March 03 2005 at 11:04AM
By James Knight and Katrina Manson
Ouagadougou - Before actor Danny Glover jetted out of
Africa's premier film festival this week, he gave some
vital funds to a hobbled local industry.
Glover, star of Lethal Weapon and a judge at this
week's Fespaco festival, also bought the rights to
produce God's Bits of Wood, by famed Senegalese film
director Ousmane Sembene.
"I'm working with African film-makers to see what I
can do to push their products," Glover said on Tuesday
in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou - where the
Pan-African Cinema and Television Festival, known as
Fespaco, runs until March 5.
It is an attitude the continent's film-makers welcome.
At the biennial Fespaco festival, funding is a
African directors often have to resort to foreign
funding to finance their projects. But the money just
as often comes with strings attached, which some say
can dilutes their vision.
"Today the future of cinema in Africa is worrying,"
said Baba Hama, Fespaco's festival director. "Sources
of funding are scarce and the structures of production
Nine out of 14 films from sub-Saharan Africa
short-listed in Fespaco's feature film section were
produced with European Union support, ranging from
?130 000 (about R1-million) to ?300 000 (about
"The main financier of West African film is France,
which is definitely not yet rid of its imaginaire
coloniale (colonial mindset), and all kinds of deeply
rooted, often unconscious stereotypes and clichés
associated with Africa," said academic and critic
Burkina Faso director Appoline Traore, whose film Sous
la Clarte de la Lune (Under the Moon's Light) is
competing for the festival's top prize, is among those
getting EU funding.
"Sometimes it is difficult to make free choices. We
kind of know what they are looking for and they are
limited in what they want," she said.
Sometimes the demands are more direct.
Zola Maseko, the South African director of Drum, found
he could secure the bulk of his funding from the
United States only on condition that he cast American
actor Taye Diggs in the lead role as an anti-apartheid
"Whenever people come on board with a substantial
amount of money they have a certain way of making sure
they get the money back," he said.
Sometimes the financial relationship is fraught.
Many French co-productions require the presence of
French crew, and French post-production, which can
push up costs.
Sekou Traore, the African producer of Fespaco entry
Ouaga Saga, which screened on Wednesday, had a
cautionary tale to tell.
The film's French co-producer and her five-strong team
had put themselves up at an expensive hotel in
Ouagadougou during the shoot. The bill came to
10-million francs (about R115 000) for six weeks -
more than five percent of the movie's total costs.
"It was difficult to explain to the local crew why
they couldn't be paid more, when the French team was
staying at the most expensive hotel in the country,"
Glover, who has projects in Mozambique and South
Africa, hopes to give African cinema the strings-free
leg-up it needs.
"Africans have been enslaved, colonised and (again)
decolonised," he said.
"Recovering their vision is essential ... All they
need are the resources."
"God knows, they have the imagination." - Reuters.