For a long time, I have considered that the main problem of African Movie industry was that the movies were nothing but award baits. Let me explain myself : an award bait movie is a movie that is produced with the main and sometimes sole purpose of being shown in festivals in order to get nominations and even awards.
For the majority of these movies, the timeline is quite simple. They are released in the wake of the first film festival in the year, generally an African one (FESPACO or the African International Film Festival). Then onto major festivals, like Berlin Sundance, Tribeca, or Toronto. To make it simple, the life of these African movies is associated with their span of life in film festivals. Once they are too old to be accepted by any festival, the films slowly die into the DVD market or Video on Demand services.
The objective of a filmmaker should be to make sure his movies are seen by the largest amount of people possible. As I grew more educated on movie industry systems, i realized that the one major resource that African Filmmakers do not have is an effective and reliable system of distribution, domestic or worldwide. Distributors are separate entities from producers and movie theater owners; they are the one that can make one’s movie get shown in other country and sometimes, even one’s own country.
And how do you get the attention of those distributors one would ask. Festivals. Yes, the nomination of a movie for an award in a film festival puts it on the map, creates awareness and increases its chances to be distributed in other countries.
So, I do understand how important the festivals are. And how helpful and decisive they have been for the survival of the African movie industry. However, what I am not keen on, is the fact that some of these movies are seen by audiences at these festivals before people from the country it originated from are able to watch it.
African filmmakers should make movies for their fellow Africans, and not for the opportunity to get an award for their work. Entertaining should be their drive, as they embark on the path of movie production.