industry has witnessed slow growth, in contrast to countries like its neighbor,
Nigeria, where the movie market is booming. Experts say a main problem is
getting financing. But the number of productions has risen with increased
affordability of digital video equipment. Film production in Cameroon witnessed
a significant surge last year in sharp contrast to stagnation a decade ago. More than 20
Cameroonian movies were shown at theaters nationwide and aired by local
Elsewhere, independent video productions are skyrocketing
and filmmaking houses are sprouting as more young producers, screenwriters and
actors make their debut in the industry.
Experts say there
is every reason to believe that the movie business -- long-dormant -- is waking
Mfuh Ebenezer was
the first Cameroonian to put a film on video. That was in 1995 and was titled
"Love has Eyes." At Christmas he released another, called "Cycle of Trauma,"
which has already sold thousands of copies.
He says the
industry has come a long way, "I really think we are on a very, very strong
path and we're finally taking off. A vision is being mapped out. So beginning
from "Love Has Eyes" in 1995 to "Cycle of Trauma" in 2008, a lot has changed in
terms of technical know-how in the industry. We have improved a lot on the
sound quality, on the acting quality, on the picture quality and on the story
But observers warn
the current optimism and increased production could usher in mediocrity as many
rush into the industry without any formal training.
In Bamenda, close
to the border with Nigeria, hundreds of production houses have emerged. But
they run on thin budgets. Many say the quality of their productions would
considerably improve if certain hurdles could be cleared, like the problem of
funds to pay actors and promote their work.
I've starred in so many movies. Some
are still in the cupboard. It's very discouraging to spend your time, your
energy to act and at the end of the day it just stays there.
I work on a really [tight] budget. My
family is like supporting me. But people don't want their colleagues to grow in
the industry because they have a kind of jealous mind.
The government is just sleeping.
There is no board, no administration
that governs local movie-making. Everybody has a production center and it's
difficult to come together and then we do not have people who can promote the
complaints are difficult distribution channels, piracy, limited number of
projection halls and a poor movie-going culture.
But Ebenezer says
the greatest challenge facing the emerging industry is training personnel, "Finances
are just part of it because if they give you one billion and you don't have the
expertise, you'll produce a bad film. The real problem is getting personnel of
the industry trained and once we have good experts, with very little money they
can do very good films. So I thought to solve the problem, I needed to create a
school. That's why I linked up with the New York Film Academy and created KM
Professional Film Academy which has been existing now for one year. Currently,
I am training fifteen film directors and when they come out, I'm sure they will
direct very good films.
KM is the only
institution that trains filmmakers in Cameroon to be recognized by the
Yet, hope abounds.
Lately, the government has supported the organization of film festivals created
by professional filmmakers' associations. Further assistance has come from the
British Council, and the French Cultural Center. Many are hoping the soaring
number of productions and improvements in quality will begin to attract
sponsors and more government involvement.
filmmakers say now is the time to inject originality into a budding industry
that's being greatly influenced by neighboring Nigeria's flourishing "Nollywood."
admits that Nigeria has made remarkable advances and is far ahead of Cameroon
in the film industry. But he discourages the idea of producers emulating
Nollywood productions, "The influence has
actually been quite great. We're still virgin. I think it's rather good to
start off a Cameroonian film industry because our ideas are still very new
instead of partnering with people who are already recycling, he says."
commonly mentioned as being an Africa in miniature having over 250 ethnic
groups and a vastly diverse culture. Observers say filmmaking potential is