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Lara Utian-Preston

Lara Utian-Preston
Lara Utian-Preston is a passionately committed marketer and strategist with a focus on promoting African content and events. Two decades of working across Africa have provided her with insights and experience that she puts to work for the projects she manages. In 2006, Lara founded, and still personally manages, Red Flag Content Relations, a full service below-the-line agency that also focuses on African entertainment and lifestyle brand marketing, strategy, and publicity.

The Ladima Foundation announces ambassador: Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

The Ladima Foundation recently announced the appointment of the Anglican Church Archbishop of Cape Town, Dr Thabo Makgoba, as an official Ladima Foundation ambassador.

The Archbishop is an ideal ambassador for the Ladima Foundation based on his strong commitment to women’s issues as well as his proudly Pan-African perspective. In his regular blog, Archbishop Makgoba has repeatedly expressed his views on value based leadership, good governance, tolerance and inclusion, and issues around women and gender. The Arch, as he is affectionately known, also has PhD in Business Administration | HDip in Ed Science (PG) | M Ed in Educational Psychology and will lend his considerable talents in support of the Ladima Foundation.

The Archbishop has this to say of the appointment: “I feel very honoured to be associated with Ladima Foundation – an organisation that seeks to empower and support women in the film space. Similarly, the Archbishop Thabo Makgoba Development Trust (ATMDT) support and mentor women in their development. When I learnt of the amazing work of Ladima Foundation, I could not hesitate but to accept the invitation to be an ambassador.”

As an official ambassador for the Ladima Foundation, Archbishop Makgoba will be a global advocate for the foundation and its key programs including the soon-to-be-launched Ladima Film Academy in Lagos Nigeria, and the Ladima Foundation Network of African Women Film Festivals. The Archbishop will represent the Ladima Foundation at key events around the world and assist in outreach and networking.

Co-Founder and Director of Progammes of the Ladima Foundation Edima Otuokon explains the role of the ambassador further, “We were thrilled when the Archbishop agreed to support the work we are doing as the Ladima Foundation. It is so important to have a diversity of allies, all aligned with a similar vision. The Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, through his work, has proven to be true supporter of women’s rights and we look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship.”

The announcement of the newly appointed Ladima Ambassador comes shortly after appointment of the high-profile Advisory Board made up of a host of well-respected film and TV industry professionals from across the globe. The Advisory Board of the Ladima Foundation will provide critical guidance on the policy, direction, and priorities of the organization and lend their reputational and network support in order to ensure the success of the organization. 

DISCOP Johannesburg presents The Africa Channel masterclasses

Africa’s largest content-focused event, DISCOP Johannesburg, taking place from 20 to 22 November, will put a strong emphasis on African television projects in development, partnerships with South Africa, and the booming animation sector.

A newly revamped and focused DISCOP Johannesburg programme will see a scope that goes beyond content buying and selling and that will include a strong sidebar programme of panel discussions and master classes.

This DISCOPRO programme will see more than 50 speakers, including many intrepid disrupters, on stage for panel discussions headlined by a series of masterclasses and a panel discussion led by experts from around the world sponsored by The Africa Channel.

These sessions will specifically address how independent producers can export their content and best adapt to the fast-paced world of multicultural television. Four sessions will provide a rapid course of study on what makes a project aimed at multicultural audiences actually sell in today’s challenging environment.

DISCOPRO programme director Andrew Boozer discusses this programme further,  “Given the growth predictions of content produced in Africa, this years’ programme will address how producers, writers, directors can best adapt in this fast-paced multiscreen and cross-border world and highlight how Africa can play an influential role in tomorrow’s global content production and distribution industry.”

The DISCOPRO speaker line-up includes experts from broadcasters from across Africa such as Ethiopia’s Kana TV, the SABC, Royal Media from Kenya, and others. International companies such as -Côte Ouest, Warner Media, Turner Africa and Fox studios will also be represented in the DISCOPRO line-up.

Narendra Reddy, EVP and General Manager, The Africa Channel, added, “ We are proud to partner with the DISCOPRO conference programme, which presents both an educational opportunity and an information exchange to accelerate growth in the Africa entertainment and media sector. The global technology shifts in content consumption and distribution presents a significant opportunity for producers on the continent to access new markets and the breadth of speakers and the panelists will seek to address any perceived barriers to entry.”

The practical and outcomes driven sessions include the following:

#1. Panel discussions around seven key pillars needed to facilitate unfettered growth in Africa’s fast-moving entertainment and media marketplace:

1.     Exporting Content Produced in Africa – Inside and Outside Africa.

2.     The Content Monetisation Challenge

3.     Empowering Women in the Entertainment Industry

4.     Stop Fake News

5.     The United World of Animation

6.     Bringing Video Gaming Competitions to the Screen

7.     Why Dubbed Content is Important

#2. A Masterclass Programme comprised of real world case  studies emphasizing practical solutions to issues:

1.     The Critical Importance of the Development Phase

2.     The Value of Copyright

3.     Music as a Cross-Border Accelerator

4.     Win-Win Distribution Strategies

5.     How to Shoot a Film Under $10,000 and sell it to Showmax

#3. A Tutorial Track focused on Co-production Opportunities with South Africa.

In addition to proper targeting, original themes, and international distribution, multi-party co-production is increasingly becoming an important factor for success. South Africa – with a rapidly developing content production and distribution sector, competitive advantages and many co-production treaties already in place – is becoming an important supplier of talent, stories and production services to the global community. This tutorial track will put under the spotlight projects that can benefit from existing co-production treaties between South Africa and France, the UK, Canada and Australia.

#4. A Pitching Programme showcasing original Animation Projects.

For the third year running, DISCOPRO – in partnership with the African Animation Network (AAN) and the Annecy Animation Festival and Market (MIFA) – will host the grand finale of the Pan-African Animation du Monde 2020 Pitching Competition. This program also includes an additional Pitching Showcase organised under the DISCOMICS banner and in partnership with the AAN. With the world looking to the continent as a growth center, Africa is expected to play a role in the expansion of the global animation industry and Africa will be the focus territory for 2020 at the MIFA gathering.

 #5. The First Look Series of Innovative Ideas.

Intertwined in the general agenda, the First Look Series will feature a line-up of inspiring presentations from experts, entrepreneurs, key players and great speakers who have the edge on how independent producers and storytellers can improve their crafts, generate more revenue and expand their reach. 

Ladima Foundation partners with Dortmund I Cologne International Women’s Film Festival

The Ladima Foundation welcomes The Dortmund I Cologne International Women’s Film Festival as a Mentor Festival member in the recently established Ladima Women’s Film Festival Network.

The inclusion of this well-established and respected Germany-based international women’s film festival within the Ladima Film Festival Network, will lead to increased training and networking opportunities for the African festivals, as well as for women filmmakers on the continent.

This partnership with the Ladima Foundation will lead to collaboration between the festival in regards to programming and even possibly the sending of volunteers to assist with the smooth implementation of the festivals in the network.

The Dortmund I Cologne International Women’s Film Festival has also committed, as part of the relationship, to focus on securing more films from African women filmmakers and the Ladima Foundation will assist in this outreach.

Festival director Maxa Zoller has this to say of the partnership, “Becoming a Mentor Festival for Ladima Foundation means a lot to us. For over thirty years the Dortmund I Cologne  International Women’s Film Festival has been making space for women directors and their fantastic films, but it is now time to establish long-term international ties. In a world that seems to spin in the wrong direction female (and feminist) filmmakers, producer and cinephiles across the globe are again coming together to make images that move all of us, and not just a selected few. We are excited about this unique opportunity to be part of the Ladima network, to get to know new film festivals and to share with them our passion for cinema.”

“All African women filmmakers are encouraged to submit films in the competition categories of Debut Fiction Film and Children and Young Adult Film. We also look for formally innovative Experimental and Documentary Film and Queer Film (out of competition).”

The Ladima Film Festival Network of women-focused, and managed, film and cultural festivals from across Africa – that includes the Udada International Film Festival in Nairobi Kenya, The Celebrating Womanhood Festival and Conference in Uganda, and Festival International des Films de Femmes de Cotonou (Cotonou International Women’s Film Festival Benin) – was announced earlier this year and has seen a number of milestones and successes to date.

An initial training and mentoring session took place in March in Kampala Uganda at the Celebrating Womanhood Festival, part of the Native Voices International event. Edima Otuokon, co-founder of the Ladima Foundation hosted a workshop for female filmmakers invited to the festival on the power of film to empower and uplift women across Africa.

An intensive follow up residency training programme for these festivals was held in August in Kigali, Rwanda that focused on strategic planning, curation, and the promotion and marketing of these up-and-coming festivals.

Soon after the training, the highly successful inaugural edition of the FIFF Cotonou took place to rave reviews in Benin. The Ladima Foundation is proud to have been part of the planning of this event and congratulates Festival director Cornelia Glele for the major success of the event.

Ladima Foundation hosts Women’s Film Festival Network training in Rwanda


The recent news regarding many film festivals in Africa could leave one despairing at the current state of affairs. Apart from some of the good news emanating from the recent Durban International Film Festival, there has been very little to celebrate within this space.

However, any negativity I may have been feeling has been replaced after I recently returned from Kigali, Rwanda, where I was part of the Ladima Foundation team conducting a three-day training session. In my role as CEO of The Ladima Foundation, along with co-founder Edima Otuokon and board member Lydia Idakula-Sobogon, we hosted in-depth strategic training for some of the senior management from the Ladima’s Women’s Film Festival Network.

Attending the training were some of the amazing women at the helm of these diverse festivals, including Matrid Nyagah from the Udada International Women’s Film Festival in Kenya, Sarah Kizza Nsigaye of Celebrating Womanhood Festival in Uganda and Cornelia Glele from the International Women’s Film Festival Cotonou (FIFF Cotonou) in Benin.

These relatively small and mostly newly-established festivals, with their passionate founders and dedicated teams, reflect hope for a new generation of film festivals, led by women and focused on women’s content, stories and successes.

These festivals, over time, and with proper support, training, and partnerships, can become models for best practice for film festivals in Africa and their unique challenges. The training started with a strategic overview of the current state of the film festival space, and then went on to work specifically with each festival to ensure that they strongly position themselves through a relevant and authentic vision that drives forward their specific objectives.

Throughout the intense training, all of the Festival Directors openly shared their challenges, many of which are similar to all African festivals, and some unique to women-focused events. This spirit of sharing and honesty has led to a strong foundation for the collaboration that will drive these festivals forward.

All of these festival teams realise the amazing potential for their events, especially with the recent and rapidly-intensifying spotlight being shined on women in the film industry.

During the training sessions, the Festival Directors worked towards creating specific and relevant strategies and identities to ensure that they can each become impactful and important festivals, not just within their regions, but also on a Pan-African scale.

By working with each festival to stake a claim within the space of women’s filmmaking in Africa, and by acknowledging that by working together as collaborators we become supporters within the larger network, the Ladima Foundation believes that these three festivals can be catalysts for their regional film industries, and for the overall African film festival space.

The FIFF Cotonou, in its first edition this year and taking place from 13-17 September, led by the incredibly dynamic 22-year-old, Cornelia Glele, is a beacon of hope on the festival landscape. Their small yet passionate team has managed to secure the necessary funding to run a short, compact, focused and thematic festival that includes 13 films and a workshop programme built around cinema that addresses violence against women. With sponsors that include Canal+, the festival has quickly established itself within the region, and with the strong support of the Film Festival Network partners and others is sure to become a major festival event in the next few years.

The Celebrating Womanhood Festival, part of the Native Voices project in Uganda, has been around for a number of years and Festival Director, Sarah Kizza Nsigaye, has been working closely with the Ladima Foundation in order to sharpen the festival programme’s focus, and identity. As an immensely respected journalist and filmmaker, Kizza has a renewed vision for the 2020 vision of the festival, and the support and input from other network members will prove invaluable in increasing the profile and reputation of this important event.

Kenya’s Matrid Nyagah is a young, dynamic and celebrated filmmaker who was, most recently, recognised as the producer of Watu Wote (nominated for an Oscar in 2018 for Best Short). Nyagah has been the Festival Director of the Udada International Women’s Film Festival for its five previous editions, and is excitedly planning the relaunch of the festival for 2020 with a specific focus and mission that will be announced in October this year. Working closely with the Ladima team and her fellow women festival directors, Nyagah’s vision for the future of the festival will ensure its sustainability and relevance within the rapidly-growing Kenyan film industry space.

All three festivals are poised for significant growth and development in 2020. Seen as a holistic network that will work towards sustainable regional collaboration, they will also provide the foundations of a women’s festival infrastructure that will not only support each other, but also work to promote other festivals and filmmakers with a similar vision and strategic approach.

In my role as CEO of the Ladima Foundation, the formation of this Women’s Film Festival Network is the most rewarding project that I have been involved in. The amazing passion and dedication from the various festival teams is inspiring, and their willingness to be self-critical, open to learning and development and enthusiastically collaborative bodes well for the future of these events.

It will be through collaboration, continued learning and a shared vision that these festivals, with support from their local film communities and from The Ladima Foundation, can become the models of the next generation of successful film festivals.

These festivals can learn from their own mistakes, as well as from the mistakes of others and rather than strive to be the biggest, boldest or loudest, they can rather focus on being relevant, inclusive, and authentic.

I believe that it is festivals like these that will drive the future of the festival space on the continent and I am both proud and excited to be on the journey with them.

Watch this space.

Realness Institute confirms Sundance partnership: Creative Producers Indaba 2020 launched


In an exciting development for African producers, a long-hinted-at collaboration is finally official.

Realness founders and film producers Elias Ribeiro and Bongiwe Selane teased the announcement during the Realness Residency that took place recently at Cannes, but it is now confirmed that Realness Institute, EAVE and the International Film Festival Rotterdam are further partnering with the Sundance Institute to create the Creative Producers Indaba, a professional training programme designed to support emerging African producers on a global stage.

The confirmation of the partnership with the Sundance Institute, which took place at the Durban FilmMart in July, means that North American professionals and networks will now be included in this global professional training and development initiative.

The Creative Producers Indaba will bring together 15 participants to develop the capacity of producers on the continent and to create a global network of producing talent with the ability to bring African projects to the international market, as well as to grow local African creative economies.

Ten of the selected participants will be from Africa – with the organisers selecting five African producers with projects currently in development, who will be joined by five African participants drawn from government, institutions, sales companies and other bodies from across the continent – and five participants will comprise European or North American partners looking to co-produce in Africa.

Ribeiro explained the key aims of the Creative Producers Indaba during the announcement in Durban: “We decided to launch Creative Producers Indaba to make sure we have more producers that understand the international financing game, international distribution,  and who can help…African projects to move closer from the page to the screen.”

Realness Institute has recognised that, despite the recent global festival success and accolades for a number of creative and innovative films by African filmmakers, there is a need for support, specifically when it comes to development financing, infrastructure, distribution and marketing.

Realness is aimed at empowering producers across these various skill-sets not just to see a film through production, but also to become active developers of their local creative economies as both practitioners, policy activists and leaders within their fields.

Unlike many other short-term interventions and workshops, Realness participants work together for a full year in order to emerge as strategic-thinking professionals capable of enabling the entire creative economies of their regions.

As a producer-centric programme, Realness aims for more than simply packaging productions for the international market – although all participants will develop a thorough and marketable package ready to take to market.

Participants will attend a variety of workshops over the year-long period focused on script development, packaging, finance, distribution and ultimately pitching to the marketplace. With sessions led by industry professionals from across Africa, Europe and now North America, participants have an unparalleled opportunity to learn and engage with the global film community.

Realness has a collaborative approach that has successfully created global partnerships with key European institutions such as the International Film Festival Rotterdam and EAVE, the

European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs initiative, a well-established training programme that has been in existence for over 30 years.

The inclusion of the Sundance Institute as a Realness partner brings a number of obvious benefits to the project. The stamp of approval that such a partnership conveys will assist Realness as it continues to secure funding for its various programmes. As an African-based organisation in the film industry, funding is always a challenge, and the inclusion of these new partners will hopefully lead to increased funding opportunities and exposure for the project and its graduates.

Organisations such as Realness, as well as filmmakers themselves, often have to look to the global north, and primarily to Europe, for funding, an ultimately unsustainable approach. Projects like the Creative Producers Indaba will hopefully lead to a more independently sustainable African creative film economy.

Realness’ Elias Ribeiro explains further: “It is our intention to form leaders, producers, activists, who can go back home and engage with local government and institutions, lobbying for better policies for the audiovisual industry as well as implementation of new financial instruments which will enable international and Pan-African cooperation.”

Realness also confirmed that the first call for submissions is expected to be made in October, with a build-up to the first workshop in Kenya in September 2020, followed by a second workshop to take place at the Rotterdam Film Festival in January 2021.

East Africa welcomes Animation du Monde 2020

After making its way through South and West Africa, Animation du Monde turns to East Africa as Nairobi Comic Con (NAICCON) 2019 hosts the fourth leg of the Pan-African Animation du Monde 2020 preliminary rounds from 24-25 August 2019.

Entries are currently open, until 11 August 2019.

Past entrants from NAICCON have included Salim Busuru who presented his title at the 2018 Continental Finals at DISCOP Johannesburg. He summed up his experience: “The animation competition broadened my perspective on animation on the continent, it confirmed that I was on the right path in my pursuit of animation. Meeting the other participants and the mentorship from the judges as well as the organisers was invaluable. I believe it compensated a lot for my lack of formal training in animation and storytelling.”

NAICCON takes place in one of the most vibrant cities in Africa. Nairobi, much like the rest of East Africa, has seen amazing growth over the last decade. This includes the foothold pop culture has been able to take in the region. This is in part due to the larger youth population and economic growth. The internet has also added fuel to the fire.

Access to the world’s library of knowledge has made it possible for people to teach themselves the skills they want. Over the three years of running the Pan-African Animation du Monde, the African Animation Network has seen this first hand. Many entrants are self-taught, growing their skills by consuming vast amounts of tutorials and sharing knowledge with each other.

NAICCON as a host encapsulates the heart of the innovative East African spirit. Artists from comics and animation will gather to showcase their creations. The Pan-African Animation du Monde preliminary round is also one of the few places where these creatives can network.

The region has in the past also been the home of some of Africa’s best animation ideas, an example of this at the very highest level is Naddya Adhiambo Oluoch-Olunya who won Animation du Monde at the global finals this year at Annecy with her project UZI. With the world looking to the continent as a growth centre, East Africa is expected to play a big role in the growth of the animation industry on the continent.

This is another opportunity to enter Animation du Monde with 3 contestants going through to the Continental Finals at DISCOP Johannesburg in November. The announcement by Annecy Int. Animated Film Fest. & Market/MIFA that they will focus on Africa in 2020 is an opportunity for creators from the continent to showcase their content. So take the chance and enter HERE!

Subscribe to our newsletter and keep an eye on our Facebook page and website for news on when the preliminary rounds will be in your region!

The Ladima Foundation announces Advisory Board

The Ladima Foundation has announced the appointment of a high-profile Advisory Board made up of a host of well-respected film and TV industry professionals from across the globe.

The Advisory Board of the Ladima Foundation will provide critical guidance on the policy, direction, and priorities of the organisation and lend their reputational and network support in order to ensure the success of the organisation. The combined expertise, networks and passionate commitment to the development of women in the film industry across Africa of the members of the Ladima Foundation’s Advisory Board is truly awe-inspiring.

The Ladima Foundation co-founder Edima Otuokon had this to say of the newly appointed board: “We are overwhelmed with the enthusiastic and unanimously positive response from all of the professionals invited to be on the Ladima Foundation Advisory Board. We have only the utmost respect for all of the individuals on the Board and we are excited ahead of our first meeting with the new Board. We believe that with the support of this talented group of industry professionals, The Ladima Foundation will be able to achieve our goals of empowering and developing women in the industry.”

The Ladima Foundation Advisory Board is made up of the following professionals;

Biola Alabi (Nigeria): Biola Alabi is an award-winning filmmaker, entrepreneur, investor, public speaker, and television anchor. The media icon heads Biola Alabi Media, a fast growing media company dedicated to telling authentic African stories to the world.

Biola Alabi is the executive producer of the award-winning films: Lara and the Beat (2018), as well as 2017 Nollywood blockbuster, Banana Island Ghost (B.I.G). She is also the executive producer of Nigeria’s number one food travel documentary-series, Bukas and Joints, currently airing across Africa and in the UK. As part of her dream in evolving Biola Alabi Media into a 360-degree entertainment company, she delved into book publishing with the release of a young adult novella titled The Adventures of Lara and Dara.

She is also the founder of Grooming for Greatness a leadership development and mentorship programme for a new generation for African leaders and a Non-Executive Director of Unilever Nigeria. She was named one of the 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa by Forbes Magazine, a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and CNBC Africa’s AABLA West African Business Woman of the Year (2013). For over five highly successful years, Biola Alabi held the high-profile position of Managing Director for M-Net Africa, part of the globally renowned Naspers Group. Prior to this, she was based in the United States where she was part of the executive team at the influential children’s television brand Sesame Street.

Themba Bhebhe (South Africa/ Germany): After working for almost a decade in international film sales, Themba Bhebhe has been in charge of Diversity & Inclusion at the last two editions of the European Film Market (Berlinale). Bhebhe is also one of the founding members of the Programmers of Colour Collective (POC2) that aims at creating a conversation around and working towards a more diverse and inclusive programming pool at international film festivals through research, awareness events, networking, profile raising, mentoring and shadowing. He has shown incredible support for the Ladima Foundation throughout his extensive work and travels to film events and festivals around the world.

Catherine Gitahi (Kenya): Catherine Gitahi is an integrated marketing communication specialist with a background in journalism & community work, and a bias towards implementing issue campaigns and advocacy with many years of experience in East Africa. She is currently the Corporate Affairs Manager at the Kenya Film Commission where she plays a pivotal role in supporting the Kenyan film industry. Progressively, she has executed advocacy and development work while establishing a background in grant management. Gitahi brings a wealth of experience and her strong East African network to her role on the Advisory Board.

Bikiya Graham-Douglas (Nigeria): Bikiya Graham-Douglas is an award-winning actress, singer and producer who is committed to telling stories through different art mediums, stage, film, and radio. Graham-Douglas is a winner of the Africa Magic Viewer’s Choice Awards, a nominee in the Nigeria Entertainment Awards, and a nominee at the Nollywood Movie Awards. She is also the founder and CEO of Beeta Productions and the Beeta Universal Arts Foundation, both of which work to produce and support quality Nigerian productions. Graham-Douglas has also served as International Jury member at FESPACO, as a trainer/ resource person at The Zanzibar International Film Festival, and is also a board member of Lagos Fringe Festival.

Graham-Douglas has taken part in a number of Ladima Foundation initiatives and will be a powerful ally in the important West African market.

Charlotte Giese (Denmark): Charlotte Giese is a Senior Advisor at Danish Film Institute and also works as Strategic Consultant for numerous organisations in Middle East and Africa. She is passionately committed to the development of the film industry across the world. As a leader, who is concerned about the synergy between growth and development, and between commercial and non-commercial areas, her vision is to strengthen the next generation through talent development, media literacy, cinema culture and production of high quality artistic and engaging content.

Nse Ikpe-Etim (Nigeria): Nse Ikpe-Etim is a multi-award-winning actress from Nigeria. A recipient of the IARA Awards in the UK, the AMVCAs as well as nominations for several other awards both local and international, she has served as a juror for international industry organisations such as the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) and the Cape Town International Film Market & Festival (CTIFMF). Ikpe-Etim, a veteran known for her humanitarian and mentoring efforts, is a TEDx speaker, and she recently received an award from the Cyprus International University in recognition of her contribution to youth development. She brings her wealth of experience as a consummate filmmaker, and avid mentor to young girls and women spread across different disciplines.

Fibby Kioria (Kenya): Fibby Kioria is the programme director at Maisha Film Lab and has – for the last eight years – worked in film education management. She has sat on numerous film festival juries around the world and founded two short film festivals in East Africa. She is passionate about African cinema,  particularly the archiving the history of  African Cinema.

Kioria is also the associate producer for the ‘Sembene Across Africa’ screenings, which, to date, have shown Ousmane Sembene’s work in over 35 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa over the last three years.

Elias Ribeiro (South Africa): Elias Ribeiro is a Brazilian born film producer who has lived and worked in over 10 countries. He has – for the last decade – been based in South Africa where he founded Urucu Media. His award-winning body of work spans a wide range of documentary and fiction projects that have premiered in Competition at Sundance, Berlinale, Festival do Rio, Beijing and Durban, to name a few. In 2017 he had two of his films in the running for the Best Foreign Language Oscar, representing South Africa and Mozambique. Ribeiro is the founder of Realness, a Pan African Screenwriters Residency; Creative Producer Indaba; and most recently Realness Institute. In 2018, he helmed the Market and Industry Programme of the Cape Town International Film Market and Festival. Lately he has enjoyed being a jury member for film funds such as Hubert Bals, mentoring producers in labs in Locarno, Addis Ababa, Kampala and offering consultancy services to different production companies and film related businesses on International co-productions and distribution.

Monica Rorvik (South Africa): As head of Film and Media Promotion at Wesgro, Rorvik’s mission is to inspire. She travels the globe representing Cape Town and the Western Cape. She has worked in the film industry in South Africa for many years, always with a strong focus on promotion, development, and collaboration. Rorvik is well known and respected around the world as she works tirelessly promoting the film industry of the Western Cape. A consummate networker, Rorvik has already added significant value as an ally of the Ladima Foundation and will continue to do so as a member of the Advisory Board.

Debra Zimmerman (USA): Zimmerman is the Executive Director of Women Make Movies based in New York City. She has worked for many years to support women in the film industry, not just in the USA, but around the world. She is the recipient of New York Women in Film and Television’s Loreen Arbus Award and the Hot Doc’s Doc Mogul Award, given to those who “over the course of their career has made an essential contribution to the creative vitality of the documentary industry, both in his or her country or abroad.”


When will Africa arrive on the global stage?


I recently attended the Nextv CEO Africa conference, which saw a gathering of a host of top-level industry execs from some of the major international players in the ever-converging world of digital, social media, TV and content platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Kwese iflix, Startimes, Econet, Deutsche Welle, The Africa Channel and others.

After listening to many of the discussions and moderating two sessions at the event, I continue to wonder when the African TV/film/content space will hit the critical mass necessary to truly transform the industry.

While the presence of so many high-profile individuals at the event, and others like it, is symbolic of the commitment that these companies are supposedly making to Africa, the question remains, are they putting their money where their mouths are? And in answer to this, I would say, not so much.

There are stacks of statistics and data that show the massive potential market that Africa represents, with a population (estimated at 77%) considered “youth” – and with smart mobile phone and broadband data penetration increasing exponentially – Africa’s potential is self-evident. But the conundrum appears to be that the African market is in a semi-permanent state of “emerging” and yet never quite arriving.

Apart from a few home grown players such as the dominant MultiChoice (Showmax) and less dominant Azam Media in East Arica, as well as Econet and the North American-based The Africa Channel – which screens purely African/diasporic content – the other major international platforms are still basically dabbling in the African market, while making a lot of noise about rather small commitments.

Netflix has announced three co-produced original South African series (Queen Sono, Shadow, Blood & Water), along with the animated series Mama K’s Team 4, and has also acquired the Nigerian film Lionheart. For this, they have received massive attention from media and professionals across Africa; however, in the grand scheme of their global productions, these are not massive announcements, especially when compared to what Netflix Originals is doing in other parts of the world.

Netflix Originals India announced in April that ten new original movies are in production, following on from the five previous original movies and the eight to ten original series set to go into production within the Indian market this year.

In Asia, Netflix has already produced 100 originals in eight countries and already has 17 announced for 2019 that will be produced in Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, India and South Korea.

Netflix announced 24 new titles for Europe in the fourth quarter of 2018 – that’s equivalent to the total for the region in 2017 and represents 22% of the upcoming catalogue. It will increase the number of European titles it produces by another third during 2019, having delivered 141 projects (including recommissions) in 2018.

Netflix is also still the only of the top international streaming platform to even show an interest in African content, with others such as Amazon, Hulu, HBO and AppleTV hardly even casting a glance in Africa’s general direction.

And yet, many people inside the industry are jumping with joy and excitement in anticipation of Africa and African content being “the next big thing.” I am still to see the evidence of this, however.

While there are more and more successful and well-attended events such as the NEXTV CEO Africa event, along with the various DISCOP Markets, and many other similar events that have sprung up, when you speak to the producers they all tell the same story. While there may be a perceived increase in interest in African content, and there are a few high-profile deals being made, there simply is not enough money being spent on African content to drive a transformation within the industry.

Compounding the problem, the deals still fall squarely within the so-called ‘African triangle’: Nigeria, South Africa and (to a lesser extent) Kenya. While French broadcasters like Cote Oust and Canal Plus will continue to support Francophone African content in a more or less consistent manner, there is still simply not enough being spent on African produced content in general to drive a global viewing trend or to drive substantial, sustainable growth within the industry.

African content is yet to see anything like the excitement around K-Dramas – South Korea’s soap operas that have taken the world by storm – or the long-lived popularity of Spanish telenovelas. Despite the success of Nollywood content across the continent and into the diaspora, these shows still have not captured a global imagination in the same way or in the same numbers.

For content made in Africa to really achieve next-level success, all industry players need to find a way to move from the excitement and the talking at events and conferences into high gear on production and distribution with key partners across the continent and beyond.

I definitely don’t have the answers as to how Africa reaches its critical mass, but the more industry events I attend – and the more I hear about Africa’s potential as opposed to its actuality – the more I worry we are just not getting there quite fast enough.

Let’s Talk About Film


Perhaps it’s time to talk about how we talk about the movies we watch. Or more importantly: how often, here in Africa, we don’t talk about them.

The obsessive cinephile who could, and would, talk for hours about the smallest nuances of a film, the background of a director and the casting choices, seems to be a breed on the verge of extinction within the African cinema space.

This dearth of film obsession seems to me directly linked to a critical lack of serious film criticism in mainstream media in most major African centres. As someone who has worked on film festivals in East, West, and Southern Africa (I do not speak of Francophone Africa as I simply do not know if the same applies), it is clear that there are hardly any professional film critics left.

Why is this a problem? Well, an appreciation of film expressed through coherent and contextualised information leads to an informed and, hopefully, film-curious population. If we are ever to stem the tide of one major American blockbuster after another dominating our (few) African movie screens, an entire culture change is required.

This culture change can be facilitated through dialogues around and about African film – these dialogues need to take place in the traditional mainstream media, on social media, at film festivals, at film schools, at high schools and even at primary schools through film clubs and related classes. But this is not happening.

Imagine if film clubs that screened and discussed African films existed in primary schools across the country. By high school, these same young people would be making films and not just talking about them. Programmes across Kenya that expose primary school children to films and encourage and skill them to make their own, already exist – and Kenya’s film industry is seeing the benefits.

Experience in key territories such as Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana, Nigeria and even South Africa has shown me that a vibrant cinephilic culture that promotes film for film’s sake hardly exists.

A very unscientific poll of industry professionals across these same countries shows the same results: it is exceptionally difficult to find film critics working in the media, as well as to find qualified festival jury coordinators or members who have the kind of encyclopaedic knowledge and obsessive passion for African film that should be part of any country’s film industry.

In my many years of experience working on publicity for various film festivals across Africa, this scenario is getting worse. These days, the first question I most often get from media about attending or covering a festival is, “Who will be there?”

In other words, what celebrities will be there? Who can I interview about what they are wearing, and who can I photograph? Hardly any media attending African film festivals these days even attend the screenings. Film directors and festival staff have to almost beg the media to attend and to review the film.

However, when these rare reviews do come out, they reflect the lack of film history, language and general knowledge of the journalist. Of course, there are amazing exceptions to the rule – but these only make the mediocrity of the norm stand out.

New media and the rise of instantly-updated content on websites is part of the problem. Media houses tend to cut and paste press releases and are very eager to hire young new staff at the expense of older more experienced journalists. However, it is the filmmaker and the audiences who suffer from this lack of credible film criticism.

Creating a culture that loves film, and that loves to talk about film, is a prerequisite for a viable film industry. While many film schools exist, and there are dozens of training programmes for filmmakers, there is a distinct lack of opportunity for the training and development of the film critic.

I have often pushed for training workshops of this kind at film festivals and major market events (as have some journalists such as Moses Serugo of Uganda), but these are very rare indeed. The training of film critics should be taking place alongside the training of filmmakers – and as often. By promoting a healthy and engaged culture of film criticism, industry bodies can ignite a movement that will grow audiences and even improve the quality of films being made.

Let’s start by talking about film; encouraging others to talk about film; and pushing for the creation of film clubs at schools, and journalism workshops at festivals and events. The future of our film industries requires nothing less.

Mobile Money & Mobile Content


Everybody knows that VOD is the future of content distribution on the African continent – a space that is currently dominated by Showmax, iflix/Kwese Play and Netflix, with Apple TV, YouTube Premium and Amazon Prime also trying to establish themselves in this market. In addition to these large players, the sheer number of African-based streaming platforms is dizzying. iROKO, Tultuntulu, AcornTV, TV2Go and the newly-launched Viu in the South African market, are just some of the platforms now available.

Within this space, however, one of the more interesting trends is the growing convergence between mobile content providers and mobile money platforms, and where this confluence might lead.

As mobile operators increase their ability to act as both broadcaster and bank – via their content platforms and mobile money operations – African banks are more and more finding themselves in competition for customers and are therefore having to find innovative ways to operate, and even move into the content space.

Smart phones across Africa are fast-becoming the ‘new TV’, as well as the ‘new wallet’, and this on top of the fact that most people who access the internet in Africa do so via their mobile phone, with more than 80% of broadband in Africa being accessed via smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices.  In South Africa alone, 2.6 billion gigabytes were accessed in 2018, with only 651 million of these via fixed broadband. The rest – over two billion gigs’ of data – was accessed on mobile devices, while in Nigeria we observe the same trend, with just over one billion gigs being utilised and only 200 gigs of this via fixed broadband.

It’s important to note that within Africa, retail banking penetration stands at half the global average for emerging markets – at 38% of the gross domestic product, according to management consulting firm McKinsey. Telcos have rapidly filled this gap, with Safaricom’s M-Pesa, MTN Mobile Money, Orange Money, Tigo Cash or Tigo Pesa, Vodafone Cash and Airtel Money just being some of the mobile money platforms present across sub-Saharan Africa.  According to a report by GSMA, mobile money transactions are growing at a rate of over 17% annually since 2017, with over 135 mobile money platforms facilitating over 122 million active accounts and processing over $20 billion in transactions – or 63% of mobile money transactions worldwide.

Mobile money platforms in Africa are a massive business with a massive consumer base, and so it makes perfect sense for banks to ‘get in’ on this market, which is currently dominated by the telecommunications companies.  Banks are seeing that cooperation with the telcos, rather than competition, is the only route for the future.

For example, last year saw the emergence of a partnership between MTN and Ecobank that enabled Ecobank and MTN Mobile Money customers to transfer money between mobile money wallets and bank accounts.

The banks have also quickly learned that the best way to attract young customers to their mobile (or traditional) banking platforms is through wholly owned and operated content platforms. Within this space, once again we find Nigeria leading the way.

In Nigeria alone, the following banks have launched streaming content platforms and are using content to reach a newer, digitally-savvy market:

United Bank for Africa: REDTV is a Pan-African lifestyle entertainment channel that focuses on engaging content from around the continent.

  • Access Bank: Accelerate TV features the Accelerate Film Maker Project,which aims to take young aspiring filmmakers and turn them into film festival veterans.
  • Diamond Bank: MyDiamondTV is a multimedia platform designed to entertain, educate and inform its viewers by documenting Nigerian pop culture, fashion and beauty, while keeping an eye on the business space as well.

In Kenya, meanwhile, Guaranty Trust Bank has launched Ndani TV. Ndani means ‘inside’ in Swahili, and that is the channel’s stated singular proposition: to take you inside Africa.

However, if one really wants to see the future of mobile money and mobile content, look no further than France’s Orange Studios and Orange telecommunications, who are rapidly starting to own the entire content value chain within Africa.

The French company is opening cinema chains and making content available digitally, with Orange Studios increasing its efforts to boost production and exhibition across Africa, where the film and TV arm of France’s leading telco operator, Orange, has a growing footprint.

Orange Studio has a number of African film projects in different stages of development, with the goal of producing six to ten projects per year across the continent, as well as moving into TV production, with its first series in Burkina Faso, and – via a partnership with Orange Senegal – to develop TV content in the West African nation.

Orange is also shrewdly bringing to three African markets a US$20 smart feature phone called Sanza (from April), with plans to take the device into 13 more markets in the near future. The 3G-capable smart feature phone will first come to Mali, Burkina Faso and Côte, KaiOS and Orange announced at the World Mobile Congress 2019. The phone will be priced starting at $20 with Orange services packages – which implies that Orange will subsidise the device for the local markets.

Moreover, in late-2018, MTN and Orange launched Mowali: a continent-wide mobile money interoperability joint venture, which allows users to send money between mobile money accounts across different providers. The service is immediately open to users of MTN Money and Orange Money, but can also be enabled for other mobile money providers (including banks), thereby having the potential to serve the more than 300 million mobile money users in Africa.

Orange has quietly gone about developing a complete mobile content and mobile money value chain that seamlessly integrates every aspect – from production to consumption.

As the worlds of mobile money and mobile content continue to merge, it will be interesting to see how these platforms, with built-in customer bases of tens of millions, compete with the major players in the streaming world in the battle for content and viewers.

The advantages held by mobile network operators in terms of their ability to discount data costs, enable seamless mobile money payments and leverage massive consumer bases should enable their success. Only time will tell.

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