Africa Media Centre

The University of Westminster's Africa Media Centre was conceived in January 2009 to promote and disseminate research on communication, film, television, radio, internet, journalism, fixed/mobile phones, journalism and social change in Africa.

As the first initiative to launch the new centre, Jane Thorburn, Winston Mano and Keith Shiri came together to organise an annual African Film and Television conference. We are currently in the process of planning our 5th conference for November 2013


Africa Media Centre conferences


Evolving African Film Cultures - 2012
Evolving African Film Cultures
Evolving African Film Cultures

Keynote Speakers:-

  • Tsitsi Dangarembga is an award-winning Filmmaker and Novelist. Her filmography includes Everyone's Child, 1996 and Kare Kare Zvako, (short), 2004. She is currently Director of the Institute of Creative Arts for Progress in Africa (ICAPA) Trust (incorporating Women Filmmakers of Zimbabwe and Nyerai Films) and Founder of the International Images Film Festival for Women (IIFF)
  • Jean-Marie Teno, Africa’s preeminent documentary filmmaker, has been producing and directing films on the colonial and post-colonial history of Africa for over twenty years. Films by Jean-Marie Teno have been honored at festivals worldwide. In the U.S., many of his films including Africa, je te plumerai; A Trip to the Country; Clando; Chief!; Alex's Wedding; and The Colonial Misunderstanding, have been broadcast and featured at festivals across the country. Teno has been a guest of the Flaherty Seminar, an artist in residence at the Pacific Film Archive of the University of California, Berkeley, and has lectured at numerous universities. Most recently, he was a visiting artist at Amherst College as a 2007-2008 Copeland Fellow.
  • Professor Rod Stoneman is the Director of the Huston School of Film & Digital Media at the National University of Ireland, Galway. He was Chief Executive of Bord Scannán na hÉireann / the Irish Film Board until September 2003 and previously a Deputy Commissioning Editor in the Independent Film and Video Department at Channel 4 Television in the United Kingdom. In this role he commissioned and bought and provided production finance for over 50 African feature films. His 1993 article 'African Cinema: Addressee Unknown', has been published in 6 journals and 3 books. He has made a number of documentaries, including Ireland: The Silent Voices, Italy: the Image Business, 12,000 Years of Blindness and The Spindle, and has written extensively on film and television. He is the author of Chávez: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised; A Case Study of Politics and the Media; Seeing is Believing: The Politics of the Visual will be published in February 2013.

This year's conference has attracted 60 speakers from Britain, Africa, Europe, Asia and America who will debate the evolving African film cultures in terms of production, distribution and consumption in and outside Africa. One of the interesting points to be discussed is how the annual FESPACO festivals in Burkina Faso have encouraged a type of production that is largely admired by Europeans, but which is rarely available to, or appreciated widely by audiences in those productions’ countries of origin. Equally important is how the digital economy, especially the internet, has opened up huge opportunities for the wider distribution of African film. Topics to be covered will include the following themes:

  • Production cultures and circulation of film;
  • History, myth and identity in African film;
  • The representation of African cultures in film;
  • Audiences, reception and sites of spectatorship;
  • Indigenous language films and the problems of subtitles and illiteracy.
  • Morality and spirituality in African cinema;
  • Exhibition, financing and distribution of African film;
  • Cinema and digital technologies;
  • Film festivals and the development of national cinemas in Africa;
  • Revenue, business models and piracy
  • Auteur, film genres and form
  • Collaborative filmmaking in the global north/trans-national collaborations
  • African film philosophy
  • The image, sound, written and spoken word in filmic narratives
  • Institutions, policies and film agencies

Full Programme (PDF)

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Women and Film in Africa - 2011
Women and Film in Africa
Women and Film in Africa

Keynote Speakers:-

  • Jihan El-Tahri is an Egyptian-French writer, Director and Producer of Documentary films. Her award-winning films include documentaries filmed in the Congo, Angola, Zambia, Tunisia and other parts of the world, including Saudi Arabia. Her latest film Behind the Rainbow deals with the transition of the ANC from a liberation organization into South Africa’s ruling party.
  • Yaba Badoe is a Ghanaian-British documentary maker, journalist and novelist; she is a visiting scholar at the University of Ghana. Her directing and producing credits include the award-winning documentary The Witches of Gambaga the story of a community of women condemned to live as witches in Northern Ghana.

"Women and film in Africa: Overcoming Social Barriers" is the exciting topic of the University of Westminster's Africa Media Centre's next event to be held at 35 Marylebone Road, London from 19-20 November 2011. It will deal with the contemporary and historical role played by women in the film, television and video industries in Africa. From Arab North Africa, West Africa, Central and East Africa, through to Southern Africa, women have emerged from the double oppression of patriarchy and colonialism to become the unsung heroines of the moving image as producers, directors, actresses, script writers, financiers, promoters, marketers and distributors of film, television and video in postcolonial Africa. Sadly, such immense contributions by women are underrepresented, both in industry debates and academic research. There are now many cases in which African women in front of and behind the camera have overcome social barriers, yet this is often sidelined. This conference delegates will include students, practitioners, academics and researchers to debate how women have contributed to film, television and video markets in Africa from the pre-colonial, colonial and postcolonial eras. It is expected that the event will help focus existing industry and academic work on the ways female audiences in Africa have engaged with film, television and video texts. The conference will include a session with leading female filmmakers. Topics to be covered are not necessarily limited to, the but will include the following themes:

  • The Influence of Feminism on African filmmakers
  • Women in front of and behind the camera in African film
  • Women in the African feature film industry
  • Women in technical roles in film, video and television in Africa
  • Women documentary makers in Africa
  • Gender and Representation of Women in African film
  • Audiences for films by African women/Female audiences in Africa
  • Case histories of leading African women film makers
  • Women scriptwriters
  • African women acting in video, film and television
  • Censorship and the portrayal of African women in film and television
  • The role of NGOs in commissioning women filmmakers and issue-based films
  • How African governments have helped or hindered filmmaking by African women

Full Programme (PDF)

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Filming Against The Odds - 2010
Filming Against The Odds
Filming Against The Odds

Filming Against the Odds 50 years of filming in Independent Africa. Conference in association with London African Film Festival and BAFTA

Keynote Speakers:-

  • Professor Ferid Boughedir, Tunisian filmmaker and historian of African cinema (his filmography includes Camera d'Afrique - Twenty Years of African Cinema (1983)); Camera Arabe (1987); Halfaouine - Child of the Terraces (1995); A Summer in Goulette (1996); Villa Jasmine (2008))

This two-day conference on 50 years of filmmaking in independent Africa is jointly organsied by the London Africa Film Festival, BAFTA and the Africa Media Centre at the University of Westminster, UK. The starting point is that more than a half a century ago, Sub-Saharan Africa welcomed independence with a wave of optimism. A new cinema was born, championed by the Senegalese film-maker Ousmane Sembène. This new cinema would provide a conduit of expression for voiceless Africans – revealing social conditions and sharing stories. Sembène's first short film, Borom Sarret, was a watershed. It reached a worldwide audience with a plot based on the tale of a poor cart driver whose tragic life mirrored the hazards facing many ordinary people. Borom Sarret's issues became dominant themes in African cinema. Prior to political independence, colonial rule did not allow Africans to make their own films. African independence seems to have given the environment needed to produce African stories on the screen. Not only was political independence a subject in films, but the environment it created gave an added impetus to both independent and institutionally supported film-making in Africa. African filmmakers have produced stories that celebrate success and failure in their societies. African history, language and etymology are evident in the ways in which some filmmakers have sought an independent form to help indigenize the medium.

Today, Nigeria has become the centre of a lucrative home video industry known as Nollywood. According to a recent UN statement, around 900 titles are released in Nigeria each year and bring revenue of about £100m, and Nigeria has surpassed Hollywood to become the world's second largest film producer after Bollywood. Movies are made on the cheap and copies are exported, sold on the street, or distributed via increasing numbers of video clubs. The film-makers have to work fast and around the clock in their desperate attempt to fend off the pirates.

The contemporary African film industry is clearly of global proportions. However, the questions that must be asked are: whose languages are spoken in African film? What are the patterns of stories that have been told so far? What formats do African filmmakers use? What themes? How has funding affected what is produced? What are the politics of film-making in Africa? Apart from development, education and entertainment, has film on the continent advanced the emancipation of Africans? What has been the relationship between political independence and African film? The conference will include a session with leading African filmmakers.

Full Programme (PDF)

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African Film in the Digital Era Conference - 2009

Keynote Speakers:-

  • Mr. Emeka Mba, Director General of the Nigerian Film & Video Censors Board
  • Professor Mbye Cham, Howard University, USA, co-editor of the book of African Experiences of Cinema

Other speakers

  • Kunle Afolayan, Film Director, Nigeria
  • Oladipo Agboluaje, Nigerian UK-based theatre/screen writer, Area Boys
  • Imruh Bakari, Lecturer, co-author 'African Experiences of Cinema'
  • Anver Versi,   Africa Business Magazine
  • Peace Anyiam, CEO of AMAA & Film Producer, Nigeria
  • Emmanuel Apea, Film Director, Ghana
  • Biyi Bandele, Nigerian UK-based novelist and screen writer, UK
  • Guido Convents, African film historian and anthropologist, Belgium
  • Jonathan Dockney, Researcher, University of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa
  • Lindiwe Dovey, Professor, lecturer in African Film and Performance, SOAS, UK
  • Obi Emelonye, Lawyer/Film Director
  • June Givanni, Film consultant, UK
  • Susanne Hammacher, Film Officer BFI/RAI, UK
  • Wanuri Kahui, Film Director, Kenya
  • Martin Mhando, Professor/Editor of the Journal of African Cinemas
  • Keyan Tomaselli, Professor/Editor of the Journal of African Cinemas
  • Bimpe Nkontchou, lawyer/Nigerian
  • Omelihu Nwanguma, British-born Nigerian film director, Area Boys     
  • Dayo Ogunyemi lawyer/Nigerian
  • Farai Sevenzo, Film Director, Zimbabwe/UK
  • Keith Shiri, Director of Africa at the Pictures, UK
  • Russell Southwood, Balancing Act: African Broadcast, Film and Convergence
  • Jane Thorburn, Television Director/Principal Lecturer, CREAM, University of Westminster  

African film has emerged strongly "at a crucial time in the history of Africa, not only as a voice of the people, but also as an answer to the drudgery of a socio-economic existence characterised by high unemployment and contracting opportunities" (Ogunleye 2003). Apart from empowering the marginalised, the African film and video industry now benefits many on the continent. In most African countries, filmmakers are self-funded and get little input from the public sector. Yet it is the product of this growing body of self-sponsored and mostly independent film producers that has proved to be the best public relations for many African governments and communities. African economies benefit immensely from the direct and indirect taxes they levy on African films. And while some filmmakers exist in "grey areas" of the law, quotas in some parts of Africa have assured producers of markets. The picture is further confused by differing attitudes to piracy  and copyright across the continent. New technologies have made production and distribution easier, but is this a positive? Previous debates have focused on shared problems around issues such as language, content, regulation, funding, form or quality in African films, but how is the situation after 2000? 

Full Programme (PDF)

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