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Madagascar: a country that struggles and dreams of new horizons for its audiovisual authors

The history of Malagasy cinema is as rich as it is diverse. Closely linked to the political history of the country, it is important to note that Madagascar was a French colony from 1896 to 1960. This French colonization greatly influenced both the broader history of the country and its cinematography.

The first film screenings in Madagascar date back to 1897, just two years after the official birth of cinema. Since the early 20th century, several film shoots have taken place in Malagasy territory.

General Gallieni, stationed in Madagascar until 1905, promoted the development of cinema in the country, believing that cinema - considered "magical" by the Malagasy - helped to assert the authority of the colonizers.

Ady Gasy (2014), Malagasy film directed by Nantenaina Lova

Then came missionaries from Northern Europe and the United States who filmed various ethnographic documentaries about the dances, landscapes, and people of the island. They primarily used these images as propaganda tools to finance their activities in Madagascar since all these films were exclusively intended for a Western audience.

Despite the presence of cameras and operators in Madagascar, the first Malagasy film production found to date is relatively late: it dates back to 1937. Until then, the Malagasy had only been actors, extras, and material carriers.

Philippe Raberojo, a self-taught filmmaker highly regarded by the French colonizers, learned film techniques by studying books and invested his personal fortune in realizing his film project.

Ilo Tsy Very (1987), directed by Solo Randrasana

On the centenary of the martyrdom of Rasalama (a Christian martyr), Philippe Raberojo obtained a camera and directed the first docufiction in the history of Malagasy cinematography titled Rasalama Martiora voalohany.

With independence in 1960, Madagascar entered its golden age of cinema, which continued to maintain links with France, especially for the training of image and sound professionals.

The first fiction short films were shot in the early 1970s, and the first feature film, "Very Remby" by Ignace Solo Randrasana, was released in 1974.

By the late 1980s, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund decided that African states should no longer finance cinemas, leading to their gradual closure and a period of void for the seventh art.

During those years, Raymond Rajaonarivelo went to study film in Paris. Upon his return, he directed Tabataba, released in 1988, which remains the only Malagasy film to this day to have won an award at the Cannes Film Festival.

Writing a new story

With the creation of the Festival Les Rencontres du Film Court, founded by director and audiovisual writer Laza Razanajatovo, the current President of APASER, a new generation of filmmakers emerged in Madagascar.

"We estimate that currently around 1,000 productions are made annually in Madagascar. Financing is mainly limited to the SERASARY fund - created by RFC (Rencontres du Film Court) in 2011 - for short films, while larger productions depend on selective grants and co-productions with neighboring countries, as there used to be support funds within the Ministry of Culture, but it has been discontinued," Laza Razanajatovo tells AV CREATORS NEWS.

Series and films in Madagascar are generally funded through selective grants, mostly from France. Co-productions with neighboring countries include South Africa, Reunion (an island located east of Madagascar), and Mauritius, although private channels like Canal Plus also often finance Malagasy series.

It is worth noting that most productions are made independently. "Given the lack of substantial support from public entities, there is no real accountability to a supervisory ministry. That is why there is no need to apply for an operating license," explains the director who is part of the Board of Directors of AVACI.

- What influence do platforms like Netflix, Amazon, Disney, and others have on Madagascar?

- These platforms influence local production in Madagascar one way or another through the various co-productions we carry out. However, currently, the influence is not direct because Netflix does not even produce or film anything on Malagasy territory.

Audiovisual authors: their rights and the role of APASER

The author’s rights law has existed in Madagascar since 1995. However, audiovisual authors do not receive compensation they consider fair. "This is due to several factors, particularly political instability leading to very frequent changes in government and the Ministry of Culture, which influences the activities of the authors' society," says Razanajatovo.

Laza Razanajatovo, director, screenwriter and president of APASER

- What role has APASER played with audiovisual authors in Madagascar since its creation?

- APASER has existed as an Alliance since 2017, and we have managed to conduct a census of authors on the continent. Since 2022, APASER has become a Collective Management Organization, an organization mainly dedicated to the administration and distribution of author’s rights for African screenwriters and directors. Our main goal is to help solve problems with authors in Africa in general by organizing documentation and work identification. We also aspire to fair distribution for the Societies. Currently, we are still in the documentation phase, that is, registering the works of our 13,000 members one by one on the AVSYS platform, in addition to finalizing contracts with authors.


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