Television, film festivals and DVD/VCD are the primary distribution of audiovisual media works in eastern Africa, says a report published by the Lola Kenya Screen audiovisual media festival, production workshop and market for children and youth in eastern Africa in association with the Communications and Information Sector of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) of Paris, France.
The 58-page publication, The Eastern Africa Independent Television and Audiovisual Media Practitioners Plan of Action (The Nairobi Declaration), was the result of the First Eastern Africa Independent Producers Summit held in Nairobi, Kenya, August 13-15, 2009. The Summit was held by the 4th annual Lola Kenya Screen in collaboration with UNESCO and brought together practitioners from all over the region.
The report that blurs the line among ‘film’, ‘cinema’, ‘moving images’ and ‘audiovisual media works’, preferring to use them interchangeably, profiles the state of contemporary African cinema in Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania, notes that filmmakers in Eastern Africa focus on television and DVD/VCD market and not cinemas or the big screen as few cinemas remain open in the region and where they exist, it is difficult for local producers to have their films screened there. It also includes delegation overview about the state of filmmaking in their respective countries.
The summit saw the need to create synergy among Eastern Africa film producers and filmmakers thus proposing the need for independent television and audiovisual media producers in Eastern Africa to come together in a legally recognised organisation to articulate, lobby and press for issues that concern culturally relevant and appropriate content-generation in the region.
The delegates unanimously agree that there is need for more local and Eastern Africa productions that would be culturally relevant and appropriate. Among other things, the publication stresses that an Eastern Africa regional fund for independent television productions be set up by governments with the support of development partners.
To enhance inter-country marketability of local productions, The Nairobi Declaration suggests that independent television producers make use of an exchange of cross-country actors and lead stars to enhance the marketability and acceptance of the content across the region.
Above all else, the publication notes that to have meaningful television and audiovisual media productions in the region an archive for all regional television programmes, together with the establishment of a regional training centre, be set up.
In regard to the vital role played by television, The Nairobi Declaration suggests that television be not only seen as an entertainment medium but one which can be used as an educational tool, serving diverse social groups and catering for cultural aspirations. Broadcasters, it says, should be empowered by being provided with adequate funding for them to make greater contributions to nation-building through proper use of television.
To avoid the replication of already done efforts the report invokes other charters and causes that have been put forward elsewhere on the continent among them the 2001 African Charter on Broadcasting adopted in Windhoek, Namibia.
Published in 2010, The Nairobi Declaration is an invaluable document not only to the independent filmmakers but to film students, stakeholders in the audiovisual media sector and the African continent at large. One hopes that with clearly defined activities to follow up on the Summit and objectives for the envisaged Independent Producers’ Organisation, Eastern african governments will work hand in hand with Lola Kenya Screen and UNESCO in realising the outlined goals. More so, players in the film sector should wholly embrace the document as it will definitely open them to many good things that it promises.
The Eastern Africa Independent Television and Audiovisual Media Practitioners Plan of Action ‘published by Lola Kenya Screen in association with UNESCO, with additional support from ComMattersKenya, ArtMatters.Info and Goethe Institut’ is available free of charge. Any one interested in acquiring a copy may request a copy from Lola Kenya Screen or download it from lolakenyascreen.org