African pic fund targets goals

Money targets film development and infrastructure study

African helmers can expect to get a financial boost with the announcement of an ambitious fund to benefit filmmakers on the continent.

The joint venture between the Intl. Organization of La Francophonie (OIF) and the Pan-African Film Federation (Fepaci) marks the culmination of a process that has occupied African filmmakers and policymakers for years.

“This has been on the cards for a very long time,” says Jihan El-Tahri, a member of Fepaci’s executive board.

The goal is to raise some $50 million — no small feat — and disburse the funds via grants. Fund backers were not forthcoming about any amounts raised so far.

El-Tahri says the fund would take a two-pronged approach to developing African filmmaking. Along with raising money to fund projects, it would conduct a wide-ranging feasibility study to “find out what exists on the continent, and identify what needs to be done.”

The study would cover everything from helmers to production services and equipment hire companies.

Momentum for the fund has been building since 2006, when more than 200 African filmmakers gathered at a conference in South Africa to push for a strategy to develop filmmaking on the continent. Plans for the fund were announced at Cannes earlier this year, but the organizational structure was only recently agreed upon by the OIF and Fepaci.

El-Tahri says the focus of the fund was on “development and training,” noting that on much of the continent, basic skills and technical knowledge were still lacking.

“We’re not like the French, where everything is there, and we just need the money to make the films,” she says. “There’s still so many things that we need to do to build the infrastructure.”

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