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Celebrating Local Movies Powered by Netflix in Cameroon

The Cameroon International Film Festival was cancelled in 2019 and 2020 due to the conflict between the Francophone government and Anglophone regions, as well as Covid-19.

Filmmakers and actors have gathered in the western Cameroon town of Buea for a film festival, as the region tries to regain a measure of normalcy despite an ongoing secessionist conflict.

The Cameroon International Film Festival was cancelled in 2019 and 2020 because of the conflict between state forces and English-speaking rebels, as well as the coronavirus pandemic.

The festival has returned this year and features two Cameroonian films that have been bought by US streaming service Netflix.

One is the 2020 drama Fisherman’s Diary about a young Cameroonian girl determined to go to school, which was inspired by the story of Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai.

“I am so excited. This is something that has been a long time coming,”Yakuza Princess  Teljes Film Magyarul, who plays a teacher in Fisherman’s Diary, as she posed on the red carpet. “We have our movies on Netflix, Amazon Prime and all the big platforms.”

Anglophone regions vs Francophone government

Cameroon’s two western Anglophone regions have been gripped by fighting since 2017 as the rebels try to break away from the predominantly Francophone government.

More than 3,500 people have died and 700,000 have been displaced in the violence.

A fragile calm has reigned in Buea during the festival, which runs from Monday to Saturday. The 400-seat cinema where the films were screened was filled to capacity on opening night. Hardly anyone came in 2018 for fear of violence.

“We asked separatists in the bush not to disturb us. We explained to them that we are not politicians, we are filmmakers,” said Billy Bob Ndive Lifongo, vice president of the festival.

Hope for local film industry

Most films made in Cameroon are made in the Anglophone regions, which is also known as the country’s tech and start-up hub.

Some filmmakers have been jailed during the conflict because of their opinions, said cinematographer Rene Etta, who worked on Fisherman’s Diary and Therapy, the other film bought by Netflix.

He hopes the movies’ success will help develop the local industry.

“We can now comfortably tell our children, ‘If you like cinematography, you want to make films, go ahead and do it,’ because there is a future. There is a possibility you can make a living out of it.”

Producers of two African-made films premiering on Netflix this month believe their work will show there’s subscriber appetite for movies that go deeper than the Hollywood stereotypes that often make African viewers groan.

Subscribers to the world’s largest streaming service can now watch Poacher, a Kenyan drama about elephant poaching and Oloture, a Nigerian thriller about a journalist whose world falls apart after she goes undercover as a sex worker.

The films avoid the simplistic portrayals that viewers in Africa often resent, the producers say.

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Producers of two African-made films premiering on Netflix this month believe their work will show there’s subscriber appetite for movies that go deeper than the Hollywood stereotypes that often make African viewers groan.

Subscribers to the world’s largest streaming service can now watch Poacher, a Kenyan drama about elephant poaching and Oloture, a Nigerian thriller about a journalist whose world falls apart after she goes undercover as a sex worker.

The films avoid the simplistic portrayals that viewers in Africa often resent, the producers say.

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Netflix has begun screening more content produced in Africa, and in June released romantic comedy “Cook Off”, Zimbabwe’s first offering on the streaming service.

Poacher, the first Kenyan film released on Netflix, uses drama to show the lives of everyday people involved in poaching.

“It’s very simple to point fingers,” said Davina Leonard, who co-wrote, co-produced, and stars in Poacher. “When you start a drama, now you’re looking at the people and their motivations.”

The film’s other star, Brian Ogola, hopes Poacher will spur people to action.

“It’s still not enough if we want our grandchildren to see some of these animals in their natural habitat.”

The film ends with a statistic from the World Wildlife Foundation: if current trends continue, elephants will be extinct by 2040.

The other movie, Oloture, joins a host of Nigerian A holnap háborúja teljes film magyarul on the platform, which has nearly 193 million subscribers globally.

Oloture was shot on the gritty streets and in rundown homes of Lagos. It tells the story of impoverished sex workers lured into being trafficked overseas. Human Rights Watch ranks Nigeria a top origin country of trafficking victims in Europe and elsewhere.

In one scene, a businessman drugs and rapes the undercover journalist at a party. In another, sex workers endure a voodoo initiation to scare them into loyalty to pimps trafficking them to Italy.

“I am very happy that this conversation has started so that the government will sit up to their responsibility, so that the agencies that are tasked with fighting human trafficking in Nigeria will maybe clamour for more funding or sit up and do better,” said co-producer James Amuta.

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