Goodwill message to BSIFF

"It's not often that a new face shows up on the world screen, so speaking as a Canadian filmmaker and media professor, I am delighted to witness Ghana's appearance on the international film festival circuit. It is a bold and timely step that marks this vibrant country's growing maturity and evolving sureness of self.

 With the creation of the Black Star International Film Festival, Ghana steps into the international lime light, bringing with it a fresh voice rarely heard internationally. A voice full of exuberance, unique cultural wealth, and the driving energy of a nation joyfully finding its feet.

 Film festivals around the world are outstanding opportunities for filmmakers, both established and up and coming, to share ideas about the evolution of narrative, about the impact of technologies on the capturing of images, as well as their impact on storytelling. They are also economic drivers and centres for cultural diplomacy and exchange. And now, finally, Ghana has a venue that lets it share its cultural wealth and the freshness of its vision with the rest of the world. Welcome Ghana: the world awaits you."

                                                       Helga-Liz Haberfellner - Advisor to BSIFF

 

An international film festival hits Ghana - BSIFF

It is time for a credible film festival to take place in Ghana annually… Let us just focus on the four key things that a healthy film industry brings to a country…

Film is a cultural diplomacy tool.

Look around you and see all the cultural arms of the various embassies operating in Ghana and in many instances, budgets placed aside by their home countries to support the promotion of the Arts. A number of these embassies may have movie nights; understanding that film is a key cultural diplomacy tool. It offers an opportunity to shape perceptions, to explain issues, to engage foreign cultures and to foster understanding. Even before I ever set foot into the UK or the United States, I had an understanding of what to expect and how to engage with the British or American. I understood that America was powerful, and learnt about the American love for country and life, not necessarily from watching the news, but from watching films like Rambo and die-hard. Films like AirForce-1 left an indelible mark on my brain.

As a key part of their foreign policy engagement, the role of Films and music in underscoring the American global influence for instance, cannot be underrated. Imagine if every Ghanaian embassy around the world had the budget and mandate to purchase and show two Ghanaian films at the embassy every year; as an opportunity to engage, and connect with their environment. Imagine the interest this will create about Ghana. How many people will suddenly plan their holiday time to spend it in Ghana… or maybe explore the opportunity to do business here. Most importantly, imagine what it will do for the local film industry. To qualify your film to be bought, filmmakers may even start to up the quality of their films. The filmmaker whose film is bought will make some money and quickly plan to make another film, thereby employing many young hands desperate for jobs… just imagine what this one policy by the government will achieve.

We hereby call on the government of Ghana and our President, H.E John Dramani Mahama, represented here today by the honorable Deputy ministers of communications, Mr. Ato Sarpong and the honorable deputy minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mrs. Dzifa Gomashie, who is herself one of the best products of this industry, and is today serving the government of Ghana. We ask, that the policy be passed that mandates each embassy to show only two Ghanaian films every year… Imagine that!

The Blackstar international film festival is ready to work with the government to enable this process and to help set the standards for the films that get selected.

Film festivals like Sundance and Tribecca film festival, serve as a key connector of the American film culture to the rest of the world. Bringing films from the globe and filmmakers with a story to tell and money to spend, to network, build opportunities and map out the images that will shape the minds of viewers for centuries; Ultimately, enabling trade. People are drawn to places to live and do business by the images they see and what they hear about those countries. The story of our country needs to be told in a systematic way and not just left to news-makers, especially foreign media, who are perhaps, driven foremost, by the level of sensation a story carries, and not the true picture of the reality. When used right, film can jump-start interest in a country’s story and thereby draw both visitors for Tourism and for business. Understanding this, other African countries are way ahead in the game. South Africa for instance, has 11 film treaties with 11 countries… but check this, not one with an African country… Why is this?

South Africa is aggressively selling itself through the film festival circuit. The Durban film festival is highly respected and recently, other film festivals like Rapidlion have been launched. South Africa has already captured a key film market like Discop, which was run unsuccessfully in Ghana for just one year. On my last visit to Discop, I was courted by various executives from the different provinces in South Africa. Each executive fighting to have filmmakers make films with their local producers. Imagine such competition, even within country. The driver of this initiative off course, is their government.

Today, South Africa has some very interesting film policies. For instance, if you shoot at a certain budget, co-producing with a South African and shoot a certain percentage of the film in South Africa, you are refunded about 50% of your total budget by the government. My response to this? is wow, wow wow! Imagine that!

A typical film may employ in the space of a few months, hundreds of people from very high skill levels to low skill levels and skills sets from across the spectrum. From Accountants, to designers to artists, to writers, the list goes on, creating critical employment. A typical production may also make purchases that run into thousands of dollars. The story is even sweeter when foreign collaborations happen, for then there is a lot of skills transfers and foreign currency inflows. Talk about low hanging fruits… in our quest to find jobs for the many young people that are still looking to find the Ghanaian dream.

The Black international film festival idea, was birth in October 2015… As I have been promoting the Blackstar international film festival, several things have stood out to me. This is the time for Ghana to get in the global race to capture the best in film, to showcase itself through cinema, but most importantly, to be at the forefront of the conversation about the role of cinema in shaping the mind of a people. Our first President, Dr. Nkrumah perhaps had carried a secret in his heart to his deathbed - that the emancipation of the African mind will ride through town, on the back of the horse of Cinema, carrying the sword of self knowledge. It is with this insight that he built one of the first film labs and film studio in Africa. The National Film and television Institute, was later built to help feed this opportunity.

Who we are, what we hope to become and what we would truly become, all lie in the ‘mirror mirror’ of our Cinema. Cinema after all is the imitation, the reflection, and in many instances, a soothsayer to life.

It is time to have a conversation, it is time to connect, it is time to do business

Finally we arrive to welcome the rest of Africa, and we invite the world to join us to explore what it truly means to tell a story, to tell an African story, to listen to the world tell its story and to truly appreciate that at the end of the day, we are all telling one story - The human story…

Keep in mind that submissions open in March. Go to our site or facebook page and follow the link to filmFreeWay, our submissions partner and submit your film. The festival is in August. I will also take the opportunity to call on all stakeholders, filmmakers and their guilds, distributors, interested organizations, the corporates, to all add your voices to ours. We need you to make this work. If you are a corporate, you should take advantage of the platform that we offer you. to learn more, visit www.blackstarinternationalfilmfestival.org

I’d like to say thank you once again to everyone here, for coming. Get ready for a journey whose final destination, you can’t even begin to imagine; but be assured that you will like it… Enjoy the ride.

Speech by Juliet Asante - Executive Director

Industry grandfather, Mr. Kwaw Ansah sends a goodwill message to BSIFF

The “Black Star international Film Festival” feels like an overdue initiative for the film industry in Ghana. The audio-visual media has been recognized the world over as a powerful tool for development and acculturation. It was the instrument of choice for imperial domination of colonized territories through mass propaganda. The media has been used to make the colonial people believe that colonialism, even in its most barbaric form, was in the best interest of the colonized people, thus making some pre-independent politicians even kick against the granting of independence to their countries. That is the power of the tool in our hands.

However, owing to the absence of an effective organized effort, we as a people have failed to realize the full potential of this powerful tool. In the worse case, in countries like Rwanda and Burundi, the media has been used for less than noble political and ethnocentric purposes with catastrophic consequences.

I believe the birth of the “Black Star International Film Festival”, is welcome news for the industry and it’s objectives are noble. It would not only challenge industry stakeholders to improve the standards of audio-visual productions, but also, provide, through research, relevant policy alternatives to help with advocacy for the industry in the affairs of not only the state, but also the entire African Continent.

In this way, the industry would become a more active and relevant partner in Africa’s development effort and claim its rightful place in the governance process.

A message from Mr. Kwaw Ansah's office to the Blackstar Int. film festival...

Why this is a renaissance!

The Blackstar International Film Festival is a renaissance in the development of the content industries of Africa. It is about bringing attention to shaping the "stories" of the Ghanaian industry and to the larger African experience; it is about growing audiences through new approaches to distribution; and it is about supporting the development of our content and creative industries.

This my friends is how Africa wins the future.
Today many of Africa's economies are failing, but I believe strongly that the emerging creative energy of the young people of this continent, in Ghana, in Nigeria, in Egypt or in South Africa, is what holds a lot of hope for the social rejuvenation and economic recovery of the Continent.

The Blackstar International Film Festival will highlight for the world in a spectacular way all the works and workers that are driving the economy of of this industry into its new future.

For many years, Africa has struggled with the irony of its "wealth"; which is almost entirely concentrated under the ground. The irony being that Africa's wealth under the ground hasn't translated to wealth above the ground. Many nations of the world have built and advanced their societies on the wealth of resources found in Africa, yet, the continent is acutely challenged with underdevelopment, poverty, disease and wars, with a visible decline in its share of World trade over the years. But there is a growing realization that economic competitiveness is no longer largely dependent on natural resources. Economic viability and wealth distribution order of the World are evolving on new grounds that are not predicated on oil, gold or mineral deposits.

Economic competitive gaps in the world now depends on exploiting creative ingenuity whether by digital technology or the creative arts. The industrial age has given way to a knowledge economy and Africa must rise to the challenge. We can press our advantage in storytelling, culture, and creativity. It is the 'soft power' most accessible to us. Chinua Achebe described Man as "a story telling animal who rarely passes up an opportunity to accompany his experiences with matching stories..." Africa has a heritage of storytelling that reaches way back into pristine times. African history and culture have been passed on through oral tradition that is largely dependent on story telling , we have created governments by story telling, we live and breathe story telling.

With digital film technology, we have a great opportunity to exploit this unique advantage. The impact of this is already evident in the creative industry in Africa; the result is what we see with Nollywood, Ghallywood and all the other "woods" emerging all over. We don't need to have all the big machines and huge capital to tell our story or to access an audience. It is, therefore, not a surprise that among those of African ancestry, across waters and across borders, Nollywood or Ghallywood is not an accidental success; it is a phenomenon that is identifiable whereverthe African experience exists.

The values in those stories have kept hope in the hearts of Africans, constantly reminding us that there is a better day, in spite of the challenges of colonialism and civil wars and poor governance, the African spirit stands undeterred. It explains why you will find that it is difficult to find an African that is committing suicide; we always think tomorrow is another day.

These young filmmakers and storytellers have capitalized on the inherent potential of African stories to penetrate individual cultures on the continent, breaking down colonial structures that keep us apart. It has opened new opportunities for Africans, regardless of their geographical distance, to reconnect and find an appeal in the common values taught to us in our stories. This, to my thinking, is the singular success of the film industry in across the continent. Africans now have a sense of connection that speaks to the values that are peculiar to them and cannot be replicated in American, Indian, or Chinesemovies.

Beyond this, African films have become the backdrops of our history in a time when the global information order has not been to our advantage. We have been able todemonstrate in our movies that our lifestyles are different, our ways of seeing the world are different, our spirituality is different and we have passed that on even as we migrated to cultures that are foreign to ours.  These films are the references of our identity as we move into new worlds. We have used these films to teach our children, and expand our capacity to retain the Africa that was born in us, to quote Kwame Nkrumah.

The BlackStar International Film Festival comes at a time when it is most important to take the African storytelling experience to a new level of reckoning and celebration. But above all it presents a prime opportunity for the voice of the large community of content consumers in Africa to be heard.

I urge all filmmakers in Ghana to embrace this new initiative and own it. Everyone is needed - government needs to support this festival loudly and deliberately. We need the partnership of the corporate sector - nothing will move your brands as fast as partnering with the films and filmmakers who have captured the emotions of your consumers. We need the guilds and the industry associations to step up. We need the film training institutions to join the team. And together the possibilities and promise of this vibrant creative economy will be realized to the advantage of all.

learn more about BSIFF by visiting www.blackstarinternationalfilmfestival.org

Written by Femi Odugbemi - Femi Odugbemi, is founding Producer of TINSEL, former Head Judge of the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards and Executive Director of the IRepresent International Documentary Film Festival, Lago