New perspectives: "Films are an engine for development" | Film and Development | DW | 18.02.2022
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Moving pictures, changing perspectives

New perspectives: "Films are an engine for development"

Two BMZ supported films are part of Berlinale 2022. Friederike Kärcher, head of division media, culture, creative industries and sports, discusses the initiative behind the films.

Ms. Kärcher, since 2018 the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has been supporting the film project "Generation Africa," which is a joint project of DW Akademie and the South African NGO STEPS. Why? What do the films have to do with development?

Friederike Kärcher, Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung

Friederike Kärcher, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development: "Films aren't only an engine for social development, but also for economic growth."

Friederike Kärcher: Films can strike a chord with us, they can impress us and change our views. In this sense, they aren't just creative expression, but rather, they also can contribute to social change and can enable social and political participation. Films contribute to the development of opinions and to media diversity, also in countries with limited freedom of opinion. In supporting film production in Africa, it's possible to give people a voice that would otherwise go unheard. Filmmakers can thereby offer a forum to tell their stories and convey sensitive topics. Films, however, aren't only an engine for social development, but also for economic growth.

How so?

Especially Africa's film industry is booming: According to a UNESCO study that came out in the fall of 2021, Nigeria's film production alone turned out 2,500 films with a revenue of around one billion US Dollar. "Nollywood" in Nigeria is second to "Bollywood" in India in terms of film industry locations worldwide. A feature film can offer up to 500 jobs for at least five years. African films benefit from streaming services like Netflix which provide them international exposure. This in turn expands into innovative storytelling, which then expands further into broadcasting formats like WebTV and mobile phone cinema. The demand for one's own content within Africa is enormous. Nevertheless, there's even more economic potential. By some estimates, Africa's entire film and audiovisual industry generates five billion US Dollar annually. By comparison, successful US productions, such as "The Avengers: Endgame", bring in around 2.8 billion US Dollar. This is why we support African filmmaking, through initial and ongoing training, so as to contribute to its growth and to help shape it.

 Film still No U Turn von Ike Nnaebue

The "Generation Africa" film "No U-Turn" by Ike Nnabue was awarded with a Special Mention in the Berlinale 2022 documentary film category

The two Berlinale films, "No U-Turn" and "No Simple Way Home," like all other Generation Africa films, focus on flight and migration. Why is that?

Forced displacement and migration are among the most pressing problems worldwide. Contrary to what many believe, it's not just the Global North that is affected. Subsaharan Africa harbors more than 25 percent of all refugees worldwide. German public discourse, as well as international discourse, the African perspective is absent. We want to change that.

The Generation Africa project puts stories of African protagonists in the center. Since 2018, filmmakers from 16 African countries have produced 25 documentaries, which have gone on to enjoy international recognition and success. This propels local stories toward global relevance.

Berlinale 2022

"Generation Africa" at the Berlinale: The film "No Simple Way Home" by Akuol de Mabior has celebrated its world premiere at the international film festival

In terms of success: what has the film support achieved up to now?

Generation Africa is part of the "Zukunft.Markt.Film" (Future.Market.Film) initiative, a framework that the Ministry, the past five years, has supported with apprenticeships, access to financing, industrial expansion, film locations, and copyright protection. Alone with the DW Akademie, within this period, we've supported more than 250 film productions out of the Global South. One focal point here is on filmmaking qualifications and professionalization. It also has to do with international visibility and market share: The supported films have already received more than 12 awards at national and international film festivals. The Generation Africa film "The Last Shelter" was among those which has been submitted for an Oscar, which is a promising sign, even if the film isn't actually nominated. We support innovative approaches to film production, such as institutional organizations like the Ladima Film Academy. This school admits only women. Or, the Digital Film School, a learning platform for young African film professionals.

How do you decide which projects to support?

The Generation Africa films, for example, were selected from our South African partner organization STEPS, together with film industry experts, as well as international refugee organizations. It was a multi-level process, the goal of which was to support new narratives on forced displacement and migration through international film competitions. These are stories that surprise and move audiences and that have moxie and possibility. Participants can be filmmakers who have already produced one or more films which have been screened at film festivals or other venues.

Deutschland, Berlin | Regisseur Ike Nnaebue und Don Edkins, Berlinale 2022

Sharing Expertise: Don Edkins (left), Executive Producer of STEPS, partner organization to DW Akademie and the BMZ, with the Nigerian director Ike Nnabue at the Berlinale

Concretely, what does the film production support for Generation Africa look like?

Above all, participating filmmakers with Generation Africa, via our partner organization STEPS, get training and advice, as well as financial support for producing their films, as well as for presenting their films at festivals. All in all, the Ministry has made 2.3 million Euro available for Generation Africa.

What are the future plans for Generation Africa?

We plan to continue our engagement with the Global South's film industry. Along with more screenings at national and international film festivals, the Generation Africa films will be shown in the spring on the German-French broadcaster Arte. We're especially pleased about this, it's a great milestone in which even more people can see these impressive films. We've already started advertising for the next round of our Film Development Fund. Filmmakers in Tanzania and Uganda will be financially supported for a year with training offerings and mentoring. And we will continue to push ahead with copyright law and fair labor practices. Since creativity is a resource that especially deserves protection!

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