Tambay Obenson, a former IndieWire employee and Shadow and Act founder, is the new host of Akoroko, an innovative platform devoted to African film and television; we're glad to offer him our platform to voice his opinion.
Cinema has been used for a century in reference to an industry that almost entirely excludes the African experience. I want to change that with Akoroko, a new platform that will allow for consistent, robust, and candid coverage that is both local and internationally accessible. It will include criticism, analysis, cataloging, and education.
The African film and television industry, according to an UNESCO report from October 20, generates $5 billion in annual revenue and the potential for $20 billion. Global appetite for African film and television programming is underdeveloped because the sector remains structurally underfunded, underdeveloped, and undervalued.
A new generation of African filmmakers is forming on the continent with the world's youngest population. They are reaping the same rewards as North America did two decades ago, including new technologies, affordability of digital film equipment, and the accessibility of internet platforms.
The Realness African Screenwriters Residency, the Locarno Film Festivals Industry Academy workshop, and a partnership between the USC School of Cinematic Arts and Netflix have all aided in their efforts. (This summer, Netflix released its first Kenyan series, Country Queen.) Google is making a $1 billion investment in Africa over five years.
Netflix, Amazon, and Disney, as well as other international media corporations, are beginning to realize the continent's untapped potential, even if only in a bid to find new growth opportunities. Africa's film and television growth will increase, especially locally created content.
Akoroko aspires to be a trusted resource for film and television companies on the African continent, elevating public discourse around the African moving image and fostering the same kind of rabid, cineastic appreciation that underpins North American, European, and Asian cinema.
Ive always aimed to make a difference, shape conversations, and inspire action throughout my career covering global Black cinema. I was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and West Africa, and grew up in three countries and two continents. I have one foot in North America and the other in Africa.
In 2007, I launched The Obenson Report, a conference with rising Black filmmakers such as Barry Jenkins, who will be honored in the Academy Awards in 2009. Shadow and Act was a website that introduced visitors to global Black talent and new Black films, and we promoted global Black cinema as cinema rather than as a niche.
I also executive produced several films by Black filmmakers during that time, including the Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning short film Black Swan Theory directed by Nikyatu Jusu.
From 2010 through 2018, I was a curator and co-founder of the New Voices in Black Cinema Film Festival, which was held annually at BAMCinematek in Brooklyn. The festival honored New York premieres of Nijla Mumins feature debut Jinn, presented by filmmakers and actors early in their careers, including Ava DuVernays I Will Follow, John Boyegas' Imperial Dreams, Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner Chinonye Chuckwus' feature debut AlaskaLand, and
In late 2018, I joined the IndieWire editorial board, where I continued to write about Black cinema from a global perspective. It was a platform with scope and influence, which allowed me to enter areas I previously could not. It also provided me with an understanding of how to manage an online publication.
I have been invited to speak at colleges and universities, including Yale and The New School, moderate and participate in numerous panel discussions at film festivals and screening series, and mentor young film professionals.
All of these experiences, as well as the many professional connections I have developed over the years, have prepared me for this day. Akoroko is well positioned to make an immediate impact due to the ongoing ideological shift in African cinema.
A fundraising effort to raise roughly $150,000 is crucial to achieving Akorokos' short-term goals. These funds enable for rapid expansion of Akorokos' critiques, analysis, cataloging, and consultation.
Akoroko has been almost a one-man operation. For the platform to succeed, I need help. One of the biggest lessons I learned from my years running Shadow and Act is that I am not capable of doing this alone. Im humble enough to know where my strengths and weaknesses lie.
The raised funds will be used to cover operating expenses over a period of five to six months in order to best position Akoroko to pursue seed funding that will continue to grow.
Africa as a whole is overflowing with potential, and its untapped filmmaking landscape is one of the world's richest and most diverse areas. It has the potential to transform stereotypes and economies while establishing identity within communities.
Akoroko's entry point is in this environment. Please visit www.gofundme.com/f/akoroko-african-cinema.
Tambay Obenson, a former IndieWire staff writer and the creator of Shadow and Act, is now the founder of Akoroko.