Ebou Waggeh, the executive director of Wax Media and Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards judge, has ascribed the lamentable state of the country’s movie industry to state monopoly of TV rights and stinging dearth of support to film makers.
In an exclusive interview with The Standard, he said: “Filmmaking is about storytelling, casting and technical execution. It is a creative art and no one has monopoly of that as we are all endowed with creative abilities. However, some of us are more inclined to tap into our creativity than others. In places within our sub region where filmmaking has seen development such as Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and Burkina Faso, training institutions, film festivals and television broadcast stations have been in existence for decades. These are three platforms on which successful film industries ride. As a country we do have our fair share of those creative minds. Just listen to the lyrics of our young music rappers. Craftily coining local and English language words that rhyme and make sense can only be the work of a creative mind.
“However, challenges faced by the filmmaking sector in The Gambia are more critical than that. They range from the lack of adequate capacity both technical and human to the lack of support and incentives. Unlike writers, musicians and painters who may need little resource to demonstrate their talent, a filmmaker needs at least a camera, cast and editing facilities not to talk of sound and lighting equipment before he or she can show her creativity. In the absence of cinema halls in The Gambia, television has become the only platform left to showcase those creations. The programme policy at the only TV station in the country, GRTS, is not encouraging. The national broadcaster charges independent producers airtime fee to show their material.”
He added: “That arrangement even rules out legal rights of the producer to intellectual property royalties. We hope new dispensations linked to the National Council for Art and Culture will look into this matter and apply the provisions of the NCAC Act on 70 percent local content on radio and TV. In addition to that, we hope that the important matter of opening up the television broadcast market in The Gambia by the government will be considered due, after 19 years of a single television channel in the country. Additional licensed private channels will only go to open up job opportunities, increase domestic viewership and create pride in and appreciation for what we have in the country. In a country with low literacy rate, pictures in which we all are literate, are the most effective medium to use in communication and storytelling.”