African Screen Network Aims To Solve Distribution Woes Of African Filmmakers

African Screen Network Aims To Solve Distribution Woes Of African Filmmakers

From Variety. Story by Christopher Vourlias.

The launch of a new screen initiative, announced in Durban this week, could mark the first step toward solving the exhibition woes that plague African filmmakers.

With an aim toward providing a coordinated and concerted strategy for building an audience for local content, the African Screen Network will focus on creating a sustainable business model for exhibiting African films across the continent.

“African audiences are not getting access to African content,” says manager Khanyo Mjamba. “The whole idea is to create an infrastructure to get these films to African audiences.”

African Screen Network partners will commit to screening at least three of the company’s offered films, with a minimum of one screening per pic. They’ll also be required to distribute marketing materials and provide feedback on screenings, including audience reports and photos.

Working mostly through independent cinemas and cultural institutions, the network has signed up 21 screens in 16 countries so far.

“There’s potential to double that number within a year,” said South African producer and network co-founder Steven Markovitz of Big World Cinema.

Markovitz funded the African Screen Network through self financing and a small seed grant from the Goethe Institut. He says the group set a low barrier for entry for local exhibitors with an eye toward getting more and more partners on board as the network begins to grow.

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“We know it’s going to take time to build an appetite and create a culture around African films,” says Markovitz. “This is just the beginning.”

For its rollout, the African Screen Network selected six critically acclaimed contemporary African features:

  • “Democrats,” a hard-hitting Danish documentary on Zimbabwe’s electoral crisis that won best documentary feature in Tribeca in 2015.
  • Philippe Lacote’s “Run” from Ivory Coast, which premiered at Cannes in 2014.
  • “Stories of Our Lives,” a collaborative series of vignettes on LGBT life in Kenya, which scooped two awards at the Berlinale last year.
  • “Love the One You Love,” Jenna Bass’ look at love and happiness in contemporary South Africa which won a host of awards in Durban in 2014.
  • “Beats of the Antonov” by Sudan’s Hajooj Kuka, which won the audience award in Toronto in 2014.
  • “Necktie Youth,” Sibs Shongwe-La Mer’s blistering portrait of South African millennials, which won multiple awards in Durban last year.

The selection highlights the network’s goal of providing a pan-African platform for a new wave of African film making.

“We’re looking for films that are breaking new ground in terms of story telling,” says Mjamba. “People need to know that there’s quality (African) content out there.”


Read more at Variety.