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