|Interview by Ogova Ondego
Published August 1, 2007
The African Film Summit, held in Pretoria in April 2006, was meant to give the African audiovisual media sector an impetus. However, based on the lackluster performance of the Pan African Federation of Filmmakers since its birth in 1970, one wonders how far the proceedings of the summitï¿½encapsulated in the Pan African Audiovisual and Cinema Practitioners Declaration (Pretoria Declaration)ï¿½are implementable.
What role did you play in this summit?
I was asked to write the terms of reference for the various sessions; there were five of them. So after writing those there were other people who were commissioned to write discussion papers based on those briefs and I wrote one of the discussion papers which was on the historical challenges of African cinema.
This must have been quite taxing for youï¿½
Yeah, it was a lot of work; it took a lot of time and energy to do it but again it was a duty and an obligation that I was glad to fulfill because I think it was a very important initiative that South Africa has taken responsibility to shoulder and they are right now in a position where they have the capabilities and the resources they are putting at the disposal of other Africans; so this was a real opportunity to seize and do my part.
How did the realities on the ground differ from what you had set out to achieve?
There is always a certain gap between the ideal and what you actually achieve. One can say that we made progress from both the African Film Summit and the FEPACI Congress. I think that there now is a clearer desire and commitment to see things change in order to move forward in the right direction.
Please summarise what you consider to be the highlights of the Summit.
I think there is a great awareness now of the importance of policies on the part of the state. Maybe this is something that has always been articulated, but it now has been formalised in a much stronger fashion this time around. I think people will begin to love and sensitise their various national governments, constituencies and maybe begin to put in place these policies and implement these policies that are very crucial in promoting and actualising the potential of cultural industries in Africa.
Since its inauguration in 1970, FEPACI has always been in the hands of French-speaking Africa. Has Anglophone South Africa hijacked FEPACI in 2006?
I donï¿½t think hijack is a proper word. I think South Africans have the resources. South Africa is one of those African countries that have invested a lot in cultural production, both in cultural promotion, in terms of material resources and also at the policy level. I think they are building on that platform and reaching out to other parts of Africa.
In Africa where cinemas are almost non-existent and film festivals are friendlier to filmmakers than broadcasting firms, why were festivals excluded from the agenda?
Most African films tend to circulate on the festival circuit. There are some people who believe that these films have been held captive by festivals really working against the interest of African cinema going into the normal theatres. But the reality right now is that without these festivals many of these African films will never be seen. So I for one support festivals and I think they are very important, and they can always be improved.
Why should Africans in the Diaspora have to compete with Africans for funding from the proposed African film fund whereas they have access to moneys abroad that the latter lack?
I mean itï¿½s really an exaggeration to say that Africans in the Diaspora have access to this, because the reality is that they donï¿½t. They might be aware of the existence of resources but they donï¿½t have contacts and facilities that might make it easier for them.
How soon do you think the recommendations would be turned into reality?
That has been one of the major challenges. The issues of actually implementing these resolutions. If you look at the history of resolutions, there have been many manifestos and resolutions but not all of them have been fully implemented.
director of the social and cultural affairs division of the AU here is very helpful.
Rahmatou Keita, a Paris-based African film director originally from Niger, also voiced her concerns on the African Film Summit.