A Gambian production company is forging a path in a challenging film environment reports Martin Chemhere.
Writer, director and producer Amadou Sillah fronts leading film and commercial’s production company Sillah Arts Audio Visual. The company produces films, documentaries, music videos and television and radio commercials.
Formed almost two years ago, it has five films to its credit but prior to that its founder made six films for local production house Vinasha Productions. Sillah was head of local drama at the company before it moved to the UK.
During this time Sillah wrote and directed local feature films such as Topa Sa Nafsu, Natou, Kolareh, Lou Waay Deff, Teey and the television series Terre Mou Tee.
He was also assistant director on a number of other productions such as Banjul Cops, Amm Sahout, Arrou, Once Upon a Time in the Sahel and Child of Destiny.
“We are making a positive impact on the local film and television industry. If you look at the number of productions we have made in the past two years since I started the company, you can see that we have done more than other Gambian companies. I am sure we are the busiest local film company at the moment,’ says Sillah.
Arrou screened at the African Movie Academy Awards some years back where it was nominated for Best Actor, Best Female Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Sound, Best Picture and Best Director.
Sillah rates the film among the most outstanding local productions. “It uses local languages and was well received by Gambians at home and in the diaspora. Regionally, it screened successfully in Senegal.’
He notes that issues such as capacity building, financial support for projects, marketing and distribution are at the core of challenges faced by most Gambian production companies.
There is also a severe lack of training by formal training institutions in Gambia. Sillah trained on the job with some of the country’s filmmakers who had received the best film education overseas.
Says Sillah: “It was my initiative to learn from people who had been to international film schools in Europe and the USA. I am now standing on my own two feet as a result of learning from their experience.’
According to Sillah most local studios use state of the art digital cameras, good sound systems and Adobe and Avid Express software for editing. This has led to an increase in the number of local film productions from about four to six films a year in recent years to about 20 today.
He welcomes collaborative efforts between the regional filmmaking powerhouses of Ghana and Nigeria, saying productions from the two countries have had real influence in the Gambian film industry.
“The influence (and perhaps the danger) is that there are some locals now writing stories echoing Nigerian concepts and cultural values,’ he comments.
Nigerian Larry West recently helped to set up the Gambian-based Africa Movie Makers Association.
SCREENAFRICA Print Magazine – October 2011 (view here)
By Martin Chemhere