The Case for Global Film

Discussing everything that isn't Hollywood (and a little that is).

Crowd-sourcing a film to shoot in Africa

Posted by Roy Stafford on 12 September 2012

A still from the proposal for ‘Yefon’

We received this message from Martin Stein about a new African film to be developed via Kickstarter.com

I’ve read the message and checked out the website for the film proposal. It’s very interesting to see what ‘crowd-sourcing’ a film looks like in practice and the subject for the film is one that everyone ought to support – women’s education in West Africa. I’m still not quite clear exactly what kind of film is being proposed. From the very glossy proposal it looks like a film produced from the US about a social issue in Cameroon.

A little context is useful here. There is a growing trend for film projects to be developed by West African filmmakers with US partners. This is part of a coming together of Nollywood and African-American filmmakers to create films for both Nigerian and diaspora markets. The movements in the opposite direction have up to now been mostly concerned with US directors and actors working in South Africa, but also other parts of Africa – and Hotel Rwanda is one film mentioned in the message below. This proposal appears to include a range of creative talent drawn from the US, Nigeria and South Africa.

The driving force behind the proposal is Sahndra Fon Dufe, who is the writer and who plays the central character. She comes from Cameroon and has presumably trained in the US where she currently works. I can’t fault the proposal in any way and she fronts it persuasively. There is part of me that is excited by the prospect of a global project to “put Cameroon and its stories on the map”. But there is also another part of me slightly concerned by a US-led project to make, as the proposal puts it, “the first major production in Cameroon” which is a “virgin country for film”. I wish I knew more about film in Cameroon, but I think that there have been many locally-made films before – perhaps not in the region where the story is set? I suspect that the most activity has been in Francophone Cameroon but I would be surprised if there was no interest in the Anglophone part.

I confess that I’m sceptical about most of those films made by Hollywood in South Africa – will this be a better bet? Is it good to have a bigger budget because there are known stars attached? Are there any local Cameroonian actors and crew who will take part in the production and what are the plans to show the film in Cameroon? It would be good to see these questions addressed in the proposal. Anyway, have a look at the proposal, and especially the video presentation (via the link below), and make up your own mind.

———————————————————————————————————

“A young African woman with dreams of becoming a teacher takes reading and writing lessons from a visiting American. But, when the male village elders find out, she is sentenced to death for breaking from tradition.

Yefon is a film that continues in the proud tradition of socially conscious, Africa-based cinema like Hotel Rwanda, Beat the Drum  and Sarafina — but unlike those movies, its producers will come from the ranks of generous Kickstarter supporters: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/405663859/yefon-the-movie

It has already attracted the attention of Hollywood stars like Jimmy Jean-Louise (“Tears of the Sun” “Heroes”), Adriana Barraza (Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee, “Babel”) and Hakeem Kae-Kazim (“Hotel Rwanda”). The film is being co-produced by Justin Massion, the director of the Kickstarter campaign for “Space Command,” which brought in $75,000 in just three days, and ended with over $200,000—making it one of the crowd-funding platform’s top 10 projects.

“Yefon” is the brainchild of 22-year-old actress and filmmaker Sahndra Fon Dufe, who got her inspiration from too many similar, true stories from Africa. Broken-hearted by this sad reality, she and the production team have pledged to use a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the film, a companion documentary, books and related merchandise to build an all-girls school in Nso, the Cameroon village where “Yefon” is set.

As well as playing a role in helping to correct this grievous wrong and set free generations of women, Kickstarter contributors receive amazing gifts, including African couture, masks, jewelry and art; tickets to red carpet premieres; opportunities to meet the cast and crew; and more.

With only 9 days left to reach the goal of $50,000, we can offer more information, artwork and even interviews with Fon Dufe and others so you can help spread the word about this important project.

Thanks!”

 

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6 Responses to “Crowd-sourcing a film to shoot in Africa”

  1. sahndra said

    thankyou soooo much !!!

  2. Chris said

    Cameroon is not “virgin terroritory” for film production. A quick Wikipedia search reveals about 80 films, and excludes Greystoke – the Legend of Tarzan which was filmed near Limbe. Other western productions include Chocolat by Claire Denis, she later filmed a documentry about Le Tetes Brules a Cameroonian bikutsi group.

    Over 80 films have been made in Cameroon. I have several straight to DVD productions not on the Wikipedia list. Some of the most notable Cameroonian films include Pousse-Pousse – the story of a laborer in Douala trying to get married, featuring an Andre Tala soundtrack. Quartier Mozart – hysterical gender-bending fantasy. Les Saignantes – strange sci-fi about corruption. Sango Malo – based on a true story – film about a teacher trying to implement Paulo Freire’s ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’.

    While I think Yefon is worthy, the producer should tone down their claims of discovering an unknown country.

    • Thanks Chris. I agree with your comments. I was aware of the better-known titles you mention but all the ones I was aware of were francophone titles from some time ago. Are any of your ‘straight to DVD’ films more recent? And do you know of any anglophone titles? The only anglophone Cameroonian director I’ve come across is Florence Ayisi who now teaches filmmaking in the UK. In 2005 she made a documentary Sisters-in-Law (2005) with the UK director Kim Longinotto about women working as barristers (advocates) in Cameroonian courts dealing with violence towards women.

      Sango Malo sounds very interesting – anything supporting Freire’s ideas is going to be worthwhile.

  3. David Titangoh said

    Hello People, I am called David Titangoh. I am an aspiring filmmaker in Cameroon. I just love all what I have read here. I just want everybody to know that I am a director, I have scripts already written with catchy stories.. and the problem that we Cameroonian that I face now is just an executive producer. If I have an executive producer, we can put hands together and do groundbreaking film that will reflect the Cameroonian culture. Most importantly, it will attract the international audience and market. we can do films that will beat Nigerian movies like DR. BELLO, FUTURINE, SOMEWHERE IN AFRICA etc. Please you the Cameroonians livin in the diaspora …please we need you I need you. my number is (+237)76416444) and ma email is (davidtitangoh(at)yahoo(.)co(.)uk . just looking for a medium where I could meet someone whom we can work together.
    thanks.

  4. sahndra fon dufe said

    Hi all, I hope you are doing well. I took the time to read your article. Thank you very much for even mentioning my film on your blog. How ever, just to address some issues. This project is purely coming from a place of love. I am a proud African woman and story teller. I look forward to telling this story as one, not as Hollywood. No one has ever said that Cameroon has no films. We have a few local productions, but like you rightly said, you had to go to wikipedia to find the names of some of the films made out there. Yefon is in no way trying to discredit Cameroon, it is trying to put Cameroon on the map for film, just like Nollywood has done for Nigeria. When we say it will be the first big international project of its kind, it is truth. Its budget, production and even the locations are all the first of its kind. We are using a lot of Cameroonian actors as well. I just returned from Cameroon where we auditioned about 1000 people, So meanwhile, it is okay to be skeptical, I just thought it wise to address some of your thoughts. Thanks once more for your beautiful blog and have a nice day.
    Cheers:)

    • Thanks for this extra information Sahndra. Our aim is to provide as much insight into global film as possible and it’s good to be able to promote a production like yours. Good luck with the next stage in the process and I look forward to the possibility of seeing a final product getting an international as well as local release. For those of us studying the history of film in Africa, Cameroon is particularly interesting because of the influence of both francophone and anglophone film cultures in the same country. Nowhere else shares exactly the same background.

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