Tag Archives: Eastern European film

Africa’s film markets and video content distribution trends (1/2)

by Andy Kozlov (@KozlovAndy)

It’s not a film unless it has a distribution plan.

How about a multi-decade distribution deal?

Distributors are in the game to profit from films that are easy to sell, not to nurture filmmakers. By this logic apparently, an independent film will languish on the shelf indefinitely if it is not marketable.

The same will be true for most of you aspiring TV producers.

Get into the habit of attending African content markets

So where do you look to make yourself marketable? Experience shows, attending content markets is a must. And every month you can be part of one or even a bunch of them, depending on the season.

As you do that, make sure you get to know your buyers’, co-producers’ needs, address their concerns in the bud. In a nutshell — be love-able.

Get both global and local in your narrative. Avoid contrived situations — they suck

Some TV format ideas can make you super famous  more than others. But the general trend is for your narrative to be both global and local at the same time. As Wangeci Murage, managing partner at Nairobi, Kenya-based Media Pros Africa, explains commenting on Russell Southwood’s Netflix in Africa – Three reasons why it will not conquer everything any time soon:

Netflix do acquire content but their main aim is to build their inventory through original productions. Their [January 2016] entry into the “world” market signals an upsurge in local content production, to which they will own full rights.

Content developers have also started shifting their mindset and have began producing content with global appeal and local relevance. This is true of the four African countries [mentioned by Mr Southwood in descending order they are Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana and Kenya;] so they will find a market.

Russell Southwood is the CEO of Balancing Act, a consultancy and research company focused on telecoms, internet and broadcast in Africa. He is one of those people you can often run into at media markets across Africa.

Speaking of South African film industry, veteran producer Jeremy Nathan estimated in May 2012: we are making 25 to 30 films a year now which is really very impressive. Ten years ago we were only making five or six films a year.

And as Balancing Act points out:

There are currently some 136 VoD platforms in Africa, both local, regional and international.

Outside Africa, Thema TV was the first provider of ethnic TV channels in Europe, particularly in France, with the successful launch of “The African Bouquet“, “The German Bouquet” and the “Indian Ocean Bouquet”.

In Africa, take M-Net, the Naspers-owned terrestrial pay TV channel. In 2008, M-Net’s AfricaMagic, one of the leading channels on the DStv bouquet,  launched Africa Magic Plus the growth of which further prompted a flowering of additional channels that catered for culture and language-specific African communities, inclusive of Yoruba, Hausa and Swahili speaking groups.

In 2013, in Africa there were some 535 local TV channels, each responsible for the transmission of up to 1,000 hours of fresh programs annually.

So on the one hand, the distribution channels are expanding. But so does competition from other African content producers. Mind you, even Ukraine in Eastern Europe now shoots Nollywood films. However that also means that Zimbabwean film distributors get to network with their Slav peers at the likes of Kiev Media Week.

As of 2013, African content production ranged from 3-4,000 hours per year. During the 1990s, this figure was lower than 100.

For African content producers concerned about growing competition, Media Pros Africa’s Wangeci Murage paints a picture as bright as it can probably get in the world of unkown unkowns:

This is an age-old phenomenon that is much welcome in our industry. The likes of DSTV’s Showmax and Buni TV would not be in existence if it wasn’t for forward thinkers such as IROKO TV. They saw a gap and went out to fill it. There may be a few holes in the service delivery but nonetheless, they serve a majority of African and International markets in search of Nollywood content.

€3,000 to 30,000 checks handed directly to directors and producers at the Marché International du Cinéma Africain in Ouagadougou undoubtedly makes a good news story.

But this is where those of you who prefer to think long-term should ask themselves:

Is it worth giving away the exclusivity rights on any broadcast on the African continent for a quarter of a century ?

Whatever your decision is, you also want to avoid becoming totally dependent on the international festival circuit for the distribution of your content.

In Tanzania they say 70% of the population do not have access to TV.  If you feel passionate about reaching out to the rural folks who are underserved by cinemas, have limited mobile internet access (2G?); if you feel like you are called to bridge the gap between indigenous people, rural and urban Africans, consider going it alone. Well..not totally alone:

The global list of your outdoor movie partners is growing like never before

FilmAid International  is committed to a participatory approach, teaching skills and involving local communities with the media making process.

Open Air Cinema with its world’s premiere outdoor cinema systems and inflatable movie screens

Short & Sweet with its largest inflatable screen in South Africa

Sunshine Cinema is a mobile cinema that converts solar power to social impact. Through various short films, facilitated workshops and “how to” videos they address social and environmental challenges through community facilitated engagement.

Cine Vagabundo (The Wandering Cinema), a Colombian non-profit that has recognized the fact that with only 5% of cities and townships that have cinemas, the Latin American nation is not an exception, that something needs to be done to link content producers with their digitally divided audiences on a global scale. And locally — glocally.

The author can be reached on andreakozlov@gmail.com


Steppes in Sync 2016 Selection of Global Content Events

June and September are the busiest months (with 4 events), followed by November


NATPE (Miami)

January 19-21


European Film Market  (Berlin)

February 11-19



February 21-24


DISCOP Istanbul

March 1-3


(Austin, TX)

March 11-20



April 4-7


LA Screenings

May 16-27. Canadian Screenings: tba


DISCOP Africa Abidjan

May 31-June 2


World Content Market (Moscow)

May 30 – June 1


Sheffield DocFest

June 10-15



NATPE (Budapest)

June 27-30


DISCOPRO (Nairobi – Kalasha Festival)

August 24 – 26


Toronto Film Festival 

September 8-18


International Broadcasting Convention (Amsterdam)

September 8-13


Kiev Media Week

September 19-23


Smart City Africa Abidjan

September 27-29



October 17-20


Frankfurt Book Fair

October 19-23


DISCOP Africa (Johannesburg)

November 2-4


American Film Market (Santa Monica, CA)

November 2-9. 2017: November 1-8


German Screenings (Graz)

November 27-30

Resilience built by solution reporting to defuse Smerch cluster missile attacks on survival-savvy Ukrainians, save lives globally long-term

This week we were “utterly shocked” by the absence of cluster munition survival videos on the web. Check Google, YouTube. All you can get out of those communications is the utter shock of mutilation, death and devastation the murderers take pleasure in leaving you with. Georgia, Syria, now Ukraine.

Alright, shocked and killed we can easily be by just stepping out on the street. That’s not what we expect from the world wide web, folks! We look for life-saving information, we seek solutions to the problem.

Alright, shocked and killed we can easily be by just stepping out on the street. That's not what we expect from the world wide web, folks! We look for life-saving information, we seek solutions to a problem.
Alright, shocked and killed we can easily be by just stepping out on the street. That’s not what we expect from the world wide web, folks! We look for life-saving information, we seek solutions to the problem.

Staying resilient in the face of unexpected 300 mm missile attacks is as good a problem as washing your Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy. So why are we flooded by video tutorials about the latter and lack the solution basics of the former?

As our town of Kramatorsk, Eastern Ukraine was shelled by heavy weaponry earlier this week, we wondered what the public security experience will be for those who survive the deadly attack by Smerch BM30 rockets. And — here and now — should we really care who launched them as long as we know how to dodge them?!

Okay, let the Kyiv- and New York-based journos speculate about geopolitics. From the safety of their homes.

Most messages beamed by the mainstream based-not-in-Kramatorsk media just drummed up the confrontation tune highlighting the — otherwise important facts that — cluster munitions are banned under international law and that Ukraine was shocked by the attack on a community “some 50 km behind Ukrainian lines and [thus] considered relatively safe before the attack.”

Some bits of life-granting solution communication came from the Governor of Donetsk Oblast Oleksandr Kikhtenko. At a press conference hours after the attack, he shed some light on the mechanics and electronics behind the killing power of 300 mm missiles — sure we all wish we knew that information much earlier; and the media is to still stamp the survival drill into our minds.

Some kudos also go to the Odesa Oblast Administration (Southern Ukraine) and the local news outlet here in Kramatorsk named Vostochnyy Proekt for sharing these bomb survival videos:

Ukrainians come out of the cluster munition attacks more resilient, survival tactics savvy
Ukrainians come out of the cluster munition attacks more resilient, survival tactics savvy

Sure thing, Ukrainians start to come out of the cluster munition attacks more resilient, survival tactics savvy. But like in any awareness raising/behavior change campaign having the right communication tools is as important as repeating the vital message a quadrillion times.

Problem reporting is so analog age. In the digital 21st century let’s finally start to think and communicate solutions, not just problems.

To our global reader out there, next time you are “utterly shocked” and think of launching a Twitter campaign — think @clusterbombsurvival not just @banclustermunition.

Social documentary film-makers and activists ask why this EU aspiring nation is blind to the visually impaired on the streets and rivers of Ukraine

by Andy Kozlov @KozlovAndy

Aleksey Shott and Nastya Berg contributed to this story

Donald Kaberuka @DonaldKaberuka, President of the African Development Bank, began his recent speech at the Center for Global Development,  by quoting American business magnate, politician, and philanthropist Michael Rubens Bloomberg :

In God we trust, everyone else bring data

Embarking on a social documentary project, a creative team of social activists needs to always be reminded that if it can’t be measured it cannot be done. Ukraine’s film-makers Sergey Volkov, Maxim Rudenko and expereinced social activists Julie Sachuk and Denis Petrov know their numbers well.

About 285 million people are visually impaired worldwide. About 90 % of those affected live in developing countries. Preventable causes are as high as 80 % of the total global visual impairment burden.

Всматриваясь во тьму is a topical film. Armed conflict, European values, society in rapid transformation, human resilience. These are some of the burning — and relevant internationally — issues the Ukrainian producers (and their international partners like the Baltic to Black Sea Documentary Network) put into the same sentence with word “Ukraine”.

For some people, the acronym УТОС (the Ukrainian Association of the Blind) does not ring any bells. But for many on the contrary, these four letters mean a lot. Despite the fact that this organization caters to many Ukrainians, sometimes they catch themselves thinking that they live in a country of their own, an absolutely isolated country. In that imaginary country, their problems remain unnoticed and conveniently ignored, as if in the real-world Ukraine there is no visual impairment burden at all. At times, it looks like the rest of the “healthy” people in Ukraine became blind.

Launched in 1933, the UTOS network of socially-minded enterprises has seen little innovation since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Short on government support in a turmoil that is Ukraine these days, uncompetitive production lines of polymed garden equipment and low-voltage electrical products find it difficult to survive.  Daily media reports of battleground losses in the east of the country make the problems faced by visually impaired people invisible to the mainstream media.

Denis Petrov, the protagonist of Всматриваясь во тьму, lost his sight when he was a child. He now helps a battle-damaged soldier to survive the obscurity of life in Ukraine.

Eye-opening facts about visual impairment (Data visualization by Orbis, an international NGO dedicated to saving sight worldwide)
Eye-opening facts about visual impairment (Data visualization by Orbis, an international NGO dedicated to saving sight worldwide)

Denis is a university graduate, fluent in foreign languages. He freelances online and gets good money for what he does. His new friend Dmitriy lost his sight defending Ukraine. Dmitriy now believes there is no life after tomorrow. He needs to learn a lot to continue living in a society that is blind to people like him.

What does future hold for Dmitry and Ukraine? — ask the creators of Всматриваясь во тьму

Film director Sergey Volkov and cinematographer Maxim Rudenko explain:

We have secured support from УкрКіноХроніка [a Kyiv-based state-run documentary film studio]. Their director Natalia Anatolievna Shevchukis personally enthusiastice about the project.

Amplified by insights from social practitioners like Julie Sachuk — who has experience of work for Amnesty International, — the team behind Всматриваясь во тьму is confident of being able to roll out a proper campaign, uphold the rights of the visually impaired in Ukraine, as the Eastern European country transforms into a nation of people which are not blind to their neighbours’ problems.

Andy Kozlov can be reached on a.kozlov@steppesinsync.com

See related

Why your goodwill message will negate Ukraine-Russia information war narrative, make the world a better place for human beings

Being blind in Zimbabwe in a global digital age

Sri Lankans cover Zimbabwean engineer helping Mongolians in sustainable Ninja-Mining, while Estonians document Eastern Ukrainian kids digging for coal

For Chornobyl with Love: strumming Ukrainian pain in Japan and relieving that pain in Ukraine

The challenges of reporting on sustainable development in Ukraine. What is this ‘sustainable development,’ by the way?

TV and film help UNHCR to raise refugee issues awareness in China, Ukraine as well as Japan

205 years after the last Russo-Swedish war, this Swedish-Ukrainian production takes you to Berlin to discover how much freedom your government lets you have

Three topics liked by documentary film-makers and presidents of Estonia

Myanmar. Its soldiers, pirates, posters and theaters

Sao Tomean-Estonian Elsa Figueira creates positive role-models, keeps anti-violence discussion going