Documentary in Africa needs cross-continental collaborations
THE Durban Film Mart, an annual event held in Durban, South Africa, is a platform that brings together filmmakers, producers, industry professionals, and investors from across Africa and the world. The main purpose is to facilitate networking, co-production opportunities, funding discussions, and project development for African filmmakers. One of the important sessions was a conversation on day 2 by the Africa Real Collective (ARC) on documentary filmmaking titled ‘Cross continental collaborations: Barriers, Catalysts, Successes.”
I was on the panel representing the IREPRESENT Documentary Film Festival Lagos, along with Mandisa Zitha, Festival Director of Encounters International Documentary Festival in Capetown, Reem Haddad of Al Jazeera and moderated by Mohamed Saïd Ouma, of Documentary Africa DoCA.
In my contribution, I spoke of the motivations of the founders of IREP to reimagine the documentary ecosystem in Nigeria. That motivation 13 years ago has been made possible only through the collaboration of many individuals and institutions weaved together by common purpose. It is why I believe that collaboration among documentary film festivals and organizations in Africa is needed to strengthen the impact of documentary cinema across the continent and to create a more vibrant and impactful ecosystem. I offered a few broad ideas on how documentary organizations and creative labs can collaborate better.
The first is in information sharing. We need to Create a platform or network where documentary film festivals and organizations can share information, resources, and best practices. This could include sharing successful event formats, marketing strategies, and outreach initiatives. The DoCA is a great opportunity for exactly that and it needs to exert itself in that pursuit. We need advocacy initiatives to highlight the importance of the documentary filmmaking genre in our continent. We certainly can jointly advocate for better funding opportunities and support from governments and sponsors. Along with that we need to work together to better articulate the challenges and opportunities in the African documentary landscape and share findings to inform strategic decisions and policies.
Along with that, documentary institutions in the continent must coordinate better with each other to avoid overlapping schedules and to curate more diverse programming. We can co-curate touring programs that showcase selected documentaries in different regions, reaching a wider audience. Training and skill development is already a key offering in almost all documentary festivals and labs in Africa. We can organize joint workshops, masterclasses, and training sessions, pooling resources to invite experienced global professionals and experts to provide valuable insights and showcase their creative process to our emerging talent.
Finally, we can develop joint mentorship and support programs to nurture our young emerging documentary filmmakers, helping them grow their careers by Initiating collaborative projects that may involve filmmakers and storytellers from different African countries. This will foster cultural exchange and create powerful narratives with broader perspectives and a larger viewership.
Collaboration can be African documentary’s superpower. It is by working together that our film festivals and organizations across the continent can amplify their impact, elevate the visibility of African documentaries, and contribute to the growth and development of the regional documentary communities.
Author: Femi Odugbemi