Maganthrie Pillay
Maganthrie Pillay, one of South Africa's female feature film director

African women filmmakers are now able to exploit opportunities and share their skills while also breaking down financial barriers.

Women of the Sun, a South African-based advocacy group has committed itself to making this possible. It is organising a forum of African women filmmakers in Johannesburg on September 1-4, alongside the African Women Film Festival.

The Forum is a platform for Africa women filmmakers to assess the situation and develop strategies to strengthen their presence in the industry. It’s all about creating inspiration and supporting women in the industry to make more films, and once films are made, getting work widely distributed to audiences, according to the Women of the Sun website.

Although many women are entering the industry in South Africa, very few of them succeed as feature-film directors, according to Eve Rantseli of Women of the Sun. “If you look beyond directing, if you look at actors and actresses, you find their fees are not the same,” she says. “You find that many productions take place in a white, male environment. People tend to deal with people they know, and if you are dealing with an environment that is white and male or just male, people tend to work with other males.”

“Funding is a huge problem, and because of that you have to think about the script and the story you are writing and that limits your creativity,” says Ghanaian director Shirley Frimpong-Manso. “We want to go back into our history books and tell stories of our independence, but we can’t do that because we don’t have the funding.”

 The Ghanaian government and other stakeholders need to do more, says Frimpong-Manso. In Kenya, where the film industry is worth more than KSh3bn ($38m), the government and filmmakers are beginning to talk about tax regimes and incentives. The Kenya Film Commission says the industry could grow to Ksh40bn a year and create 250,000 jobs if it is properly exploited.

Dynamic producers who know the market and can collaborate with their peers will come out on top. African filmmakers need to become more innovative about distribution, making better use of online facilities to engage with those who sell pirated copies.

Amidst this, Amari dislikes what she sees as the paternalism meted out to African filmmakers: “I don’t think there should be any special treatment for African film. It should be competitive, they should be able to prove themselves.” More character-based films could help win global distribution rights for African film, she says.

Hosted by the Goethe Institut, the forum will consist of a delegation of 25 women filmmakers of all levels of experience from sub-Saharan Africa, the USA and Germany to network with and gain inspiration from colleagues. Invited participants include world-renowned women filmmakers and festival programmers, distributors and local and international directors, producers and academics.

Source: The Africa Report