African cinema takes the stage at TICAD global development conference in Japan

“A new generation of creators and artists is emerging, bringing African cinema beyond the continent's borders.” Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, opened with Koichi Hagiuda, member of the House of Representatives, the round table “African film across borders – building new bridges of cooperation” at the seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) which took place 28-31 August in Yokohama, Japan. TICAD7 welcomed representatives from over 50 African countries, regional and international organizations, and numerous development partners under the theme Advancing Africa's development through people, technology and innovation.

A new generation of creators and artists is emerging, bringing African cinema beyond the continent's borders.

- Audrey Azoulay

Director-General of UNESCO

 

“The challenges to address go beyond national frameworks. This involves, for example, facilitating the mobility of artists, introducing preferential treatment measures, encouraging residencies, expanding the distribution of African films and increasing the number of co-productions. The UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005), which we hope Japan will ratify in the near future, provides a solid political and legal framework for developing such policies in Africa and beyond”, Azoulay continued.

The round table on African cinema was jointly organized by UNESCO, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Japan Foundation. While TICAD represents Japan’s decades-long commitment to Africa’s sustainable development, it was the first time that culture and the cinema industry were featured as a platform to bridge Africa and Japan.

Fidelis Duker, Regional Secretary General of the Federation of Pan African Filmmakers (FEPACI) and Director of the Abuja International Film Festival (Nigeria), and Ardiouma Soma (Burkina Faso), Director General of the Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO), both called for new policies to professionalize the sector through creative and business training, as well as audience and market expansion for independent filmmakers. “There is, in the African continent, a great aspiration for change. Capacity building and funding schemes to develop and nurture the talent of young filmmakers in Africa and internationally is the key”, they appealed.

There is, in the African continent, a great aspiration for change.

- Fidelis Duker

Regional Secretary General of the Federation of Pan African Filmmakers

 

Naomie Kawase, film director and director of the Nara film festival, emphasized the importance of co-production opportunities for film professionals from across Africa and Japan: “When confronted with international audiences, film directors cross cultural frontiers. Their stories become universal and inspire new possibilities”, she said. “Supporting creative writing through residencies and exchange programmes for young artists is also key. Japan can play an active role in this regard”, she added.

Also participated in the discussions were Aurélien Bodinaux (Belgium), producer of numerous African films (Neon Rouge Production), Hisashi Okajima, Director of the National Film Archive of Japan (NFAJ), Miho Yoshida, Director of the Tokyo “Cinema Africa” festival, and Anthony Krause, Chief of the Policy and Research Unit in the Section for the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (UNESCO). Amongst the key priorities they discussed: the need for institutional, legal and financial frameworks to support the independent film industry, the enactment of international professional exchange platforms, and the inclusion of clauses on cultural cooperation in bilateral trade agreements, in line with UNESCO’s 2005 Convention. “The environment for film production and distribution remains fragile, with immense opportunities for cooperation that need to be fully explored”, underlined Aurélien Bodinaux.

The event also screened the acclaimed film “Mercy of the Jungle” by Rwandan director Joel Karekesi. Hirosayu Ando, President of the Japan foundation, closed the symposium, praising the new opportunities for enhanced cooperation with UNESCO in Africa and beyond in the field of creative industries and skills development.