The emergence of online video hosting, sharing and vlogging marks a new era in African film spectatorship, reception and diffusion. The phenomenon is in its early stages, but video sharing sites such as YouTube, DailyMotion, Vimeo, Yahoo Video, among others, are increasingly adopted by African filmmakers and African film distributors as a tool for visual exchange and communication.
Monique Mbeka Phoba had this to say about the impact and potential of video sharing on African cinema during our recent conversation:
This kind of virtual interactivity led to a film about the first Black African soccer team in the 1974 World Cup [Entre la coupe et l'élection/Between the Cup and the Election, Monique Mbeka Phoba and Guy Kabeya Muya, 2008]. We put a preview trailer on the Internet and received responses from all sorts of people interested in such a film, especially at the eve of the World Cup to be hosted by South Africa. This demonstrates the important role that the Internet may play in the production and promotion of films, which was not the case some years ago. It was the result of showing the trailer through video sharing that people were aware of the existence of the film—a very effective promotional tool. (1)
Thus making use of video sharing to showcase work in progress and to promote it for potential funding purposes has great potential. Traditionally, independent film and video practitioners presented their work in progress during private screenings among colleagues and friends, a practice that facilitates constructive feedback and discussion. These screenings have extended to on-line video-mediated sites such as YouTube and DailyMotion, which permit viewers to make comments directly on the site, therefore encouraging dialogue and productive critique. Perhaps this type of interactive exchange is more widespread on Facebook, which ensures an active audience of friends and “fans” providing spontaneous reactions and responses to the work.
Angela Aquereburu launched her Togolese TV series, Palabres, in French and Troubles, in English, on the Internet. Her audiovisual production company Caring International, which she created with her husband, launched the CaringInternational Channel on DailyMotion which videocast Palabres as a pilot. It continues under the title Zem La Serie with the shows, Réseau and Le Rapatrié, both running a little more than two minutes. Asked during an interview with Grioo.com how Internet users may assist in the diffusion process, she replied that the more people who view the series respond positively, the better the chances of getting it picked up by a television channel. Here again, the benefits of video sharing as a marketing strategy.
In addition to video sharing websites, many African women filmmakers include film excerpts and entire short films on their own websites, such as Dami Akinnusi, Cheryl Dunye, Izza Génini, Fatou Kande Senghor, Salem Mekuria, and Zanele Muholi. In many cases the websites are extensive, elaborating on future projects, and expounding on their philosophy as artists. Wanuri Wahui’s blog goes beyond reflections on her films, extending to her experiences while traveling, living, and working. Dami Akinnusi features a vlog on her website, in addition to featuring her films, she gives reflections on aspects of her life experience, such as the 7:48 mn visual piece entitled, “Finding Inner Peace”.
Another trend that is becoming increasingly popular, is the creation of a website to promote a newly released film on which the trailer of the film and other details about the filmmaker, crew and distribution are featured, for instance, Amma Asante’s A Way of Life, Florence Ayisi's Zanzibar Soccer Queens, Wanuri Wahui’s From a Whisper, Lupita Nyongo’s In My Genes.
Film distributors have also come on board using video sharing networks as a means to broadcast the trailers of the films in their collection, such as Women Make Movies and California Newsreel. Moreover, distributors such as La Médiathèque des Trois Mondes and The African Film Library offer Video on Command (VOD), undoubtedly the platform of the future.
Film festivals definitely recognize the value of the online media trend of video sharing. Within a week after the close of the Festival International de Films de Femmes, an impressive collection of video-taped interviews, panel discussions and events were uploaded on a DailyMotion channel created to showcase the 32nd edition of the festival, during which African women were especially visible. The honor was to Safi Faye, a pioneer in African cinema for nearly forty years. Dyana Gaye was featured on the YouTube Dubai Film Festival Channel among the many filmmakers who were interviewed during the festival in 2009.
An integral part of Rokhaya Diallo’s Les Indivisibles website is “Individeos et +”, short animated cartoons depicting subtle racism acted out on a daily basis. In addition, a vlog page featuring video interviews of a diverse group of French people, from different ethnicities and walks of life: a sociologist, singer/actor, filmmaker and rapper. The comments page includes an extensive list of testimonies in response to the cartoons and video-interviews, often personal and touching, regarding experiences of racism (reverse racism), anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, class-ism, regionalism and many of the other isms that are hurtful and insensitive. “Les Indivisibles: French, with no comment” is a group of activists whose goal is to deconstruct—with humor and irony—ethno-racial prejudices, and above all, those which deny or devalorize the French identity of the non-white French.
The research for this post inspired me to launch the African Women in Cinema Vlog hosted by YouTube and DailyMotion, as well as to incorporate the vlog concept in the Blog itself. In the future I will feature video-interviews and video clips for discussion and critique.