The series and cinema in Africa: in the west, the revival

At the end of a road, among the baobabs, a school in the center of Senegal. “Silence… Action!” The camera slowly rotates on its tripod, fixating on the lead actor. The film crew holds its breath. “Cutting!”

“It’s perfect!” says director Leila Sy, who is shooting “Banlieusard 2”, the sequel to the first part with French rapper Kery James as the lead. The release is scheduled for a few months on Netflix.

Assistants, technicians, actors… everyone blows. It’s the last day of filming, the fatigue is visible on the faces and the lunch break is welcome. This afternoon, chicken yassa, a traditional dish.

The American giant is making its mark in French-speaking West Africa. After a long lull, the region is seeing its audiovisual output explode, led by Senegal and Ivory Coast.

“Light makes all the difference. Everything looks beautiful to me, the color, the people, the energy,” Ms. Sy marvels. “The teams are there, the skills are there, Senegal is in the process of repositioning itself in this ecosystem and offers this opportunity to international producers to come and develop projects without worries”, rejoices Ousmane Fall, co-producer for the Senegalese part. of the film.

In a cramped room of a Dakar clinic, another group, much smaller but motivated, is busy finishing the next episode of the series “Karma” broadcast locally on the TFM channel.

– Whipped soaps –

The whole team learned the trade on the job. Souleymane Camara, 29, touches everything. The performer in the series dreams of going behind the camera, “by doing this I learn”, he says.

He works for Marodi, the production spearhead of Senegalese and West African series. Launched in 2015, the company first specialized in digital before migrating to the YouTube platform, where it has more than 4.8 million subscribers and claims more than 20 million views every month.

Its business model is based on its local content and advertising spots that generate millions of views. Its clientele is 56% female and 70% aged 18-34. Her partnerships with Senegalese TV channels and international distributors such as Canal+ and Amazon Prime ensure her huge visibility, such as for the hit series “The Lady of a Married Man”.

“Marodi’s ambition is to be a content producer for all of Africa and the diaspora,” Julia Cabrita Diatta, director of sales and marketing, told AFP. Today, 60% of its customers are in Senegal, 20% elsewhere in Africa, 8% in France.

“In French-speaking Africa, we are seeing an increase in production volume, driven by Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire, and budgets that have grown tremendously,” explains Pierre Barrot, audiovisual program manager at the International Organization of La Francophonie. (OIF).

Thus, series in the 52-minute format have gone from a dozen episodes in 25 years (1992-2017) to about a hundred episodes in 5 years (2018-2022), driven mainly by Canal+ and TV5 Monde, which provide regional distribution.

This format remains less widely seen than the classic 26 minutes, more often with sentimental-family themes (polygamy/adultery triptych, inheritance, witchcraft) or police comedy.

– New Wave –

Canal+ launched its first daytime series in French-speaking Africa in September, Le Futur est à nous, which follows the lives of several families in a neighborhood of Abidjan.

Beyond series, French-speaking Africa – unlike Nigeria, the continent’s main cinematic powerhouse – produces very few TV films and quite a few cinema films, but the production of popular comedies could be accelerated by the re-emergence of a network of cinemas, such as in Dakar and Abidjan, he says. Mr. Barrot, of OIF.

With 56,652 paid admissions in 12 countries, the film “Les Trois lascars” by Burkinabè Boubakar Diallo, distributed by Canal +, became at the beginning of 2022 the biggest success in the cinemas of this beginning of the century in French-speaking Africa. OIF.

However, a minimal figure compared to the successes of the 90s when “Buud Yam”, by Gaston Kaboré, reached 500,000 admissions in 1997. This was before the cinema, once very popular, experienced a spectacular decline in the 2000s, marked by the disappearance of almost all cinemas in French-speaking Africa.

A new generation is emerging today. The Kourtrajmé School opened its doors in Dakar in 2022 to train screenwriters and directors and meet the demands of the sector.

First graders complete their course, confident about the future. “We have never had so many series. After a while, it will go even further. Personally, I am very positive. There are many opportunities to come,” thinks Kenza Madeira, 23, who wants to find the balance of her. between the actress and the director.






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