News / Latest / Ernest Kanjo / Tuesday, 19 March 2013 18:28

yibianMarch 23 is in the next couple of days and there is growing anxiety among film makers and artists who as the Cameroon Film Industry election approaches. Since the announcement of this administratively serious event by out-going president Waa Musi, there has been a lot of mixed feelings. While some members of the film family are bracing to take full part in the election and perhaps keep the CFI structure in total consolidation, others are simply chilly on it. The latter would prefer a complete overhaul of the manner in which the industry and/or CFI is run. To these folks, the up-coming election of a president is uncalled for Ė rather, the creation of guilds, which had started should be followed up as the position of president disappears. A lot of ink has flowed on this issue, especially via the CFI-run yahoo forum. There have equally been serious reactions to the interviews we had with the two leading contestants Ė incumbent and defending Waa Musi and challenging Otia Vitalis. These reactions have not left us indifferent. We then sought to take open up and have a media look on the side of the story that is seemingly raising eyebrows. One of the most vocal film makers in the current issue is Yibain Emile-Aime Chah, popularly known with the industry circles as Ancestor. We sought to know what really the problem is, after scores of reactions he has had, including those to TIPTOPSTARS stories. On the line to Buea, Ancestor spoke with Editor Ernest Kanjo. Excerpts!
Ernest Kanjo (EK): Do you like the idea of a CFI?

Yibain Emile-Aime (YE): CFI as a motion pictures association with a good production code Ė yes! CFI as a production code administration Ė yes! CFI with the nature of a Njangi house or a political party, I say No! CFI with a list system of voting, whatever that mean, I say no! CFI which looks just like another production house, I insist, no!
EK: The CFI was created and placed on a philosophy of specialization and professionalism in film making Ė do you have any quarrel with that?

YE: The CFI was created for that purpose. Yes, I do agree. But a mistake was made on the very first day and I tried to cry foul. It however made no sense to quit a bulk of stakeholders present at St. Therese Molyko Buea that day because excitement was in control. People cared more about positions and not about what was to be the true way forward of the industry. That way forward was going to be the putting in place of a good production code and functional guilds from which competent production code administrators would spring up. This was neglected. Thank God it was only a caretaker committee that managed to do their best, a best that is Ė Iím afraid, below standards. I cannot attribute this failure entirely to the committee, but Iíd also blame it on the fact that we often go childishly excited over serious issues, and when they backfire, we cry foul and prepare ourselves to commit even greater errors. We are always too much in haste. Two words in your question are key Ernest - specialization and professionalism. These exactly are the things that are not encouraged in this kind of CFI that I donít like. For years, we proposed the organization of workshops that virtually never held. Everybody wants to be everything, and those who donít want any progress have very strong points they advance each time they are approached. Na we own style or we are still a young industry, we are still growing. For my thirteen years in this film industry, I have heard this over and over again. If we really do want to be professionals, then we have to set high standards and try to meet up with them. If we with adult minds in a so called infant industry keep setting low standards, we would keep shooting lower. Let the clear images that we are obtaining from the new digital inventions like the canons and what have you, not deceive us to think that we are advancing. By default, those equipments are made to yield clarity. But my question is where the cinematography and the art in these images are. Since everyone can afford an EOS Canon, they have automatically become what I would hesitate to mention. In conclusion, for almost five years nothing has been done on specialization and professionalism which are the philosophy on which CFI was created. With the exception of one good idea that popped up in Yaounde, I mean the critique club which unfortunately was not sustained, nothing great really happened within CFI. The critique session however brought about some improvement in filmmaking within that short period of time.

EK: You have been strongly opposed to the idea of a President of CFI who will consequently be President of the film industry, should the March 23 election hold Ė why?

YE: Yes indeed, Iím even more strongly opposed to the idea of a president. This idea that has become a hot issue and I think is a huge distraction and a complete deviation from the true problems of the CFI. I can state with about 8eighty per cent certainty that anyone in support of this idea of a president at this point in time in the history of CFI is either just an amateur in this motion picture production business, or someone who has not yet grasped the concept, or even someone who understands, but is simply exercising some degree of greed and dishonesty. This stage has been made more fragile by the Caretaker Committee that faced a complicated task in laying down the foundation after we allowed them to be haphazardly picked. The few guilds exist so far and are supposed to furnish the production code administration are in total confusion as I speak now. There is chaos from where some unserious people in the industry are preparing to reap. How on earth can elections be announced when it is fully well understood that structures have not been put in place? Most dangerous of all, a list system is introduced. Hmm! I fear for the industry. If you find a number of the top filmmakers in Yaounde on March 23, Iíd have to take credit for working extra hard to convince them of a good reason to be there. They had all taken a decision to go solo as independent filmmakers. We will be in Yaounde for one reason only. Ensure a proper way forward for the industry, by dissolving the committee, and focusing on the text which I would prefer to call a production code than a constitution. How can we even talk of a president when the industry hasnít got a distributors guild? Si we need a production code and not a president.

EK: How should a film industry be structured by the way?

YE: The essence of an industry is production. Production is for the consumers which in this case is the public Ė not only the Cameroonian public, but the world at large. The industry needs a production code and independent guilds that have the status of syndicates. Guilds should run themselves and their problems. Competent delegates elected or chosen from the guilds who may not necessarily be guild leaders, worthwhile representatives of the countryís central administration, probably from the Ministry of Arts and Culture, or from the Senate, etc. should be assigned with the administration of the production code hence called the Production Code Administration.   This Production Code Administration ought to ensure uniform, impartial, interpretation and application of the articles of the code. They may choose to elect a spokesperson, a CEO, a President whatever they would want to call it, but whose function will be essentially the exact functions of the Production Code Administration.

EK: Have you tried to talk your opinion out to the people who lead the caretaker committee of CFI Ė if yes, what has been their response?

YE: I have several times. I had an interesting talk with Mr. Waa recently over this issue. It was at a moment when I was contemplating to follow my colleagues who had already grown so bitter and discouraged about the CFI and completely counted themselves out. I admit every individual has a good and bad side. But that is not at all my focus. The S.G, Chaitoh Collins is my friend and brother, we have had several discussions about CFI. He had realized that many film makers in Buea were more inclined to production and improvement in their skill than the whole CFI politics. He had understood that the clear message we were sending was that that the administration of the CFI could be more effective as a functional and practical body. On the CFI yahoo forum, I have made several attempts to point out our real problems and even proposed solutions to no avail. In January 2011 at the Goteborg International Film Festival in Sweden which if Iím not mistaken should be the fourth biggest film festival in the world, I was one of the two panelists, selected to talk on behalf of up-and-coming African filmmakers. Would I say I naively pitched the case of Cameroon and CFI? As a result I was given scores of industry manuals that could help aspiring producers and directors to solicit for funding at various levels. I filled my bags with books, not buying anything good for myself from Europe, just to come, distribute the books to the producers and directors I met. I am sad to say till today, no one has made use of the material, yet we complain of lack of equipment, sponsors and a market.   Many other people have tried to talk this out but the caretaker committee wonít take them seriously. What about educating members about SCAAP. The copyright corporation?, What about organizing training workshops?. I vividly remember my fellow film maker, Njunkeng George offering to train folks, free-of-charge in editing. But this was never taken seriously.

EK: Recently, Otia Vitalis declared his intensions to run for the presidency of CFI, you reacted soon after reading. Do you maintain what you wrote?

YE: I do maintain what I wrote. This comes back to what I have mentioned earlier. Let the proper stage be set first. I donít love to see people being victimized. Each person in this industry is a potential co-worker and a friend. I speak my truth and honest feelings to friends even when it may hurt them momentarily. This is for the good of us all. The issues of the industry have not been addressed and Iím very certain that whoever is going in for the presidency has a list prepared with each at least five very influential people with unclear intentions. The stage is not properly set. If we honestly want to take this industry forward, letís keep this president issue aside and focus on the working text dubbed constitutional amendment and a proper way forward for guilds, highlighting one for distributors.
EK: What would be your next step or decision if the status quo remains and either Waa or Otia are elected Ė would you just throw in the towel and let go?

YE: What is the use of a ticking clock when the hands of time do not change? All my contributions are built from thirteen years of experience in the industry. Iím not saying they are all right. Iím not saying they must be adopted, Iím simply stating they are words for the wise or food for thought. Incidentally all those who have managed to school themselves properly within the milieus of the seven art share my points of view a great deal, for they as well as I do, understand the stakes. If people end up choosing to use a sandy floor as their plates they will have themselves to blame. My worries are for those genuine aspirants out there who are seeking the chance to be known by the world as great film makers. If the potential industry chooses to be a political party, I will turn to my preferred fishes Indie Filmmaking content myself with it. Indeed, Iíll throw in the towel and let go.

EK: Will you be at the Yaoundť Conference Centre on March 23?

YE: Iím doing everything to be there and give the best contributions I can. I have convinced a lot of valuable audio-visual and motion pictures artists who had declared themselves out and not part of CFI to come in and give the last try, which if this falls on a duckís back I will join them in wiping the dust off my feet.

EK: What would you be telling the assembly if you go there?

YE: I will see to the existence of the production code and would do my best to make them see why we should not haste, why we should take more time in laying down a good code and form the guilds especially with the distributorsí guild as main focus. I will recommend workshops on film project development, grant writing for all levels film making - from script and development, through pre-production, production, and post production to distribution. The culture of short film production and the re-establishment of the critique club and media reviews.

EK: One last word to CFI

YE: Honesty, the willingness to challenge self, learn more, go beyond limits, self discipline and love for God and for oneís neighbor.

EK: Ancestor I want to thank you for taking off time to talk on this salient issue. See you some other time.

YE: The pleasure is equally mine. Thank you so much Ernest for the concern youíve always shown to this industry and thumps up to TIPTOPSTARS.


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