Cinema revival in West Africa


For years, West African filmmakers have lamented the death of traditional movie
theatres. DVD piracy, TV and satellite broadcasts had taken over. But right now,
film professionals in the region are driving a new movement to reopen cinemas.

In 2010, Chadian director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun won the Jury Prize at the
Cannes Film Festival with his feature A Screaming Man. By achieving international
recognition for his country of birth, Haroun woke up the Chadian government,
who invested heavily into the rehabilitation of N’Djamena’s oldest cinema, Le

Built in the 1950s by a Syrian-Lebanese family, Le Normandie was the only
covered cinema in Chad. Closed in 1981, it reopened on 8 January 2011 with
Haroun’s A Screaming Man. Run by another Chadian filmmaker, Issa Serge
Coelho (Daresalam, N’Djamena City), Le Normandie now has a 12m screen, 440
seats and is equipped with Dolby Digital sound, and 35mm and HD projectors.

With tickets sold for prices ranging from R23 to R68, Le Normandie mostly shows
American movies twice a day (three shows during weekends). These are
supplied by French distributor Jean-Pierre Lemoine who built two Megarama
multiplex theatres in Morocco. Thanks to Tigo, a Latin American mobile company
operating in Chad, Le Normandie was recently provided with 3D equipment.

In 2012, the Burkinabe film Les Films du Djabadjah initiated the reopening of
Cine Guimbi in Bobo-Dioulasso, the country’s second largest city.

Built in the late 1950s under the French colonial government, Cine Guimbi
(formerly Cine Rio) was an open-air theatre. First run by a French company, then
by the Burkinabe National Cinema Company (SONACIB), Cine Guimbi was taken
over by a filmmaker association, AARPA, which went bankrupt in 2003.

The Association de soutien du cinema au Burkina Faso was set up by Swiss
director Berni Goldblat to manage the project in 2012. It initiated a massive
fundraising campaign among several international film festivals and 140 seats
(R4 540 each) were sold. Out of the final budget (R18 861 062), 44% was

Still under construction, Cine Guimbi will be a covered cinema with 154 and 323
seats for each screen. The goal is to equip it with DLP (digital light processing)
projectors and a high quality sound system.

On 31 December 2013, industry professionals were able to buy the site thanks
to a R2 088 378 grant from Michele Berset Swiss Foundation. “We would like to
open at the end of 2015,’ said Goldblat, “but we need to “Englishise’ our
campaign. For the moment, we only reach Francophone partners.’

In Ghana, Lebanese immigrants built the 350-seat, open-air Rex Cinema in 1937.
Established in Central Accra, this government property was first abandoned then
used afterwards by evangelical churches.

The American-Ghanaian director Akosua Adoma Owusu, winner of a 2013 African
Academy Movie Award for her short Kwaku Ananse, decided to revive the place
by turning it “into an alternative creative space for art, music, and film’.

With a one-month kickstarter campaign entitled “Damn the Man, Save the Rex’,
the 30 year-old director raised R11 068 (113% funded) thanks to 185
international backers. “Words cannot express my sincere gratitude,’ proclaimed
Owusu. “I am still hoping to find other funds to run the cinema.’
On 7 December 2013, the Rex Cinema successfully reopened as an alternative to
the SilverBird multiplex based in the Accra Mall nearby. As Goldblat says: “If we,
from the film industry, don’t do this, no one will.’


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