*NEW YORK — As the democratic process in Africa grows momentum and the people express their will, news from the Continent continues to dominate the headlines. The people are increasingly challenging the status quo, their efforts recalling the works and philosophy of the late author and director Ousmane Sembène, known as the “Father of African Cinema.”
Sembène’s life work was designed to get Africans to reject deeply embedded colonial views of themselves and to recognize their collective power to solve Africa’s problems. Now his films, and those of other award-winning directors, will be available for rental through digital download as Electronic Media Network (M-Net), the South African-based corporate broadcaster, producer and distributor, launches the largest-ever collection of award-winning African cinema content, the African Film Library. The Video On Demand (VOD) collection at www.africanfilmlibrary.com will provide film lovers around the world with easy and affordable access through digital download to 110 films from some of the most creative minds in the industry, while providing African filmmakers a much-needed global distribution platform.
The African Film Library’s premiere will be marked by the online release of 14 films by or about Sembène. A native of the West African nation of Senegal, Sembène was first a celebrated novelist; the Los Angeles Times called him one of Africa’s greatest authors. At 40, yearning to inspire social change and to reach a wider audience in Africa, he directed the first film by a sub-Saharan African, the 1963 short Borom Sarret (The Wagoner). The auteur went on to direct many feature films, cinematic works meant to help Africans liberate themselves from mental yolks that lingered long after independence from colonial rule and to urge collective action in overcoming societal ills. “Africa must get beyond deriving everything from the European view. Africa must consider itself, recognize its problems, and attempt to resolve them,” said Sembène.
One of the oldest film industries in the world, African cinema—which began with Ain el Ghezel (The Girl of Carthage), the 1924 Tunisian film by Chemama Chikly—has long been overlooked by those outside the continent as being limited to educational, documentary-style productions. The programming available through the African Film Library, however, dispels this myth with a mélange of short and feature films spanning the genres of comedy, drama, musical and sci-fi, both narrative and documentary.
Offerings include such cinematic treasures as Raoul Peck’s acclaimed political drama Lumumba (2000), one of the most incisive African political dramas of all time; and the films of Senegalese filmmaker Moussa Sene Absa, winner of several prestigious international awards in African cinema for his films Madame Brouette and Tableau Ferraille. The film Hyenas, Djibril Diop Mambéty’s provocative work, acclaimed as one the most visually ravishing African films ever made, as well as Jom: Story of a People and Kodou, both by the great Senegalese cineaste Ababacar Samb, are also among the many films now available online as part of the collection.
Films in the African Film Library come in a variety of languages, including Wolof, Zulu and other African tongues and dialects, as well as Arabic, French, English and Portuguese; non-English films have English subtitles.
“This online movie rental program is a wonderful and unique opportunity for members of the African Diaspora as well as film and African culture lovers to experience the richness that the Continent has to offer,” said Mike Dearham, curator of the African Film Library and head of sales and library acquisitions at M-Net. “We are honored to be able to release the African Film Library with such a large bulk of the great work of Sembène as well as other notable African cinematic works from established and emerging voices in African film.”
M-Net has negotiated the rights to around 700 works. The launch is the culmination of a project which began more than three years ago and has seen the digitization and restoration of the continent’s finest cinematic titles.
Film rentals are $5.00 per movie and can be accessed by registering and purchasing credits at www.africanfilmlibrary.com. Users are then able to watch the film multiple times within a 36-hour period.
Films by and About Ousmane Sèmbene in the African Film Library
Borom Sarret (The Wagoner)
Camp de Thiaroye
Ceddo (The Outsiders)
La Noire de (Black Girl)
Making of Moolaade by Samba Gadjigo
Mandabi (Money Order)
Niaye de Sembe
Niiwam by Clarence Thomas Delgado
Sembène: The Making of African Cinema by Manthia Diawara and Ngugi Wa Thiong’o
In October 1986 the face of South African television changed forever when Electronic Media Network (M-Net) launched the country’s first terrestrial pay-television channel. As broadcasting technology has developed over the years, M-Net has evolved from its analogue broadcast beginnings into a multi-channel Pan-African content provider, delivering top programming on a variety of platforms. M-Net has become renowned for its diverse programming and groundbreaking television content, featuring a mix of international series and movies with high-quality local programming.
In recent years, M-Net has embraced new technology and has continued to be a pioneer in content development for new platforms. With the 2006 launch of DStv mobile—a digital video broadcast of live TV channels to enabled mobile phones—and M-Mobile, which provides 3G content on-demand to mobile phones, M-Net and its channels started to venture down new broadcast avenues. Since December 2007, M-Net viewers on DStv have also been able to enjoy the benefits of Catch-up TV with the launch of DStv on Demand, a free video-on-demand service to PVR and PC. From 2008, M-Net has produced a number of local shows for DStv’s High Definition channels.
About M-Net Content Sales Department
The M-Net Content Sales Department—a division of M-Net Group Content Services— monetizes all M-Net-owned content through global sales and marketing. It promotes and sells M-Net’s library of content across television, DVD retail and rental, film festival circuit, In-Flight Entertainment, hotel pay-per view networks and broadband internet delivery mechanisms. Format sales are a new area of M-Net’s sales activity. The division is sourcing sales partnerships and new opportunities to present and sell its fast-growing slate of new M-Net owned formats to the international marketplace.