An African Filmmaker's Manifesto


/manɪˈfɛstəʊ/ noun

We are all Africans. Every last one of us.

Africa birthed the entire world and humankind has been evolving and re-inventing itself ever since. Our ancestors were the Earth’s first witnesses – the first to walk it, see it, hold its soil in their hands, and tell stories about it.

If the films we watch were anything to go by, few would believe that our history did not begin with slavery, colonialism or plundered resources. And our own local narratives dominated by politicians, scandals and power do not do much to reflect a truer picture of who we are. How did we get here?

When European leaders gathered in Berlin to enslave our black bodies and carve up our continent up, the dismantling of our narrative began. Artifacts were destroyed, cultural practices banned and 12.5 million Africans brutally abducted and sold into slavery.

Our sense of self was interrupted.

The West grew. Africa shrunk.

A continent that doesn’t know its history struggles to invent its future. For years, our stories have been told by others – and these stories have become embedded as Truth. We must disrupt this by reflecting our own realities – or sit back and allow ourselves to be shaped by others.

Film has the power to shift perspectives. It is immersive, altering our impressions of the world, challenging or confirming ideas about our place within it. Film therefore, doesn’t just reflect culture – it influences and changes it.

We believe that Culture is not static – it is constantly evolving.

We, through great, diverse, well-made films made by the most talented, committed and visionary of filmmakers will enable us, as Africans, to finally see ourselves both as we are and as we might become.

We reject the notion that African films must appeal to the basest of African instincts to find the largest audiences and refute the notion that African cinema has to be quickly and crudely made to be successful. We believe African audiences are as discerning and demanding as any, but that our storytellers require a more supportive environment to rise and excel.

We concur that filmmaking is a craft and agree that the most insightful storytellers are informed and inspired by the tales of others, but reject the notion of unilaterality in storytelling. Lower budgets do not equate to lesser films. We embrace the truth and authenticity of imperfect cinema – with or without financing.

For we are African: And in the smaller, tighter, more pressure-filled spaces we’ve been forced to occupy, we boil, we burn, we hew, we hoe, we transform we become.

We believe that Modern Day Democracy isn’t all that democratic at all, and that this relentless search for larger audiences is a new form of enslavement. Today, its eyeballs, from any continent, from any race being traded. Just as long as the owner of those eyeballs can pay. The newly enslaved take themselves to hand profiteers their own eyeballs and now walk blinded. Perhaps by being excluded, we are saved – and left to build a truly brave, and real new world.

We therefore commit to being a part of a movement that knows our time has come, and is prepared to do whatever it takes to produce better, more powerful stories for ourselves and the world.

To tell our powerful stories well, we must tell them truthfully, owning our successes as well as our failures; our darkness as well as our light.

The best films are intimate observations of people:

Their worlds, identities, circumstances, challenges, views, imaginings, hopes, despairs, failures and triumphs.

In order to impact and uplift ourselves as human beings, we must support a multiplicity of stories that reveal diverse and divergent aspect/s of ourselves – including those that generate controversy by challenging societal norms. Our storytellers must be allowed to conceive, gestate and birth new stories as much as they mirror and recount old ones.

We invite honest reflections of all that we are.

In this way we challenge old assumptions, unearth buried truths, and provoke new realities.

We are committed to supporting independent storytellers on the African continent who describe the world as they see it, from their own unique histories, experiences, imaginings and lenses and celebrate that no two perspectives, no two stories or approaches can ever be identical.

We must resist with all our might the insistence on Africa having a single story: whether that one-dimensional story originates from western media or conservative African leadership.

We acknowledge the difficulty of the path walked by artists – because one does not choose to be an artist: art chooses you. Our family of committed storytellers are vulnerable and need support in order to tell our stories with courage, clarity and authenticity.

We reject the notion that the worth or success of an African storyteller is set by the streamer, funder, broadcaster, the festival, the philanthropist, the government, the non-profit, the Other.

Not so: We are in ourselves enough.

Our communities leadership nurtures and galvanizes talented, driven, committed, persistent African voices in safe, enabling, spaces.

In our world, discriminatory global systems that exclude people of color from mainstream narratives will eventually suffer the loss of our combined numbers, determination and wealth.

And so we declare our independence as African storytellers setting forth into a brand new world that we envisioned and have already built in our minds eye.

Each day we renew our kinship and commitment to hunt, gather and share creative, educational and financial opportunities for the widest possible diversity of African filmmakers. We do this not out of duty, but because we too are diverse artists and thinkers seeking a home within this home we are creating.

Ultimately, we firmly believe that true stories well told can change the world. And so we support all efforts to build committed audiences and create successful economic models around the exhibition of African films on the continent and in the world.

With haste, hope, and vigor we commit to make possible great African films for ourselves, our continent, the world and those yet to come.