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The fifth Joburg Film Festival wrapped up on Sunday night with homegrown director John Barker’s caper comedy “The Umbrella Man,” a local premiere in which the cast and crew celebrated by walking around Nelson Mandela Square with brightly colored umbrellas. Earlier in the week, the first edition of the JBX Content Market – a two-day industry confab parallel to the fest – concluded after presenting a brief but comprehensive overview of the state of play for Africa’s screen industries in 2023.

There is no clear portrait that can emerge from an industry gathering on a continent as rich and diverse as Africa, where film and TV production and consumer trends — as with everything else — vary widely from country to country. but are different. The big markets of South Africa and Nigeria still dominate the conversation at such events. Global players like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video see these regions as key to their expansion plans in the continent and beyond. The fact that the JBX content market was English-language this week, however, also meant that the vast market in French-speaking West Africa—dominated by a growing production powerhouse in the Ivory Coast— Most were no shows.

While much of the talk in Johannesburg focused on the continent’s limitless potential, load-shedding across the city knocked out power throughout the week, a reminder that even a country with South Africa’s wealth could face massive disruptions. Not immune to thrust forces. It’s tough to be booming in the African mobile market when a power outage can knock out the 3G network for hours. At least several screenings during the Joburg Film Festival were also disrupted, according to a festival source.

Yet long-standing players in the African industry have neither ignored nor shied away from such challenges. Opportunity is everywhere you turn. The continent is home to nearly 1.2 billion people – more than 60 percent of whom are under the age of 25 – representing a massively untapped consumer market as well as a source of countless stories still to be told. Looking forward to going.

A young, constantly reinventing city, Johannesburg is a natural place to take the pulse of the continent. It is an African melting pot and a city of dreams, an El Dorado for fortune seekers from far and wide since the first prospectors came to this boomtown hoping to strike gold.

As we wrap up the Joburg Film Festival and JBX Content Market for 2023, here are our five points:

It is “business as usual” for global streaming platforms in Africa.

During an exclusive interview with VarietyNed Mitchell, Los Angeles-based head of originals for Africa and the Middle East for Prime Video and Amazon Studios, said the streamer now has “a dedicated local content strategy for the continent across the board” as it consistently deals with the top. African studios and talent, such as Nigerian multi-hyphenate Jade Osiberu (“Gangs of Lagos”). The company’s latest deal, a multi-picture licensing deal with South African Reputable Associates announced last week during the Joburg Film Festival, gives the streamer exclusive SVOD access to more than 20 South African feature films. It’s another sign that the company is ready to lock horns with Netflix, which launched its first African original in 2020, as the two streaming giants capture the lion’s share of Africa’s still largely untapped SVOD market. are in the race to do. Steady growth and stock concerns may shake up the streaming market in other parts of the world, but in Africa, “it’s very much business as usual,” according to one veteran African producer. “There’s still a lot of commissioning and licensing going on. I don’t think it’s slowing down.” Despite the prospect of “tightening the belt a bit,” he added, “International territories are their only hope for growth, so it feels like they’re really sticking to the plan to build an audience and subscribers here.”

Local streamers say they are in pole position to capture African audiences.

For pan-African streaming service ShowMax, which operates in all 50 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, there’s no doubt that local content is king: last year, among the 10 most-watched shows on the streamer in South Africa Seven were natives. While the figure was eight in Kenya and Nigeria and nine out of 10 in Ghana. Backed by the deep pockets of South African media giant MultiChoice, the streamer is steadily churning out a string of original movies and series in key African markets, while other local and regional players — such as PCCW’s Asian regional OTT platform, Viu, Which is growing slowly. Its African influences—making it clear that it’s not just global SVODs that are pandering to African subscribers. Locals say they have a leg up on their global rivals, with innovative payment plans and viewing options – such as mobile-only subscriptions and downloads for offline viewing – proving that. Their services are designed “with Africa in mind”. Jen van Zyl, Senior Content Manager at ShowMax and DSTV Now. Physical infrastructure remains a challenge: Internet connectivity across Africa is estimated to be only 26 percent, according to van Zyl, while the rolling blackouts that plunged large parts of Johannesburg into darkness this week are evidence that South Africa is also not immune to such obstacles.

Milisothando Bongela’s debut documentary, “Millisothando,” premiered at Sundance.
Courtesy of the Sundance Institute

African documentarians get a voice—and a growing global platform

Just days after South African documentary filmmaker Milisothando Bongela’s debut feature, “Millisothando,” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, Cameroon’s Cyril Ringo traveled to Rotterdam for “Le Specter de Boko Haram,” a landmark achievement for African documentary film. He won the Tiger Award. Such high-profile premieres and accolades are increasingly becoming the norm for the continent’s dockmakers, who are getting more festival exposure than ever before. The industry has been boosted by initiatives such as Cape Town-based media non-profit STEPS, whose Generation Africa anthology has set an ambitious target of producing 30 African documentary features. Pan-African streaming platform Showmax, meanwhile, is stepping in to make up some of the shortfall from African broadcasters’ drying up of commissioning budgets, while AfriDocs – a pan-African distribution platform – not only has its own streaming platform. Offers free but also partners with broadcasters across the continent to get airtime of African documentaries on terrestrial channels. Perhaps most importantly, however, young African filmmakers are finding intimate and daring ways to share their stories and explore the liminal spaces where the personal and the political intersect. “There’s always an inquiry into engagement, family issues, culture, politics, and how that affects the personal,” said Mandisa Rawlin, director of South African Encounters. It’s a great idea for upcoming talent.” Documentary Film Festival, during a panel in Johannesburg this week.

With the demand for animation increasing, African talents are moving for the spotlight.

The news that South Africa’s Triggerfish will be one of only nine animation studios worldwide to produce a short film for Disney+’s upcoming “Star Wars: Visions Vol.2” anthology doesn’t come as a shock. who are following the studio. Continued growth, and his ongoing collaboration with Mouse House. In 2015, the two partnered on Triggerfish Story Lab, a pan-African talent search, while the Cape Town-based animation house was also tapped as the lead studio on “Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire,” a 10 Part, pan-African, Disney + Original Anthology executive produced by Oscar-winning director Peter Ramsey (“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”). Showcases such as the Annecy International Animation Festival are training to highlight the explosion of animation across the continent in recent years, as global streaming platforms continue their push for more content, growing demand for adult animation. The prospects for Africans have never been brighter. “Specificity, appeal and tone are always important, but there is an added emphasis on authenticity in terms of story subject matter and cast,” said Nick Klute, national chair of the dynamic South African industry body Animation SA, which is the African animation profession. It creates more opportunities for entrepreneurs.” , who spoke on a panel at the Joburg Film Festival this week.

“Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire” will be a 10-part pan-African anthology series for Disney+.
Thanks to Disney

African stories on African terms

In the past two years, South Africa has quietly signed co-production agreements with Nigeria (2021) and Kenya (2022) – its first cooperation agreements with other African countries. While this is no doubt a positive sign for cooperation on the continent, a number of producers speaking in Johannesburg this week suggested that the deals would look better on paper in practice. “These systems don’t really help African co-productions,” said Nigerian actor and producer Fabian Lujide, noting how such agreements are designed “from a Western perspective.” He noted that most African producers could not raise financing to tap into South Africa’s cash rebates and deal terminations. “It’s a non-starter.” Yet cooperation across borders is growing. As such, there is also interest from Hollywood and elsewhere, as more and more foreign suits look to tap into the growing global demand for African talent and stories. Maybe the tide will finally turn in Africa’s favor to tell its own stories on its own terms. “‘Black Panther’ was a product of Hollywood with Africa involved,” said Nikki Weinstock, former creative chief of Ben Stiller’s Red Hour Films and CEO of Invention Studios. “The task now is to find more authentic things, to include more African creators and… to choose things that feel like they can be global, high-quality and game-changers in terms of perceptions of the African continent. ”

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