New cinematography institution to boost film industry

The first-ever tertiary training institution for cinematography in the Central Africa sub-region, the Higher Institute of Cinema and Audiovisual Professionals of Central Africa (ISCAC), has opened in Cameroon.

Jacques Fame Ndongo, Cameroon’s minister of higher education, said at the opening of the 26th edition of Ecrans Noirs an international film festival known by its French name, in Yaoundé, capital of Cameroon, earlier in October, that the institution, authorised to operate in 2021, is now operational.

The film festival attracted cinematographers from six Central African countries – Cameroon, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chad, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon – who gathered this month to discuss their work under the theme: ‘Cinema, a complete art’.

Explaining the mission of the new Higher Institute of Cinema and Audiovisual Professionals of Central Africa (ISCAC), Ndongo said: “The demand for skilled talents in cinematography has become critical, thus the need for training of professionals at university level to permit, not only the growth of the film industry, but its contribution to the development of the economy of the sub-region.”

The minister said the essential mission of all higher education institutions in Cameroon includes training, research and development support, expressing the wish that ISCAC will meet the needs of professionals in Cameroon, in particular, and the Central African region in general, in film creation and in skilling technicians of cinema, audiovisual and other specialities in the industry to enable them to better adapt to both international and local working realities.

Integration skills

For Basek Bakobio, head of Ecrans Noirs and director of the institute, ISCAC will not only be training creators and contributors for the film industry, but it will also focus on empowering them for work integration.

“This year’s festival is an African festival like others in the past, but with emphasis on the need for quality training to better contribute to the development of cinema in Central Africa. This training at university level allows for progress on the entrepreneurial, commercial and industrial levels,” Bakobio said during the festival, which ended on 10 October.

Dr Donatus Fai Tangem, a senior lecturer of drama and theatre at the University of Yaoundé 1, Cameroon, noted that advancement in technology has brought continuous innovation in the film industry, thus the need to adapt training to the new realities that would not only strengthen the sector but also be in demand by global film studios.

“We have had problems finding people with global-level skills, either in acting or in cinematography and this forces us filmmakers to go for foreign crew members from Nollywood in Nigeria. Our new university trainees should be able help us bridge that gap,” he said.

When different actors attend the same film school, it has the advantage of creating a network between potential collaborators and future employers, Tangem said.

“One way to get cinematography done well is to have a team with a strong bond – having created this relationship during training. The directors and producers are the gatekeepers deciding which direction the film production takes,” he added.

Film industry in need of support

Participants at this year’s film festival expressed the wish for African institutions, now, more than ever, to provide continuous support, promotion and development of African arts and culture, with film festivals taking a leading role in this regard.

Sally Nyolo, singer and promoter of culture from Cameroon, notes that it was encouraging to see the increase in the number of film festivals and markets taking place across Africa as these events are often at the forefront of promoting Africa’s stories and cultures while also developing both the industry and audiences for African films.

“We still have a long way to go in developing the film industry in Central Africa but, with determination and collaboration, we shall get there,” Nyolo said at the festival.

Apart from the Ecrans Noirs film festival in Cameroon, she cited the Zanzibar International Film Festival, the Durban International Film Festival, the Joburg Film Festival, FESPACO, the Encounters South African International Documentary Film Festival, Zimbabwe International Film Festival, the Rwanda Film Festival, the Maisha African Film Festival in Uganda, the Udada Film Festival in Kenya, and the Salaam Kivu International Film Festival, Democratic Republic of the Congo, as other examples to be proud of on the African continent.

Tangem saluted the strong synergy between the Cameroon government and the private sector in the promotion of culture. As African cinema rises, so will Africa, and by supporting festivals, funders and governments are able to simultaneously improve both the cultural and economic future of the continent, he said.