Tanzania is not only striving to bring out the best movies on a global scale, but it is also collaborating with notable figures in the industry
- Over the past decade, the Tanzania film industry had a rather dim shadow, associated with sub-standard movies flooding the market and missing out on the global stage.
- Number of Tanzania films dominating the international streaming platforms—Netflix and Showmax are still low.
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Bongo Movies or “movie za Kibongo” – coined term to brand and represent Tanzania cinema, is now taking a rather international tone which is revolutionalizing the way cinema lovers consume and engage their favourite films.
Tanzania’s film industry is currently going through its own renaissance period. Currently, the industry is changing the way stories are written, produced, directed, scored, marketed and distributed. Local productions are among the most viewed Netflix movies in Tanzania, a promising development that will stir the movie industry in Tanzania.
International distributors such as Okada Media are now lifting Tanzanian stories in the global scene. Tanzania stories such as Married to Work 2023 (Directed by Angela Ruhinda) and Binti 2021 (Directed by Seko Shamte) are now accessible on Netflix.
Also, the award-winning Tanzanian action thriller, Nyara: The Kidnapping (2020) once again revived the lost touch of authentic Swahili action movies with an international stroke of colour and tone.
The latter is a major milestone for Tanzania as more aspiring filmmakers step up their game to enhance the quality of their work to the same heights as other established industries such as Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa.
Global sensational stories such as Vuta N’ Kuvute 2022 (Directed by Amil Shivji) have transformed perceptions of African storytelling and promoted different art forms in the value chain.
The film has been screened and won multiple awards across Europe, North Africa, North America and the Middle East film festivals and markets.
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Tanzania is not only striving to bring out the best movies on a global scale, but it is also collaborating with notable figures in the industry, such as seasoned American travel journalist Peter Greenberg and British Academy Award-nominated actor Idris Elba.
The Royal Tour documentary film garnered priceless attention across valuable tourism markets as well as documentary fans.
According to Tanzania Investment Centre, President Samia Suluhu Hassan launched the Historical documentary, filmed in Tanzania in 2021, where she played the main character of the documentary.
The trailblazing documentary film is expected to attract investment worth more than $4 billion that would soon start flowing into the country.
For the first time in Tanzania’s film history, the documentary hit screens during President Samia’s visit to the U.S., one of the world’s strongest economies, of which she unveiled The Royal Tour documentary, as well as signing several investment projects that will soon be implemented in Tanzania
“We have signed investment projects worth Sh11.7 trillion,” President Samia said upon arrival at the Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA).
Tanzanian movies to the world
This month, three international standard and interesting short films were launched in Tanzania under the umbrella of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR.
Sweta, a comedy picture, and Nia and Jasiri, a political drama, bring forth a unique, nostalgic and authentic tone – peculiar across the region but essential to stimulate moviegoers’ attention.
Although the three short films weren’t studio-commissioned projects the art form is impeccable and inspirational.
The thrilling movies are inclusive and diverse, bringing female leads and brains behind the camera, such as Seko Shamte and upcoming actor, director and writer Sarah Kimario.
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More interestingly, the sector is gaining adequate attention with international collaboration. The sensational romantic drama, “Married to Work”, had a rich cast from Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania—sending a strong message to African film fans, “Tanzania got stories to tell”.
Over the past decade, the Tanzania film industry had a rather dim shadow, associated with sub-standard movies flooding the market and missing out on the global stage, dominated by Nigerian and South African films.
Although the number of Tanzania films dominating the international streaming platforms—Netflix and Showmax are still low, commercial and non-commercial commissioned films are essential in building the necessary resources and know-how to dominate the space.
Angela Ruhinda, Binti co-producer/co-writer and Married to Work director and writer told The Citizen about Netflix low subscription in Tanzania playing a key role in limiting access to more production resources.
“The truth of the matter is there are not enough Tanzanians subscribing to Netflix. If the numbers grew in that respect, Netflix would be motivated to produce more films in our beautiful country,” explains Angela Ruhinda, co-founder of Black Unicorn Studios.
Regulators, distributors, film companies, and local award ceremonies are now working hand-in-hand with the government to enhance the entire industry value chain.
The change is occurring from the inception of stories to the editing room. The latter is evident through recent international recognition of seasoned and amateur filmmakers.
A high-tension thriller, Mvamizi (2022), written and directed by Tanzania’s aspiring auteur Philipo Ngonyani, got Showmax’s attention and a special mention at the Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF).
Further down the line, the government of Tanzania is contributing to the fold in the front and back end.
Earlier in February, President Samia escalated Tanzania’s film industry ambition a step further by making the announcement about Idris Elba’s interest in investing in Tanzania’s film industry.
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The sensational global celebrity worth $40 million net worth has committed to transform the continent’s film industry by importing resources, networks and expertise to empower local filmmakers with the necessary know-how to charge for global box offices.
According to information from Tanzania’s Director of Presidential communication, Zuhura Yunus, Elba plans to invest in a major film studio to benefit Eastern and Central African talents.
As the world becomes keen on the potential of the art form Tanzanian filmmakers stand to reap billion with the right strategy.