I've been influenced by Ousmane Sembene to look at African cinemas as the evening class for adults in Africa, but it's my understanding that much of the distribution of films in Africa, the movie houses themselves and the exhibition models, have been greatly reduced by the withdrawal of government subsidies. Is that true? Can you speak at all to that? Clearly, Bamako has had a favorable international reception, but how's it being received in Africa?
Basically it's been received well at its opening. It's opened in Bamako. It's opened at the FESPACO and Ouagadougou this year. I imagine that, for the most part, Bamako's been received pretty well on the continent. When we talk about subsidies - and, in fact, a great deal of subsidies still exist in terms of Francophone countries - but also, if you wanted to look at the South African industry, it's subsidized to some degree through the National Film and Video Board and also through the International Development Corporation (IDC). South Africa has put an enormous amount of money into films through those particular vehicles and also [through] tax advantages. I remember in [Olusegun] Obasanjo's speech on the development program for Nigeria, he mentions specifically the emerging film [from Nigeria] known as Nollywood.
The leading cinephiles and major givers to African films are Francophone countries, and particularly for their own interests. Sometimes there is a control mechanism. You'll see in the credits of Bamako Arte; it's full of French money [along with] our contributions as well. I think there's a greater emphasis we need to place on the question of subsidies, [which is] that subsidies to some extent determine what gets made and what doesn't get made. Even though Abderrahmane is a very important filmmaker not only in the Global South but essentially in the world, even his films have had difficulty going through the whole market mechanisms. [Bamako] is a film that was made for less than 2 million euros. I know from him speaking himself that our financial contribution was pivotal in terms of getting the film done.
Are you aware if anyone at the World Bank or the IMF has seen this film and, if so, what was their reaction?
There has been an enormous conversation. In fact, a professor at the Kennedy School of Government - one of Clinton's advisors and a major advocate of AGOA, the African Growth and Opportunity Act, also a major advocate of globalization and the World Bank's role - he had seen it and certainly had talked about it. What's been interesting in terms of this film is that a group like Christian Aid out of the UK has begun a signature campaign to demand that the British Parliament rescind its contribution to the World Bank and the IMF. They've used the film as a platform to build support for their actions. Also, 50 Years Is Enough - which is more like 60 years is enough now - has been a major advocate and supporter of the film. I think what's happening - and not that we're Johnny-Come-Latelies - but we in the West began to recognize that the groups in Civil Society have initiated this discussion as dialogue around the World Bank. They're asking, What is development? What is the kind of relationship? Because it's always about relationship. We're talking about human constructs, not something scientific. When someone's talking about the market, what are we talking about? We've all witnessed some of the days that the market says this and the market says that.
Look at what's happening even in Latin America now, the integration that's happening culturally, economically and politically. It's something to keep an eye on. You have in particular Venezuela and other groups talking about the Bank of the South and what that means. In Southeast Asia you have China, which has $900 billion in foreign reserves. $900 billion dollars! Compared to Venezuela, which has $40 billion in foreign reserve. So you look on the one hand at what's happening: the common, natural economic relationship that would happen between China and Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, North Korea, you could go on and on, and Japan inclusive in that relationship - all these are finding new resonance when people ask questions about what do you mean by development?
Bookmark/Search this post with: