Digitization rekindles African film glamour

For as little as US$5, lovers of African movies can now watch a variety of the films online thanks to African Film Library (AFL), an initiative started by South Africa’s M-Net to bring African films online.

Through the African Film Library’s website, African movie enthusiasts can watch a variety of film genres in several languages including English, Swahili, French, Igbo, Luganda, Hausa, Afrikaans among other African dialects guaranteed to cater to the tastes of movie enthusiasts across the globe (Africanfilmlibrary.com).

M-Net says the initiative seeks to quench the high demand for African films from Africans on the continent and abroad who wanted to have access to a great selection of high quality, award-winning African movies. It also aims at restoring, preserving and promoting Africa’s rich excellence of film and television production.

The Video on Demand service that uses prepaid credit, usually loaded onto user’s accounts, cost US$5. Users get a 36-hour license in which they can watch the movie as many times as they like during the designated period.

AFL website allows users to browse and view trailers without registering or logging in. However, to top-up credit and rent a film, users need to have been registered and online before placing an order. The collection features some of Africa’s established and emerging directors for the over 110 films already on their platform. “Where previously, old films that completed a commercial cycle, from theatrical window to sell through, gathered dust, the AFL has established a new source of revenue for old films whilst simultaneously breaking new ground with delivery of content via new media platforms,” AFL Project Director Mike Dearham said.

The three-year old initiative has since witnessed the digitization and restoration of the continent’s finest film titles although it faced various hurdles since its launch; as majority of the African movies lacked export readiness to the digital platform.

Other challenges included lack of robust rights management, copyright enforcement, and protection — prevalent problems facing African movie industries.

Typically, majority of the African films tended to disappear from the glamour scene once they completed their commercial cycle, this is soon set to change, since AFL allows users to watch their favorite movies repeatedly and with absolute ease on Internet.

The initiative is the first of its kind in Africa.

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