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South Africa: Local Movies Need More Black Viewers

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by Tambay A. Obenson
November 17, 2011 3:51 PM
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Continuing to highlight similarities in *struggles* across the Diaspora; in essence, those predominantly Black American/Hollywood-centered matters we discuss/debate often here on S&A, are also sources of concern in other parts of the Diaspora.

Earlier this week, I focused on Nollywood's (Nigeria's film industry's) limited representations of black women in Nollywood movies; today, we're heading south of that country to South Africa, and THIS industry report I read on Cineuropa, titled, South Africa: Local Movies Need More Black Viewers.

Immediately, before even reading the full article, I thought, hmm, where have I heard something similar to THAT before?

A snip from the piece:

"The black audience, which is the majority of the audience in the country, has not invested in film and watching film as much as maybe the white audience has... That's got to change if there is going to be a viable South African film industry because we need films that you can make in South Africa to be seen by South Africans... When your film doesn't do well in your local market, it deters investors because they think: why buy the distribution if no one is watching it where it was made?"

I'm not entirely certain what to make of this piece of the quote: "the black audience... has not invested in film and watching film as much as maybe the white audience has."

I can only assume that it means black audiences in South Africa, the majority, don't care as much about cinema as white audiences... something which I find hard to believe. And, if it were the case, I'm left to wonder if it's apathy brought about by a similar matter of a lack of representation of themselves (lack of variety) in South African cinema (even though they are in the majority), as well as control of those images.

Another similarity I noted in the writeup is a problem of proximity to theaters for the majority of black audiences, stating that there aren't many theaters in predominantly black areas, where black audience can readily go see South African movies, in this post-Apartheid country that's still very much wrestling with issues of class, race and inequality, as distribution of income in South Africa some 17 years after the transition to democracy, may not be all that better than it was while the country was under apartheid.

But it got me thinking about excuses for why Hollywood isn't exactly pouring money into *black films,* one of those being (primarily) their monolithic view of black American audiences specifically; assumptions that black audiences won't support certain kinds of black films (*highbrow,* *challenging,* for lack of better terms), but will flock to others.

It also speaks to the plight of black independent cinema's struggles to reach black audiences beyond major markets like New York and Los Angeles.

But the report ends on a hopeful note, stating that the South African government is working on increasing the number of theater screens in black neighborhoods.

Any S&A readers in South Africa, or intimately familiar with the industry in that country? I'd love to be enlightened further on this matter.

Read the full piece HERE.

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