M-Net debuts the African Film Library

African film fans hampered by global distribution networks will finally have a one-stop shop for the works of some of Africa’s best-known filmmakers.

Last month, South African web M-Net announced the debut of the African Film Library, an online database of more than 600 shorts, docus and feature films, spanning five decades of African cinema. The site includes works by award-winning filmmakers such as Ousmane Sembene and Djibril Diop Mambety of Senegal, Youssef Chahine of Egypt, Kwaw Ansah of Ghana and Haile Gerima of Ethiopia, digitally remastered and available to global audiences.

Mike Dearham, the library’s curator, sees the site as a 21st-century answer to the distribution problems that plague many African filmmakers.

“Making African-produced films and documentaries accessible to both Africans and the world must be a key driver of any strategy to grow the film industry,” he says. “Distribution is vital, as are the platforms through which the films are delivered.”

The site offers video-on-demand service, allowing customers to access films online for 24 hours after purchase. Users can search by genre, director or language, and are able to access, along with the film archive, hundreds of biographies, trailers and reviews of films featured on the website.

Jason Probert, general manager of DSTV Online, which created the site’s digital platform, calls it “a radical pan-African solution to the historic challenge of distribution.”

He hopes the site will ultimately grow to become an online community for fans and filmmakers, not only preserving the classic works of the past, but allowing the next generation of filmmakers to find a voice and an audience.

“By helping to preserve and grow the African film industry,” he says, “we are taking a step in the right direction.”

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