Article by Ogova Ondego
Published August 30, 2008
The Pan African Federation of Filmmakers (FEPACI) recently brought training specialists, academics, researchers, journalists, film festival organisers and a host of other audiovisual media practitioners to discuss the training of film practitioners in Africa.
Meeting in Windhoek, Namibia, July 31- August 1, 2008 for the Southern African Region Curriculum Symposium, participants were drawn mainly from the Southern African Development Community (SADC)-member nations (Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe). Other participants came from Tanzania, Kenya, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali, Benin, Madagascar and Mauritius.
“We are bringing these professionals under one roof to dicuss curriculum discourse with the objective of enabling the regional countries to arrive at a common aim with regard to training of film and television practitioners,” FEPACI Secretary-General Seipati Bulane-Hopa explained. “This is a pilot project that will give birth to other symposia in the upper regions of Africa.”
It was not lost on the organisers and participants that tackling a broad subject like curriculum is not an easy subject in a diverse continent like Africa.
To manage the subject, FEPACI has to begin by defining concepts like ‘film school’, ‘industry’, and ‘curriculum’.
Film appears to not only have failed to take root in Africa but has no formal structures in place. Cinemas have been transformed into worship centres and shopping malls all over Africa. Moreover, film is a trade rather than a profession in most African countries.
The non existence of cinema across Africa and comparatively low patronage where cinemas exist does not augur well for Africa.
Perhaps to feel good, people in the audiovisual sector loosely refer to their trade as an industry but cannot state how much this their industry contributes to their national gross domestic product.
Bearing in mind that Africa lacks cinemas, distribution channels and formal funding agencies for its audiovisual media sector, perhaps the only question that we need to pose is, What kind of curriculum should Africa should adopt? Should it be the American, European or Indian one, or something entirely different? Should this syllabus tackle traditional or contemporary Africa? What kind of curriculum would be appropriate and relevant for Africa?
As a participant aptly noted, the theme of the conference.’The Alignment of Curriculum into the 21st Century Aspirations of the Pan African Industry (was abstract and participants needed) to crystallise what we want to achieve.’
While other observations were that racial, gender, age, identity and cultural dynamics be taken into account and that African cinema be defined by existing contexts and interpretations, it was also stressed that ‘Africanising’ the film ‘industry’ would take Africa backward not forward. Filmmakers, it was noted, should remember their audiences are all over the world and not only in Africa.
There is a tendency to study film in formal institutions and not enough importance is accorded to the technical areas of filmmaking, something that leads to a lack of technicians. Short courses, it was suggested, are important, especially for filmmakers with no formal education. It was also proposed that FEPACI create a repository of products that could be used for research that would be made available to filmmakers and scholars.
It was heart-warming to hear Joel Kaapanda, the minister for Information and Communication Technology in Namibia, pledging government support on promoting the growth and development of the Namibian film sector. He also applauded the FEPACI deliberation on matters related to the training and standardisation of curriculum used in filmmaking in the SADC region.