Africa Film WebMeeting

Message from: owner-african-cinema-conference@XC.Org (
About: African film distribution award

Thu, 16 May 1996 12:34:38 -0400

Originally from: <owner-african-cinema-conference@XC.Org>
Originally dated: Thu, 16 May 1996 12:34:38 -0400

I would like to correct some misinformation contained in Dan Henrich's
comments on California Newsreel's distribution of African cinema (May
10 posting) and then add my own comments to the discussion of a
distributor's award.

For the record, California Newsreel's African films are made available
to universities in the U.S. for $195 per title. In order to encourage
the development of more diverse African film collections, we also offer
universities the opportunity to purchase five or more titles for $99
each and most university libraries have taken advantage of this lower
rate. We make our African titles available to high schools, public
libraries and grassroots organizations for only $49.

We do not distribute African films in Africa. We do not have the
rights and neither do we seek them. Our position, stated clearly at
FESPACO and at the 1994 Film distribution conference in Victoria Falls,
has been that it is essential to develop indigenous video and film
distribution infrastructures in Africa. We continue to make all our
video masters, publicity and packaging materials (assuming they have
acquired the rights from the producers) and whatever expertise we may
have available to African distributors. We have worked closely with
the Film Resource Unit in Johannesburg on their African cinema
distribution project.

California Newsreel wishes that the demand for African cinema were price
elastic enough that we could maintain operating revenues and royalties
and drop prices to a mass market level; but obviously the market is too
small to compensate us or our producers at these low prices.
Nonetheless, even at higher prices we have been able to sell over 3500
videocassettes to U.S. university video collections where there were
none before we began our video distribution program. These revenue can
then be used to acquire additional new African releases, to promote the
general visibility of African cinema in the US, to subsidize the
distribution of titles at lower prices to community groups, and of
course, to support additional African production. We remit to African
producers 20%-30% of gross revenues. In 1995 alone, we sent $102,000 in
royalties and advances to African producers. We realize that this
paltry sum compared to the cost of producing these films but it is
$102,000 more than when we started.

With regard to the question of whether there should be a distributor's
award for African film distribution, it seems now that such awards can
generate more rancor and misinformation than recognition. If there is
to be an award and if there is to be a monetary prize, I suggest that
it go to a distributor working in Africa. California Newsreel would
never dispute that African distributors face obstacles even more
daunting than those we confront in the US. We believe that their
tenacious efforts under the most difficult circumstances deserve

Cornelius Moore, Director, Library of African Cinema
= California Newsreel
= 149 Ninth Street/Suite 420
= San Francisco, CA 94103
= phone: 415.621.6196
= FAX: 415.621.6522
= e-mail:
= web address:

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