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September 2003, Week 4


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
kenneth harrow <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 27 Sep 2003 15:09:30 -0400
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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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in all this discussion, the emphasis has been on the technology, outside of
the cultural and social context. in africa, the area with which i am most
familiar, celluloid is dying because of the costs. what i mean is, in
country after country movie theatres are closing down, the equipment is
going or has gone unrepaired so long as to be beyond repair and the costs
are now prohibitive. the same issue, costs, has slowed down or absolutely
killed the celluloid film industry in country after country.
celluloid film in africa was born with the commonly accepted belief that it
should serve the needs of the newly independent nations, and so tended
towards the didactic, and was almost always socially committed, relevant,
etc. perhaps that somewhat limited its audience appeal, and because of
costs it was dependent upon many foreign or government sponsors for production.
        all that started to change when the first nigerians and then ghanaians
dared to pick up a video camera, and even without training began to turn
films with their friends. they created an astonishing industry in the past
ten years, with more video films being produced and exhibited in nigeria in
one year (over a thousand) than in all the history of celluloid film in
africa. these are popular films, not socially relevant or high culture
films; they are filled with scenes involving magic, romance, killing, etc.,
and can be made in a week or two on a shoestring budget. they are hawked
off the backs of trucks, shown in local parlors, and have responded to the
audience's expectations so successfully as to be wildly popular. in short,
digital has saved film in africa. it seems to me that it is largely the
future, the only future, for african film, and i would guess that this will
be true for other regions in the world where people can't afford to spend
tens of millions of dollars, and have to respond to the commercial
exegencies that that entails.
i hope that this example demonstrates how inadequate a discussion on purely
technical grounds would be, is, for most of the world
ken harrow

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