Hi to all,
In Mozambique we started a project we called FilmAfrik, the Best of African Cinema
In short the project pretends to bring African Films to African Audiences in African Cinemas.
Contrary to mobile cinema, the project brings only the films to the
rural areas, making use of the already installed video projection
capacity by numerous private rural shops. For only a fraction of the
costs of mobile cinema we are able to reach out to hundreds (and we hope
later thousands) of communities on a single night.
We started the project in January this year, gathered sufficient
funds to launch the first cassette by June 2001, and within 3 weeks we
had sold the 750 copies to the rural canteens, all over the country. By
now we have secured sufficient funds for lauching the second cassette in
December that will most probably feature the zimbabwean production
We are willing to share our experience and the concept with all interested parties.
Interested parties can either copy the concept and\or share the same
name and\or we can discuss the benefits of cross border cooperation,
especially in areas and countries that share the same (african)
language. For those who are interested, please take the time to read the
full report below, or send us an e-mail with in the subject header:
FilmAfrik - Full report please! , and we'll send you a nicely lay-outed
PDF file that you can print and share with others for
discussion.Including some basic costs figures.
FilmAfrik - the Mozambican non-mobile experience
Iris Imaginações launches Mozambican films in 750 cinemas
“There are those who say that cinema in Mozambique is dead, but
the truth is that film projection has become the major entertainment
industry in Mozambique”
Who says so is Bert Sonnenschein dutch film maker resident in Mozambique since 1989.
According to estimates of Iris Imaginações, there exist at least
2000 canteens, spread out to even the most remote villages. With
audiences varying from 50 to 500 per session, the canteens together can
reach audiences to over 300,000 people on a single night.
The idea surged a couple of years ago when Bert was doing story research in Uluti, in Mogovolas district.
My female colleague was out to film an initiation ceremony while I
was passing the time at the only shop selling cold beer. The village had
no energy, but on the dark streets I saw some boys playing “ninja” and
doing the karate jumps, even more real then in the movies. “Where did
they learn this” I puzzled my mind and that of the barman.
“During the cashew harvest, the buyer brings a generator and a video
and television set and projects films in the bar opposite the road, The
people than come from far to see the films and meanwhile bringing their
harvest to the shop”, he answered.
I suddenly realized the magic attraction that the moving image still
has for the rural population: even the businessmen use film as an
incentive for the population to bring their harvest to the village.
He started to study the phenomena. In Nampula City he found a
youngster who went to Ribaué every weekend, using the local transport.
With him he took a video, television and some car bateries from home. He
would have 3 sessions on Saturday and 3 on Sunday charging 1,000. He
returned with 1.200,000 Mt, or 100 USD at that time, every single
People assist whatever film. Favourites are karate Rambo 1,2,3, e
porn, but basically everything is projected, only Mozambican and African
films do not reach the canteens.
Our films are broadcasted once on televison, we sell several tenths
of copies in Maputo and than they stay on the shelf. Meanwhile while
there is a huge audience out there and even here in Maputo City.
I started to take films with me, whenever I traveled outside Maputo.
The success was astonishing, everywhere and every time. There are many
people, not only in the remote places, but even in the cities, and with
good jobs, who’ve seen nothing of Mozambique. These audiences are hungry
to travel their own society on the screen and this is a huge potential
for Mozambican films.
Before we had mobile cinema, but that is an expensive way to reach
out. One fully equipped car can project one or two films in one village
on one day. But today projection capacity is permanently installed in
thousands of villages. We only have to make sure our films get there.
Where is the African audience?
The major entertainment industry in Mozambique and probably the
whole of Africa is, without any doubt, video projection. Over 2000
“video canteens” spread out to even the most remote villages and attract
audiences varying between 50 and 500 people. The canteens all together
reach to audiences of over 300,000 a night. Charging between 1,000 and
5,000 Mt, the canteens can reach a estimated turn over between 15-30,000
USD a night. Twice to four times the national television TVM and 1,5
times the national news paper Notícias.
With exception of the radio, these audiences do not have access to any other form of media.
The “canteens” project what ever film they can get hold of.
Favorites are karate, Rambo 1, 2 and 3 and pornographic film. Meanwhile
hundreds of Mozambican and African films have been and are being made
that never reach the audiences. After one projection by the local
broadcaster and a couple of hundreds of video sales the films lay on the
shelf until time gets hold of them. A heritage worth millions of
dollars, mostly donor money, is slowly deteriorating without ever
reaching its audiences.
“Whenever I go to the villages, I take some films with me and the
reactions are enormous”, says Maputo based film maker Bert Sonnenschein.
“Last month we were forced to held sessions until the video equipment
switched off due to overheating. Over a thousand people had assisted the
sessions. People are hungry to see their own society represented on the
screen. Many of them have never seen any images of Maputo and that is
not only true for the rural population, but even for people in
provincial capitals or here only 40 Kms outof Maputo.
In the old days, people in the villages would see films through
mobile cinema. But mobile cinema is expensive and time consuming. One
fully equipped car can project in one village on one night. But
thousands of small business men and women have invested in a video &
television set and a solar power unit or generator and are making their
living by projecting films. Through them we can reach thousand
communities on a single night.
The phenomena of these video canteens or “African cinemas” opens
great opportunities for the Mozambican and African film makers to reach
their audiences. The enormous investment by the informal sector (over 1
Million USD), makes video projection easy. It is only a matter of
getting the tapes out there and a huge audience opens up. Hundreds of
thousands can be reached on a regular base if we could only supply them
with our films. FilmAfrik is an idea of Iris Imaginações, a Maputo based
film production company, with a straight forward and simple objective:
make African films seen by African people in the African cinemas.
FilmAfrik will produce video cassettes with top quality films and distribute them to the canteens.
Each cassette is composed of a 15’ to 30’ documentary and a full
length African made feature film. The films will be selected from the
Best of African Cinema based on ability to attract audiences and the
relevance of their social theme for Mozambican society.
The films will be anticipated and separated by an advertising block
open to promote commercial and social marketing messages, The
advertising blocks will have to cover for the production costs,
Each cassette is packed in a luxury A-4 polybox with full color
cover and two A2 size promotion posters announcing the films and
displaying the advertisers.
The cassettes will be sold to the canteen owners at a price similar
to the worn & fuzzy pirate copies, but upgrading their business to
“real cinema”, projecting good films from fresh video tapes with
excellent viewing and sound quality and full color cinema posters.
The objective is simple:
make African films seen by African audiences in the African cinemas.
Several funding organizations, like the Hubert Bals Fund, The Soros
Foundation and the French Foreign Affairs, support film makers of
developing countries to produce films. Some also support distribution of
film, but these efforts are often aimed at distribution to foreign
audiences through foreign cinemas and broadcasters.
FilmAfrik aims at making the heritage of African Cinema seen by
African audiences in African Cinemas. These are not the fancy cinema
houses in the capital city with 35mm projectors and dolby surround
sound. It is the anarchical system of shabby barracks projecting illegal
pirate copies of what ever film they can get hold of where people for a
dime still find the joy of traveling the world through by the screen.
And it is through traveling and meeting other people and cultures,
that we learn about our own culture and environment. That we start
reflecting and questioning our values and develop new ones. Through the
screen people will travel their country and continent, learn about the
sorrows and joys of other people, about their failures and successes,
see other solutions for similar difficulties and develop new ideas and
thus be enabled to take up a more active role in the development of
So FilmAfrik is more than African films for African Audiences, it’s
opening up the audience for development communication. An audience
difficult to reach through printed matter as a majority is poorly
educated and not able to read or write. Visits by community workers,
NGOs, theater groups & mobile cinema are effective but time
consuming and expensive and therefore scarce.
FilmAfrik will not replace the effort of the NGOs in their quest for
development, but the films will enable the villagers to visit, instead
of being visited; to broaden their outlook on African society and take
up a more informed role in the democratization and development process.
It is this development objective FilmAfrik wants to cater for.
Who wins what?
FilmAfrik offers a unique “win-win” situation for all partners
involved. First of all to its audience it offers the Best of African
Cinema. To the African cinemas, it will upgrade their business offering
quality films that will draw new audiences into the cinema. To the
African film makers that want their films to be seen, FilmAfrik offers
an opportunity to reach out to the major African audiences. To the
commercial sector, FilmAfrik offers a opportunity to promote their
products among the large majority of the population not reached by other
media. To the Government and Non-profit sector it offers the
possibility to spread the social messages through a popular medium. And
last but not least FilmAfrik offers to donors and film funders an
African audience for the films they invest(ed) in.
The investment & sustainability
FilmAfrik’s strategy towards sustainability is twofold:
- from the start, return from sales to the canteens will have to
cover for distribution costs and stimulate the distribution effort by
the sales agents in the districts. At the same time sales figures give
useful feedback on the acceptance of the films by canteens and the
- on the long run, production & promotion costs should be
covered 100% through advertising revenues from social and commercial
advertizers and through programme sponsoring.
It is beleived that the project can reach sustainability in 2-4
years time if right from the start at least 50% can be secured through
advertising and programme sponsoring. FilmAfrik is now looking for
sponsors that are wiling to support the deficit between the Production
& Promotion costs and the advertizing revenues in an initial phase
of two years.
About Iris Imaginações
Iris Imaginações is a collective of film makers established in
Mozambique since 1996. Its members have been involved in major local and
international productions, like “Não é preciso empurrar” Mozambiqiue’s
first TV drama and “The successor”, an Norwegian co- production
broadcasted on many TV stations world wide. The majority of Iris’
productions are social awareness and empowerment productions as “Mira”
and “our Land”.
Iris main mission is to inform the uninformed while entertaining development.
As such Iris’ is involved in several modest communication
revolutions like the free electronic newsletter NoTMoC that is being
printed & distributed in the provinces and even in Cuba. And at
present Iris is teaming up with the South African Institute for Health
Communication & Development “Soul City”, to regionalize it’s popular
edutainment products and bring it across the Mozambican border.
Promotion & distribution
Distribution is guaranteed through a contract with PSI/JeitO that
has a network of sales agents throughout the country. PSI/JeitO brings
the videos to the provincial capitals. The Provincial delegations sell
the videos to the PSI/JeitO district agents, as well as to other NGO
community workers that want to retail them in the districts.
Each cassette is packed with a A-4 poly box with a full color cover
and two A2 size promotion posters anouncing the films and displaying the
advertizers. A radio campaign with spots in local language supports the
FilmAfrik pays 1 Usd/cassette to PSI to cover the costs of bringing
the cassettes to the provinces. PSI earns another 1 Usd/cassette or
20,000 Mt from the sales to the district sales agents.
District sales agents buy the cassettes for as little as 1 USD
(20,000 Mt) and sell at 4 USD or 80,000, earning a 400% return on
investment, far better than most other products on the informal market.
In the initial phase, sales are further stimulated by offering sales
agents a T-shirt with the popular FilmAfrik logo, worth 100,000 Mt, for
every 5 cassettes sold
After having established the FilmAfrik brand, T-shirts might become a
wanted object and generate additional revenue. The T-shirts offer also
an additional space for advertizing messages.
Furthermore FilmAfrik has built a popular support in the various
media for the initiative that has resulted in a lot of free publicity on
television, radio and printed press.
The costs of conquering an audience
FilmAfrik’s objective is more then just the reproduction of a film
on video tape. It’s making the films seen. There fore FilmAfrik selects,
reproduces, distributes and promotes the films among the canteen owners
and a nationwide audience. This makes that costs are higher then the
sole reproduction costs of the cassettes, but still far lower then any
costs related to any theatrical releases. Costs include posters, a radio
campaign in several Mozambican languages, sales promotion, T-shirts and
a coordinated press exposure in the different media. For 750 copies the
price avarages to 24,00 Usd each. For 2000 copies it averages to 16,52
This seems quit a lot, but the trick is to divide the extra costs
among the different partners in such a way that in the end everybody
pays less, while at the same time increasing the impact.
How this system works in practice becomes clear when we analyse the
costs & revenues from the first FilmAfrik cassette that was launched
in June 2001. Keep on reading.
Value for money
Iris had produced two short films for AWEPA in 1999. The primary
target group were the members of the newly established local government
councils. AWEPA used the productions in her capacity building seminars.
Total production costs: 50,000 USD. During the seminars, 100 copies were
distributed. Average costs of each copy: Usd 500 (= 50,000/100).
When comissioning the films, AWEPA had already the idea to
distribute the films to a larger audience. Therefore the production was
made in a popular drama format.
Making 750 copies of each film would cost AWEPA, 8,500 Usd, Little
more then 11 Usd/copy. On top of that AWEPA would have to distribute and
Instead AWEPA agreed to sponsor “her” films in FilmAFrik edition 1
and 2 for the same amount, (4,250 Usd each). In the FilmAfrik option the
films are not only distributed and promoted in a fashionable way, but
on top linked to another major audience attracking film.
By sponsoring the films in FilmAFrik, AWEPA’s total investment in
the films increased from 50,000 to 58,500 Usd, reducing the costs per
cassette from 500 Usd to 69 Usd\cassette.
Programme sponsoring is an interesting option for government
institutions, NGOs and donors to increase the impact of their film
For those who have not invested in their own film, the option is
even more lucrative. By sponsoring the distribution of a film already
paid for by others, the costs for getting the message across are
Advertising revenues must make up for the rest of the costs.
Price setting is extremely difficult since advertizing prices are
determined “historically” in Mozambique. There is no known relationship
between the number and profile of viewers and readers and the
advertising costs in the different media.
The costs of advertising in FilmAfrik are kept at a psychological
low, just under 2 Usd per cassette. That is half the price of a T- shirt
with the company logo, or equal to a cap.
A media study is being planned to value the advertizing value of the
FilmAfrik initiative and the impact of its films on the audience.
After the launching
A closer look on sustainability
Although representing a deficit, the launching of the first cassette
of FilmAfrik strengthens our conviction that the project can grow
towards sustainabilty in a few years time.
The self defined limit of 50% revenue through programme sponsoring
and advertising was met and exceeded. Programme sponsoring and
advertizing contributed to 60% of the costs. And for cassette number two
the 50% limit has already been met.
But what has convinced us is the great interest generated by the
launching of the first cassette. Many organisations that have invested
in film in the past welcomed the initiative, as well as those who did
not yet see video as a tool to reach out to rural audiences.
Two ministers, 3 vice-ministers, 3 SG’s and number of NGO’s and
donor agencies assisted the launching. As a result Iris is now
discussing with a number of organisations, like the Ministry of Finance
and The Red Cross to produce spots for FilmAfrik,
Advertising revenues turned out contrary to expected. The commercial
sector, which was believed enter first, reacted with curiousity, but
acted more conservatively. Only now, after the successful launching,
that was surprisingly assisted by the CEO’s of all major advertising
companies, interest seems to grow. Successful sales of the 1st cassettes
can get them on board.
The non-profit sector reacted more eager to get out to the
audiences, but most of the institutions did not have budget reservations
for video communication in their present programmes. Time is needed in
order to include video communication in future budgets.
Production companies even from abroad have reacted with interest to
the initiative. Iris has been approached by international productions
like “Steps for the Future”, a regional initiative currently producing
40 films on Aids and “Yellow Card”, a recently released Zimbabwean
production to discuss distribution in Mozambique by FilmAfrik.
As long as films can be produced distribution must be feasible!!!!
FilmAfrik shifting the concepts of film production
FilmAfrik has been meeting with local production companies in order to discuss the opportunities the initiative offers them.
FilmAfrik provides production companies with an outlet for their
film, that can help them convince donors to invest in their projects.
Often donors do require a broadcast guarantee, but within the mozambican
context a FilmAfrik release should be an even better guarantee,
From their side production companies can budget for programme sponsoring right from the start of their project.
But FilmAfrik brings about more changes in film production. Until
now production companies did not budget for dubbing. The traditional
audiences were expected to be able to read sub-titles. Opening up to the
huge, scarcely educated suburban and rural audiences will make
productions companies start dubbing and make their films accessible to
From education to edutainment
The major shift however will be in the type of films produced. Until
now a vast majority of the mozambican films have a professionally
interested audience as its primary target. Others targetted an
international audience through foreign broadcasters.
Were film productions in the past approved by clients and donors and
evaluated on their messages, FilmAfrik puts the vast majority of the
“normal population” on the front row. The productions should be
accessible and appealing to the targeted audiences. Because in the end
...... it is the audience that will determine the sustainability of FilmAfrik!!!!!
Looking for the perfect match
Iris Imaginações has invested considerable time and resources in the
development & launching of the FilmAfrik idea. It feels the idea
unites everything necessary to develop into a sustainable medium. Iris
is now looking for a partner who is willing to invest a maximum of 50%
into a matching fund over a two year period. The partner is also
requested to invest or contribute to an impact & evaluation study at
the end of each year.
Iris is deliberately not looking for a 100% investment, since it is
aware that a 100% sponsoring would take the pressure away from
FilmAfrik’s efforts to increase the sustainable funding through
programme sponsoring & advertizing.
Iris is proposing the following deal to her partner:
1. Iris is responsible for the acquisition of a minimum of 50% of the costs through programme sponsoring and advertising;
2. Iris’partner will buy the remaining advertising space in each cassette upto a maximum of 50%;
3. The partner is entitled and encouraged to donate this advertising
space to organisations that have not yet engaged in programme
sponsoring and advertising through the FilmAfrik medium.
The third part of the deal is particulary interesting for the
investment partner. She is not only investing in establishing FilmAfrik,
but the same amount is being invested directly into the development
programmes of other partner organisations.
And while doubling the effect for the investment partner, the effect
is also doubled for FilmAfrik. The financing is not simply used to
cover a deficit, but to encourage the use of the medium among potential
partners. Partners who, in future, might create budgets for exposure
through FilmAfrik in their own programmes.