Dar es Salaam. Last weekend two actors in the Bongo films were awarded at the East Africa TV Awards ceremony in the Best Male and Best Female categories at a ceremony held at Mlimani City.
But as Gabo and Chuchu Hans wallowed in glory there was a feeling of emptiness about this particular win with the common question being what next?
This was quite a far cry from what the industry had been accustomed to in the last decade or so.
By 2012 Bongo movies was one of the fastest growing film industry coming next to only Nollywood, Bollywood and of course big brother Hollywood, something that seemed to surprise many at the time.
At the height of its fame, film makers in Tanzania released a record 500 films a year, a feat hitherto unmatched.
This popularity now all seem to be in a very distant past, the flamboyancy, glitz and glamour have now been replaced with lamentations.
Many actors and actresses hardly get a paying job as film producers and distributors can’t stop whining about the heavy losses that they keep posting by the day.
Some have been quick to apportion the blame on lack of investments in the industry whereas there are some who are still stuck to the same tired cliché of the influx of foreign films in the market.
According to actor and producer Salim Saleh, aka “Man Fizo” the market for local film has been weakened by lack of investments flows. After premiereing his second movie ‘Siri ya Moyo’ on some two weeks ago at in Mlimani City hall, Man Fizo said that the future of the industry is very bright and in order to remain relevant there is need for strong investments.
“The demand out there is for high quality films shot with state-of-the-art equipment. These require investment in high end technology something that most of our directors and producers cannot afford, we therefore need more investors to the industry,” he said
But even with the shoestring budget that he used to produce his recent films ‘Nimekosea Wapi’ and ‘Siri ya Moyo’ there has been a good return so far.
The filmmaker spent Sh40 million to make the two films.
According to him the other challenge is the pirated foreign films which are cheaper than the locally produced films.
Actor Suleiman Barafu believes that locally produced movies face technical challenges such as creativity and scriptwriting that makes them unable to compete with overseas products.
“The imported movies are cheaper than ours because they don’t pay tax as we do and when you are addressing such imbalance then the competition becomes unfair,” he says.
Kafuke Entertainment Group’s Kessy Muhingo sees some light at the end of the tunnel especially with more film makers continuing to acquire skills and technologies in film production.
“Tanzanian producers are no exception, they are very capable of maximizing their creativity and productivity but even then a new problem of distribution and markets arises,” he says.
Desperate situations require desperate means he, therefore, calls on authorities and filmmakers to come up with solutions to address the crisis facing the industry currently.
According to him, it is a time that Tanzanian actors and producers to sell their works beyond the boundaries.
“To succeed we need to reach out to the global markets and that means that we have to make films that suit such markets,” says Muhingo.
But even with such hunger this will not come on a silver platter as those involved will have to face the challenge of adjusting to global trade and investment regimes that have so far affected immensely local production and distribution systems.
“One thing that we all agree is that knowledge and skills of filmmaking through training and competitive minds are essentials to development of film industry,” he says. To go beyond this it will call for investments in both human resource and technology if the film industry is to reach its full potential in the next decade or so.