Feel the pulse of Africa at our exciting locations," shouted a colourful brochure at the recent Cannes Film Festival in France. "Take a pick from an array of ... choices in Lagos." The brochure, produced by the Film Office of the Lagos State Ministry of Tourism and Intergovernmental Relations in Nigeria, was one of dozens of documents extolling the virtues of shooting movies in Africa to international film companies.
But there is also strong official support for local film industries, as African countries increasingly recognise the value of the sector to their economies. According to South Africa's Nacional Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), the country's film industry contributes an estimated 45 billion ($547m) to the South African economy.
"The South African government has recognised the potential inherent in the local film and video industry in creating jobs and contributing to the GDP," says the NFVF, a statutory body mandated by South Africa's parliament to spearhead the development of the film business.
"With the global economic crisis hitting all sectors of production, the South African film industry revealed a resilient feature and continued to churn out quality products that were appreciated by the audience," the NFVF added.
A police thriller shot entirely on location in South Africa was in fact the closing feature at the Cannes festival, one of the world's most important industry events, which took place in May this year. The film--"Zulu"--stars British actor Orlando Bloom and American luminary Forest Whitaker and is directed by Frenchman Jerome Salle, who said that South Africa was as much a character in the film as the two protagonists.
"I almost didn't make the film because I was afraid that it wasn't going to be legitimate for me to talk about South Africa and (about) apartheid in a country that wasn't my own," Salle cold reporters. "To make up for it, I spent a lot of time there. I was keen to keep the number of French people involved to a minimum and so we took on a number of South African production directors and actors."
Apart from "Zulu", the African presence in Cannes was notable, particularly at the Marche du Film (marketplace) and at the festival's International Village, a long string of white pavilions on the beach of the southern French town. Within the festival, the Marche is the meeting place of some 12,000 distributors, producers, buyers and other industry movers and shakers.
Meanwhile, the International Village acts as a forum for world cinema, "designed to provide a highly visible setting in which film-producing countries can showcase their cultural identity, their institutions and the full range of their creativity", said Myriam Arab, director of operations, marketing and sales for the Marche du Film.
At the Village, Kenya had a pavilion for the first time this year, joining old hands Nigeria and South Africa. Meanwhile, North Africa was represented by Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. The latter country had much to celebrate in Cannes as Tunisian-born director Abdellatif Kechiche won the top Palme d'Or prize for his feature "Blue is the Warmest Colour".
The pavilion of each country offered a space where industry delegates could hold meetings, show films and make agreements.
"All these countries are really developing their movie industry with an international focus, and it starts with the co-productions, of course," Arab told New African. "They come to Cannes' International Village because their main aim is to promote their cinema, and to encourage production and distribution, so they need a place to welcome others and also to exchange with one another."
Adding to the many co-production agreements under its belt, South Africa signed a new accord with Kenya during the festival. The pact between the Kenya Film Commission (KFC) and the National Film and Video Foundation is aimed at strengthening film activities in the two countries, according to KFC's chief executive Peter Mutie. …