Friday, August 31, 2012

What Product are filmmakers selling ?

In a focus discussion on contemporary East African cinema hosted by ZUKA and Patrick Sekyaya and Prince Joe Nakibinge we asked what product are filmmakers selling to an audience that is increasingly exposed to global cinema. The need to differentiate the product from Nollywood, Hollywood so that the selling point is the experience of the Ugandan way of life/culture was articulated. The discussion brought out the comparison between Nigeria and Uganda the former with a formal industry with financial institutions willing to finance productions and the result is it produces 70 films a week compared to Uganda with 30 films a year. This output necessitates an entire channel, Africa Magic devoted to Nigerian content no other country in Africa can sustain an entire channel. The lack of institutional support does not end at finance but includes the lack of political will to enforce quotas to protect the local industry against an influx of Hollywood and Asian films. Restrict access to foreign films creating demand for local cinema and therefore increase audience access to local films and coupled with incentives such as waivers on import duty on film equipment, local filmmakers will be encouraged to create. And at least locally will not have to compete directly with global productions. Local audiences will be compelled to consume local productions by the sheer volume of productions on the market. Unfair competition with global productions stifles creativity with local filmmakers having to create content for an audience that is raised on a diet of global productions and as a result susceptible to neo colonialism that creates unrealistic expectations of local productions and cinema in general. These neo colonial attitudes to cinema especially the effect these have of audience preferences and tastes inevitably dictate to the filmmaker that caters to these audiences and the images produced locally reinforce perceptions, neo colonial stereotypes and limit individual freedoms.

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