Rising African Film Industries: The Nollywood-South Africa Axis

Written by Veronica Pamoukaghlian

Kenya film industry

“In general, there is huge talent. There is a need for training. African filmmakers need money, incentives, and infrastructure in order to grow faster, but grow they will,” Nedjad said. “There are a couple of African film funds and support schemes in some regions, and, of course, there are a couple of international film funds in Europe specifically for the (least-developed) countries. But that is not sufficient.”

Among notable films from North Africa is “The Screaming Man” (L’homme qui crie) by Chadian director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun. The film, about an aging Chadian swimmer who manages the pool at a prestigious local resort, has won, among others, the Jury Prize in Cannes in 2010.

On the other axis of the continent, there are films such as “Shirley Adams” by Oliver Hermanus from South Africa, about a mother struggling to care for her paraplegic teenage son in the Cape Flats, a depressed district outside Cape Town.

“If we are talking about a real industry which makes money and wants to be taken seriously, then we have Nollywood, because they really do make money, and it is a real industry,” Nedjad said.

“If we look at Nigeria as a leading example, I believe there is a great demand for African cinema across the continent, and it will be supplied.”

The South African connection

In 2013, “Asad,” a Western Cape-produced short film, was nominated for Hollywood’s Academy Awards. A coming-of-age tale about a Somali boy struggling to survive in his wartorn land, the film was directed by U.S. director Bryan Buckley and produced by Rafiq Samsodien, a resident of South Africa’s Western Cape.

Samsodien has a great passion to tell South Africa’s many fascinating stories. He is currently working on a film project entitled, “Papwa, The Making of a Legend,” about the world’s first black golf star, long before Tiger Woods.

Samsodien told AFKInsider he believes that the greatest challenges faced by South African producers today have to do with financing red tape, piracy, and local broadcast politics.

“I think the landscape of South African film is still very polarized and fragmented,” Samsodien said. “What we need is a change in the industry’s operational structure, so that it can become more inclusive and dynamic. South African professionals have greatly benefited from the large number of U.S. and European crews that constantly choose South African locations for their projects. The level of technical excellence has improved and become world class, actors are benefiting and getting more prominent roles than before, and I believe the industry is ready to go on to the next level.”

The level of technical excellence has also improved, Samsodien said. It has become world class. Actors are getting more prominent roles than before. “I believe the industry is ready to go on to the next level.”

The South African government supports the role film plays as an economic driver.

“The government is constantly improving tax laws and credits to encourage workflow to the country,” Samsodien said. “However, the limited institutional funding we have has to be reviewed to make us more of a producing market rather than just a servicing market. As for my region of Western Cape, there is very little incentive and the quest for local government support to great initiatives that can create jobs and training opportunities in film is a constant struggle.”

The South African film industry contributes about $305 million US to the country’s GDP according to the country’s National Film and Video Foundation.

The Department for Trade and Industry’s film and TV incentive programs, which were created in 2004, supported 398 projects between 2008 and 2013. Among these, were 256 South African productions, 77 co-productions, and 65 foreign productions with no local production companies involved.

Veronica Pamoukaghlian is head of Uruguayan film company Nektar Films. She has been a guest lecturer at the University of Louisville, Kentucky and is a screenwriting and storytelling professor at Uruguay’s Technical University. She has been writing about African business since 2011.