Framed’s crowdfunding success wasn’t the norm for African film makers

2014-08-17 15:00

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When an independent, feature-length documentary that deals with the subject matter that Frameddoes gets crowdfunded, it gives the impression that the message sent by blogs such as Africa is a Country and Decolonial Theory is starting to sink into the Western consciousness.

Framed, directed by Emmy-nominated US documentary film maker Cassandra Herrman, is in essence a film about the standard narrative. It’s best summed up by Binyavanga Wainaina at the top of the project’s Kickstarter page: “Africa is to be pitied, worshipped or dominated.”

The film will follow Wainaina, South African-born educator Zine Magubane and Kenyan image maker Boniface Mwangi as they examine “the Western relationship to Africa and Africans”.

Since being mentioned on Indiewire in June, Framed has raised more than $33?000 (R350?000), $5?000 more than it needed to complete. But the successful funding highlights another issue – that crowdfunding by and large is not a successful strategy for African film makers.

Magubane is quoted as saying: “You’d think there were no African think-tanks, no African universities [and] no African human rights lawyers working on this issue.”

From local media representations, you would think there were no African film makers trying to crowdfund films. Framed is a necessary film for a Western or Western-educated audience and it will generate excellent news. It’s important to note that Framed was looking for money to finish the film, not to make it in its entirety.

SUCCESS STORIES

One of Africa’s most successfully crowdfunded film projects on record is Eddie Edwards’ Rollaball, which narrowly raised the few thousand rands of its $38?000 goal in the closing minutes of its Kickstarter campaign.

Its producer, Steven Markovitz, said: “Crowdfunding is a full-time job. It took a small team of people working for four months to bring it in. It’s like running a political campaign.”

Unearthed, the award-winning documentary about fracking in the Karoo, only just hit a quarter of its goal and eventually raised the remainder of its money through funds and film markets.

Director Jolynn Minnaar said crowdfunding was “particularly harder in South Africa [as] it’s in its nascency”. She added: “Online access in SA is limited, and even more so the culture of spending money online.”

FAILURE TO LAUNCH

It’s no wonder, then, that projects like independent award-winning Namibian film maker Perivi Katjavivi’s Icarus don’t gain traction.

Katjavivi, whose film is at less than a 20th of its goal, said: “We must create a model that nurtures original auteur voices.?We cannot expect government and Hollywood to dictate our culture to us.”

Icarus is a project that might not find enough support, be it due to exchange rates, South African audience reticence over crowdfunding as a model or the algorithms of international crowdfunding platforms.

Local crowdfunding platforms like Thundafund could become the answer for African film makers.

But whatever the answer is, film makers have yet to harness public interest in such a way that turns crowdfunding into a successful, reliable means of getting films made?– and that is a standard narrative that needs to change.

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