Wednesday, November 28, 2012

MENACE OF RAPE: Can’t be buried under carpet

Rape is s very sensitive issue, but a global phenomenon. In some countries they are more open about this act considered a menace to society but in other countries they are not that much open about it. However, rape is a social vice that cannot be buried under the carpet, as Prince Bubacarr Aminata Sankanu, a Gambian-German filmmaker told Modou S. Joof of The North Bank Evening Standard in an interview.   

Prince Sankanu speaks to Modou S. Joof, publisher of The North Bank Evening Standard, on his film project/photo/MENjie

Interview with Prince Bubacarr Aminata Sankanu

How does the movie “The Woman In A Black Jacket” intends to address the menace of rape?

The movie is about the menace of rape which is a very sensitive topic in society. Film is a very powerful medium and as filmmakers our role is to place the mirror before society. That’s what a film is all about, it reflects society.
Around the world rape is a major issue and talking about it is about placing the mirror before society to look at this issue. It cannot be buried under the carpet.
It is the best we can do in a situation where reading culture is dying either due to illiteracy or people are becoming lazy to write. You can write a book about rape and people will not read it but you can make a movie and the way you dramatized it the message will trickle-down to even the most illiterate person and that’s why I say that the audiovisual medium as a way of transmitting the message is the ideal one.
Rape is a global phenomenon. In all countries in the world, rape is a problem. It depends on how you handle it. In some countries they are more open about it and in other countries they are not.
But anybody who watches the movie whether the person is a European, African or Arab, you will be able to relate to it because it is a universal topic. This means that it is a movie that once it is done in the Gambia, it is going to market the Gambia because it is a movie that will be accepted worldwide, and rape is an issue that affects all human races beyond culture and language.
One cannot say rape is only done by Africans; it is not done by Europeans or Arabs. It is done by everybody, so that’s why I hope it will automatically trickle-down without much problem.

How will local actors and actresses be involved to benefit from your film project?

That is what brought me here. Like I said, it is a universal subject that could be set anywhere. I could set it in Nigeria, Ghana or even Germany because it is a universal theme.
I decided to choose Gambia because my Gambian gene became alive, the patriotic Gambian in me became alive so I decided to do something because I don’t like the way the Gambian film industry is going.
Our young talents are being exploited by people coming with funny and inflated budgets. I said we have to start something modest and am coming here to give young talents a chance and that’s why I am having a meeting at the Alliance Franco, which is my second meeting with young talents to have first of all an informal session to brief them about the project (and) to prepare them.
Then in January (2013), we’ll have an audition with local talents. It is going to be 99% Gambian, only when the skill and equipments that are required for a professional movie are absent, then I can bring in one or two people from Germany and one person who is a Nigerian pan-African but based in Europe, who is a part of my production company - as part of my staff. Otherwise it is going to be fully a Gambian project.
And that is why after the first meeting with the talents I nominated a young Gambian by the name Momodou Lamin Touray to be the Director while I serve as the Executive Producer and the lead male actor.
I have brieft all the actors and actresses who want to come to the audition on what they should consider: the dress code, the style and other things. In January we will do the audition proper and those are lucky to be in the final list will be given the scripts to start rehearsing, and then we will do the principal photography (shooting) in March 2013.    

L: Momodou Lamin Touray, Sankanu-appointed Film Director with Mamadou Edrisa Njie/Photo/MSJoof

You know a movie cannot be produced overnight. How long will it take for the movie to hit the market?

It depends, if we are satisfied with the pictures. Initially I wanted it to be premiered during the next International Women’s Day on 8th March, 2013, we won’t miss that one. The next ideal date would have been July – to coincide with African Women’s Day, if possible.
But there is still time when you know that one can release it and our next festival (in Germany) is 2014 so there is time, depending on the material we have and the qualities we have. If the quality is good we will edit it – that could take one month.
It will take at least six months before the final cut of the movie is out and then we’ll fix a date when it should come into the theater and the festivals and then all those who are involved will know about it.

Making a standard film can be very expensive, how much will it cost, financially?

It is a modest one. I decided to come modestly - we are going to shoot it in Gambia – I decided to peg the budget at €51, 000 Euros, which is a low entry level. If I want to shoot it in Germany it will be a different budget and if I want to do something big it would have been a different thing.
This is basically what I set in as a pilot and see if I am satisfied then during the next movie (on female genital mutilation, FGM) then one can upgrade the budget, but this is the maximum limit I put myself.
It also a way of putting pressure on the talents. If people know that the money in the movie is not much, it is a way of filtering them because those who are passionate will stay in the project and those who are only interested in the movie will move out.
It is a way of controlling the people and filtering them. They will say “ah! €51, 000 is the budget” and after the breakdown they’ll have to tell me their fees and they can say “oh! the fee is too small for me”, whatever the case maybe so you are already disqualified.
The person who stays up to the end I will know that this person is passionate because I value things that money cannot buy. So if the person stays up to the end of the project we are able to have a world standard movie within this budget.
Then next time there is always possibility of applying for funding from Germany for the distribution, but unfortunately, Gambia does not have a bilateral Film Cooperation Agreement with Germany. So it is not easy to get money from German authorities to fund a movie here just like that.
For the distribution funding, that one we have the facility because I have my production company in Germany (the Royal Sankanura Principality Studious). I can use it to apply for funding for the distribution.
For this one (The Woman In A Black Jacket), it is a mix (funding), part of it will be my own fund and part is open. That is why we make arrangements for brand placement, which is to market the Gambia. So Gambian brands that are serious and are ready to use the movie to market their products and service to the global market can come.    
It is not a commercial movie, am not enriching myself because am not going to make money from this movie. It is because it is a social project; it is a social issue of rape. Because the movie has a universal theme, it is a chance for those who use the movie to place their brands. I will give space to only a maximum of seven (7) Gambian brands and commercial managers to come first will get the slots.
I hope before my departure those who are interested will be and then we will see. For the production of the movie, am not worried because I always get German state funding. The issue is whether one can get German and Gambian private sector involvement to cover the funding gap. If not, once the production is about to start we will know how to activate plan B.
The idea is to involve the private sector so that it can be collaborative work, in which the public and the private sector is involved and Gambian brands are represented and it can be marketed as a true Gambian movie.

You met officials of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture and the National Council for Arts and Culture to discuss with them about your film project. What kind of support do you want from?

I don’t know. The only thing I told them is that they are ready to support the project within their mandate. Whatever support they give me, I told them they will be credited as required by international standards. So whatever support they can give the movie they are ready to concretize it and specify.
I just wrote them an official letter introducing my project to them and I am grateful that the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Tourism and Culture (MOTC) meet me and has assured me of his ministry’s full support. So the level and nature of support is left for them to specify. The same applies to the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC). I sent them the project brief.
I cannot come and say that I want you to do this. I just say this is what I have and this is what I have in mind and you see how you can come on board. The private sector can also tell me how they want to come on board with their brands, and then we’ll concretize and finalize the issue.

You said the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Tourism did admit that things are at a slow pace in Gambia. Could this have a chilling effect on your project?

Well, I have been in touch behind the scenes for almost a year now. You know when these people (Nollywood’s Rita Edochie and Jim Iyke) were coming with their budgets, exploiting the country and going, I was very angry.
Then I took the initiative of contacting the authorities, that is, the MOTC and the NCAC and also the Office of the President. I submitted a project proposal on how to build a film industry. I propose a name for the project, I propose festival and also have a legacy project which is a film school, and they’ve been there for almost a year now.
I have been following up behind the scene, but within that one year, what I have been able to achieve in Germany I could not here (in Gambia). Within one year, I had a festival that I organised (in Germany) which was successful. I have acted in various TV series, so career wise it has been going fine.
But within that one year when it comes to Gambia nothing has moved. So that has shown the time difference. It is now that am coming and this fear has been with me all along, the fear is still there – things will move slow but if I am able to achieve at least 5% of what I plan to achieve during this trip that will be a big achievement. I have low expectations because I understand things are slow, but I am optimistic after meeting with the authorities and am sure they are determined and serious because they know that I have suspended a lot of activities.
I was to shoot a film on 12 November which they would have paid me but I chose to come here which means I have lost an income. Every day that I spend here I am losing something but it is for my country. It is worth the sacrifice and I am glad that the authorities consider my proposal and I hope before my departure you will hear something positive that can move the project on.

Young Gambian actors and actresses/photo/MSJoof

You are currently on a location survey for your film. Have you identified yet a perfect setting?

I need 32 locations; I went to Nusrat (Senior Secondary School) which will be used for one of the campus scenes. FJC (Fatoumatta Jahumpa Ceesay) took me out for a dinner, we found some beautiful restaurants, and also she recommends one hotel which I hope I will be able to visit and then I’ll see from there.
Otherwise there are some people I nominated for the Crew who promised to also do the location survey because I have already sent them the list of locations that are needed – so I will do some myself  and when I come back in January we will finalize it.
Since I came here, what I have seen are good locations, the question is access, whether the people in charge of these places will allow us to use them at the end of the day – that is the biggest challenge. Instead of 32 locations, we will have a 100 or 150 locations that could be on a standby in case of emergency.

In your writings you noted your intention to work with the government-established Standing Committee on Beauty Pageants and Movie Productions to develop the film industry in Gambia. How do you intend to do this? 

From the first day I heard of the Committee, the first thing I did was to write an article to thank the President of the Republic (Yahya Jammeh) and the Minister of Tourism and Culture (Fatou Mass Jobe) for the foresight of having this project.
It is something that was long overdue, and I did not waste my time as I started doing something – I send them a Draft for a Film Policy Framework for them to use as a working document. I have been in touch with the former Chairman of the Committee Ebrima Sanyang who passed away (diseased).
That is why whenever I see other people coming in with projects from outside I try to block them – like I wrote an article against Rita Edochie (Nigerian actress) not because I hate her but because what she was doing is not in the interest of the country - the same thing with Jim Iyke (Nigerian/Nollywood actor).
So am glad that when I spoke to the authorities, the NCAC, they’ve also acted and blocked that one (Iyke’s) so that the Gambian talents can grow. It has nothing to do with unfair competition – even in world trade agreements you have the right to give the domestic industry the chance to grow.
You cannot build a film industry overnight, with all the noise that is coming from outside. You need time, passion and investment. So am ready to work with the Committee up to the end.

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