NOLLYWOOD, ITS AFRO-EUROPEAN HEIRS AND ITS CONGOLESE COUSIN: MABOKE FILM

Photo du film Run de Philippe Lacôte

Debate: "Nollywood, its Afro-European heirs and its Congolese cousin: Maboke film"

Moderated by Paulette Jakobs, with Guy Kabeya, Thierry Luse, Ronnie Kabuika, Monique Phoba and Tony Akinyemi.

Belgium's second International Festival of African Film took place on 18, 19 and 20 September 2015 in the 'Matonge' quarter of Brussels,  the capital's African quarter. . In addition to the 20 films on the program, cinephiles and professionals alike were able to attend several topical discussions, notably on "The black actor absent from white screens", and on the subject of African film-making with "Nollywood, its heirs and its cousin".

'Nollywood', born in the eighties as a small network of amateur videos, has in only a few decades become the world's second largest film industry, as well as one of Nigeria's main sources of income. Its winning formula: small budgets, a high volume of productions, simple and popular themes, targeting above all a local audience. Can this constitute a model for other emerging African film industries?

In the DRC, the Maboke genre is the public's great favourite: it is a kind of filmed theatre, based on the improvisation of a group of actors with no script, shot in record time and distributed principally via television channels and DVDs. According to Guy Kabeya, a Maboke actor, the genre is beset by a lack of quality, mainly due scarcity of directors and projects lacking overall vision, as well as the proliferation of low-cost products and the amateurishness of some actors. But it is necessary to work from this popular genre as a starting point in order to stimulate fresh demand for cinema amongst the public: Ronnie Kabuika, multi-talented artist and director of Villa Matata, is convinced of it. In order for the Congolese film industry to emerge anew, it is necessary to tke the plunge, like Nollywood did, and produce high quantities while making intelligent use of available resources, without waiting for subsidies which may never arrive; and above all to listen to the tastes of the Congolese public. Tony Akinyemi, Nollywood Europe director adds that it is only by starting to believe in one's own popular culture and by going against the public's taste that a real thirst for cinema can be awakened, and gradually increasingly complex projects can be proposed.

The question of how to tackle distribution arises: in a country like the DRC, where there are barely any cinemas, is it necessary to dive straight in to building screening venues, or is it better to wait until there is genuine public demand, as well as local production which is ample enough so as not to run the risk of cinemas being appropriated by Hollywood and European films? Thierry Luse, director of ADC (Afrikan Diaspora Cinema), sees the problem differently: his production structure, the aim of which is to create a new wave of cinema amongst African ex-pats, should be focused for the time being on VOD (Video On Demand). It is only afterwards, with the gains of this online distribution, that possible investment in screening venues would be worth considering. While it is clear that this strategy may be successful in the European context, it is a less obvious choice in Africa, where internet access isn't guaranteed everywhere.

All participants are in agreement on the following point: it is only by uniting their energies - as with the 'every man for himself' of the institutional politicians - that cultural actors will be able to create favourable ground for a solid film industry to flourish in.

 

Read also: The black actor faced with white screens

 

 

September 22, 2015
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