“There is a large African diaspora in the world that is connected to the continent’s films, although the African films that win at festivals do not reach the general African public,” explains Senegalese exhibitor Khadidia Djigo .
Something like that when we are outside our countries we like to reconnect with our joys, our traditions and even with our complexes as a society ( auteur cinema that festivals award), but when we are within the country, we prefer entertainment, emptying a while the head of the nearby problems, relax with distant fictions, with Hollywood perhaps.
However, it is very likely that some of these certainties are about to cease to be, with the barrage of new commercial cinemas opening in West Africa and already setting screen quotas for cinema from their own countries.
We know, of course, that a good part of the young urban public of our great neighboring continent loves to keep abreast of the latest blockbusters in the United States and Europe, but at the doors of the theaters the posters of the Mainstream titles with those of the most genuine local cinema. And that is permeating.
Khadidia Djigo probably fits the profile of many of those young enthusiasts who make up the audience of the shows in any great West African city. He was born in Dakar, Senegal, 32 years ago. He went out to train and then returned to his country with a thousand new ideas.
Since 2017 she has been the director of the Canal Olympia Teranga cinema and exhibition complex in her hometown.
Djigo had studied trade and international relations in Bordeaux, worked in communication and entertainment in Paris and did an internship in the United States, at UNESCO headquarters, where he prepared a report on multilingualism in international organizations, insisting on how well it can be work among colleagues from countries with different languages, at the United Nations, where “ Swahili It is the official language ”, he recalls.
What did a great movie theater mean for Dakar, again, like in the good old days? In Dakar, it was almost 20 years since the last movie theater had closed, when this French conglomerate (a relative of Canal +) arrived to install “an auditorium for 300 people equipped with the same technology” that any other so-called site has. ‘developed’.
Djigo says it took a few months to attract people, but in 2018, when the film landed in Senegal Black Panther , the Ryan Coogler, that was “crazy” and, although it was an American superhero movie, it was also a celebration of Africanity (which broke all records in the world, including the highest grossing film made by an African-American director).
And so, in the six months that followed that premiere, they reached 10,000 tickets sold, which also includes viewers of the latest installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean saga .
Black Panther brought people who had never been; After this film, the cinema became a custom for Senegalese, Cameroonians, Guineans …
“ Black Panther brought people who had never come before; after this film, the cinema became a custom for Senegalese, Cameroonians, Guineans… ”, Khadidia enthuses. Because, in the meantime, the Canal Olympia group had opened theaters in Guinea Conakry, Cameroon (Douala and Yaoundé), Burkina Faso and Niger.
After 2018, cinemas were also opened in Togo, Benin, Congo Brazzaville and Madagascar.
After the boom in French-speaking countries, they are now landing in the English-speaking countries of the region (at least, in which they are not prohibited from opening theaters due to the pandemic). Thus, Nigeria inaugurated a room on November 1 and Rwanda just did it, a short month ago.
The latter two had their inauguration postponed from March and April, respectively. They are still waiting for the lifting of restrictions to open those in Ghana, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Khadidia Djigo is in charge of the exhibition chain in Senegal and, now, also of the team’s training and the launch of the theaters for the English-speaking world: “The audience is mostly young, people between 15 and 30 years old.
They are the happiest for having a room with good sound, a good image, where blockbuster movies come out at the same time as in the US or France ”. They are, surely, those who are aware of the campaigns of the online entertainment industry and “want to go see them as soon as they come out, when they are not yet on Netflix or Amazon.”
In other words, digital platforms are not invalidating competition.
And although piracy exists, and DVDs continue to be sold naturally in the markets, that audience has already become demanding and “does not want to see low-quality movies.”
“In addition, we adapt prices to the purchasing power of each country. In Dakar, admission costs 2 euros for adults and the equivalent of 1.5 euros for children under 12 years old ”, he adds.
In Dakar, admission costs 2 euros for adults and the equivalent of 1.5 euros for children under 12 years old
“Of course, there is also an audience for auteur cinema in Africa, which is usually seen in cultural institutes rather than in commercial theaters,” says Djigo.
However, there are African action and comedy films that have a screen share in their cinemas, as is the case of Sankara et moi ( Sankara and me ), which has remained among the pending, when the cinemas can finally reopen after confinements , in Senegal and Congo Brazzaville, where the rooms are “unfortunately closed”.
Regarding the possibilities of resuming activity after such a stoppage, Djigo regrets that government aid in Dakar was only used for the first two months. The rest of Africa seems to be resuming its entertainment activity normally. So be it, essentially for the culture workers.