The African Screen Network (ASN) has launched a new distribution initiative to grow African audiences for quality African films. With an initial offering of six award-winning, critically-acclaimed African feature films and documentaries, the ASN comprises of 21 screens in 16 countries including Mozambique, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Sudan, Ghana, Nigeria, Madagascar, Ivory Coast, Zambia, Chad, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Uganda and South Africa,
For too long, the distribution of quality African films has been piecemeal at best. We believe it is crucial to build African audiences for our films. The ASN will contribute to breaking the borders between filmmakers and their audiences, said ASN manager Khanyo Mjamba
We have launched the ASN with 21 partners across the continent but plan to grow and deepen the ASN in the future. We aim to reach 40 partners by 2017. We are also actively looking for the next six titles for 2017 release, Mjamba added.
The first six films included in the package are the Ivory Coast Cannes-selected Run by Philippe Lacote, the Sudanese TIFF Audience Award winner Beats of the Antonov by hajooj kuka, South African DIFF winner Necktie Youth by Sibs Shongwe La Mer. The Kenyan Berlinale winner Stories of Our Lives by Jim Chuchu and the Nest Collective, South African DIFF winner Love the One You Love by Jenna Bass, and Tribeca winner Democrats by Camilla Nielsson. These films will be screened by ASN partners across the continent, through a mix of independent cinemas, screening venues and cultural institutes.
The ASN was initiated by Steven Markovitz of Big World Cinema with a small seed grant from the Goethe-Institut and through self financing. After we produced Viva Riva! we embarked on an experiment by releasing the film across Africa. It was a test case, followed by another test with the documentary Concerning Violence. After collecting data and much planning, we felt ready to launch the ASN. As producers of African films, we cant sit back and wait for the distribution of our films to materialise, we have to actively build audiences. Without local audiences our cinema will stagnate, Markovitz said.
While everyone is talking about online distribution, data on the continent is still expensive and satellite television does not have widespread subscribers. Theatrical distribution is still the cornerstone of the film business and investment in new cinemas is expanding on the continent. There is still nothing to match watching a film with other people in a dark room on a big screen, added Markovitz.