Senegalese film-makers protest moribund industry

DAKAR - A small group of Senegalese film-makers on Monday protested against the decline of the country's film industry, in a rally outside an old Dakar cinema.

The Collective of Indignant Senegalese Film-makers bemoaned a lack of state support and mismanagement of the industry under former president Abdoulaye Wade's regime.

The "Senegalese cinema was born before the Asian cinema. Today the Asian cinema is in the front row in Hollywood, at the Oscars, Cannes ... while ours is stuck debating a crisis that has lasted for years," said Mariama Sylla, one of the founders of the organisation.

In a manifesto read out at the gathering in front of a large old cinema in the capital, where posters advertising movies peel off the walls, the collective demanded an audit of funds allocated to the film industry under Wade.

"When we look at the state of Senegalese cinema, this is it," she said pointing to the building housing the Cinema Liberte, which was at its height during the 1970s and closed a few years ago.

"We want material to work!" read a poster leaning against the rusted wrought iron gates, chained shut.

Scores of cinemas once dotted the west African capital, but now lie closed, many of them turned into supermarkets or religious meeting points.

Aside from the occasional screening at a centrally located theatre or documentaries shown at the French Cultural Institute, moviegoers in Dakar are left out in the cold.

"We collectively demand the organisation of the audiovisual industry so that there is a quality national production and that television becomes a partner of cinema like elsewhere in the world," said Sylla.

The collective also wants proper training for those in the film industry, which it says could create hundreds of jobs for youths.

Culture was at the forefront of the west African nation under the father of independence poet-president Leopold Sedar Senghor, but for decades the film industry has been in decline.