The South African cinematic market operates under different parameters , and as such, should be approached differently. If the primary goals are to raise awareness and educate, to entertain purely within the limitations of a genre, to push ones love of filmmaking into cult status, or whether one wishes for their cinematic contribution to ultimately gain blockbuster status, different approaches customized to the locale become a necessity. People in South Africa, as a broad generalization, have a certain predisposition for certain movie genres, actors and the like.
Thee South African History Organization (2000) noted events that were key in South Africa’s associations with world cinema. A significant amount of these events were intrinsically tied to race and the history of North America’s film industry. South African audiences were exposed to approximately 60 films which were predominantly in Afrikaans from 1956-1962, according to thee National Film and Video Foundation(2014). Based on the year 2000 report by the National Film and Video Foundation, the 70s exposed the juxtaposition in the treatment of South African film audiences from areas of film screening to the content – all due to racial discrimination.
Olwethu-Thando Klaas(2014:15) stated that: “the big distribution companies chose to show Hollywood and European films predominantly in the 80s. The reasoning behind this action was the accompanying of film marketing that was well-funded and polished – almost guaranteeing profits from the spectators who were attracted to the marketing campaigns. This resulted in South African audiences not being as exposed to South African and African films, but rather foreign films.”
The deduction made by the National Film and Video Foundation was that the underdeveloped cinema audience of South Africa is owed to a deficiency of non-white South Africans cinema-going culture, prices of tickets at cinemas, and a lacking amount of content which is relevant.(Klaas, 2014) Low disposable income factors greatly in the way South African prioritize things. I have grown up with movies, and have watched a whole bunch of films at Ster Kinekor since the age of 4. I used to go to the cinema regularly, and was not bound to enjoying them during holidays and weekends alone. During university, and even today, I do not have ANY disposable income. So I prioritize the major North American science fiction blockbusters I love for when I have complimentary tickets to use after opening week.
I adore pop culture!
…and unfortunately, global pop culture has fallen into a state of banality wherein a rotation of recycled trends cycles with no end in sight. There is nothing new that is created, simply Retro-styling in ideal pastiche. As its come to be, fiction with no historical chronicle is deemed much of a risk to be invested in by media Juggernauts. Over the past 50 years it is destination narrative involving the progression of humanity that has saturated the minds of newborn audiences and screenwriters. So embedded is this notion of destination narrative that we now know no other reality, rejecting even the theorizing of any such alternative.
Through my research, I have discovered that South African audiences choose to watch films predominantly for pleasure, and seeing a film by a bona fide actor/actress whose past films have appealed greatly to the watcher. South African audiences do not have a distinct conception of genres, save comedy, “but they have a clear idea of the facets of film production that appeal to their gratification.”(Klaas, 2014)
It is imperative for foreign film industry folk to acknowledge their lack of insight, or even lack of caring, for South African markets. There is actually potential to profit greatly here. Indie films, documentary films, arthouse and film noir will not flourish here. There is simply no audience and industrial interest for them. However, South African audiences are enamored with the glamour of blockbuster film releases – and therein lies the key! I have several ideas for how foreign cinema should approach the South African cinema market differently.
…but that’s a post for another time.