform to be viewed by the masses.

Says Kabo Ditlhakeng, Managing Editor of the Global Post: “The positive effects on a society brought by films are huge and should be encouraged. Considering the inadequate cinema resources in Botswana and other countries, GP aims to provide an affordable, movable, outdoor and most importantly, non-profit travelling cinema to all in the SADC region.”

With supportive policies and finance, there is no doubt that on-the-move-cinema projects like Cine Travel by the Global Post can advocate for the development of the African film industry. When audiences are exposed to African productions, they will become automatic consumers of the productions. Though free for now, audiences will gain an appreciation for the industry and will not hesitate to pay affordable rates for cinema access in the long run. Of current situation, research has it that over 90% of rural dwellers in Africa has never been to a cinema.

In 2009, across major territories, there were over 6.8 billion cinema admissions, compared against a world population of roughly the same number, creating global box office revenues of over US$30 billion. However, out of this number, the portions contributed by Botswana and or other African countries are ignoble. The lack thereof is due to the lack of cinema resources. In Botswana, for example, there are only three cinemas and all of them are located in the capital city, Gaborone.

“The needs of those who stay far remain unfulfilled,” says Ditlhakeng. “Our non-profit making On-the-Move Cinema project will reach out to most people,”  The asperity of the African film industry has compelled Ditlhakeng and others like Mogorosi and Makgato to bridge the gap between the rich and poor while inspiring the growth of the film industry by going back to basics in order to progress.