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Africa’s Oscar-shortlisted films show an industry spreading across borders

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As the continent’s films continue to gain international recognition, Philippe Lacôte, Ivorian director of the 2020 film “Night of the Kings” (also on the shortlist for an Oscar nomination), it is important that Africans create films that include their worldview.
His film explores themes from the physical and mythical worlds. Last year he told CNN a an interview that it was key to show the world these issues because they are part of the culture of Côte d’Ivoire.

“Today, Côte d’Ivoire is on the map of international cinema,” he said. “It’s important to me, even if it’s a movie. We don’t want to be off this map.”

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s film industry, Nollywood, will have to wait at least one more year for its first chance at Oscar glory. The country, which has the largest film industry in Africa, and the the second largest in the world – It was disqualified in 2019 for not meeting language requirements.

An evolving industry

African films are gaining more international attention as technology continues to remove some traditional barriers to access, helping films flourish across borders and find new audiences.

Video streaming sites like Disney +, iROKOtv, Netflix, YouTube and Showmax act as aggregators, helping Africans gather and share online content from across the continent and beyond.
iROKOtv has hundreds of thousands of subscribers who can easily access Nigerian and Ghanaian films from anywhere in the world. And Netflix, a association , with several African filmmakers and producers, presents African films accessible to the people of more than 190 countries.

Jason Njoku, co-founder of iROKOtv, says broadcast services like his remove barriers for Africans who traditionally blocked access to films from other regions. “If you are interested in Nigerian films, you just have to go online and in a minute you can have a complete and unlimited library to watch it,” he says, for “anyone and anywhere in the world. world “.

“Broadcast platforms democratized content and storytelling,” says Moses Babatope, co-founder of entertainment company FilmOne. “What they’ve done is break down any barriers like travel and immigration. They allow us to appreciate human stories across races and borders.”

Challenges and opportunities

Even with streaming streaming, Babatope says cinemas continue to play an important role in film screening at borders. His company has helped visualize and distribute several Nigerian titles, including the 2017 Nigerian romantic comedy “The Wedding Party 2,” which was seen in theaters across the continent. It has become one of the highest grossing Nollywood movies in the last decade.
This output is important because while technology removes some barriers, it can add others; according to the World Bank, less than a third of Africa’s total population has access to broadband. In the meantime, just 272 million people in sub-Saharan Africa there is mobile internet access, with a population of over 1 billion.
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This means that a significant portion of the population does not have access to video streaming sites such as Netflix and iROKOtv.

But Mary Njoku, director of Nigerian production house ROK Studios, says it won’t always be that way.

“Most people in the upper-middle class can afford to pass it on, but it won’t be like that forever. The technological promise will be updated and the market will explode,” he says. “So we creatives just have to keep creating amazing and engaging content and wait.”

The potential is huge and is expected to increase the number of people in sub-Saharan Africa with mobile internet access 475 million in 2025 – and as the industry continues to grow, international media conglomerates are looking for alliances and original content on the continent.
In 2017, pay-TV company StarTimes announced the show list of Nollywood films as part of its offering to the Chinese market, demonstrating interest in the Nigerian film market.
Meanwhile, Netflix has named the award-winning Kenyan film producer Dorothy Ghettuba as manager of International Originals. The streaming giant has acquired several movies and originals, including “Lionheart” and “Blood and water.”
And just last year, Disney announced a “first of its kind“collaboration with Kugali Media.
Mary Njoku, whose production house was acquired by the French media giant Canal + in 2019: says that these partnerships with international studies will create space to tell bigger and more ambitious stories about the continent.

“The African creative industry is young, dynamic and ambitious. They have created so many things with so little,” he says. “Imagine what the next decade will be like with major study partnerships.”

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