In early 2021, Anglophone Cameroonian filmmakers made a momentous debut as four films were made available on the global streaming behemoth Netflix. With unprecedented ease, viewers from across the globe could suddenly watch uniquely Cameroonian stories that were once the preserve of only local audiences.
For Anglophone filmmakers in Cameroon, this walk to this global recognition has been long and tricky. They have faced not just typical challenges around issues such as funding and support but a complicated national context in trying to get their films aired and recognised.
It has to be noted that before 1990, Cameroon’s media was exclusively state-run and mostly showed Francophone films. Since private media ownership was permitted in 2000, newer stations predominantly aired foreign content such as Latino soap operas and Hollywood films. These channels have been reluctant to broadcast Cameroonian films and, according to some insiders, demanded payment from filmmakers to screen their films as they would consider this publicity.
The Anglophone crisis, in which protests against perceived marginalisation in 2016 quickly escalated into a full-blown conflict, only made the situation more difficult, both logistically and in terms of attracting funding.
Filmmaker Nkanya Nkwai, commented on the difficulties faced saying: “If you had to do a movie in Batibo or Bali because you need a specific topography, plot and other setups in the story you want to tell to make it believable, nobody will accept to go…because it’s a risk zone. It is difficult for anyone to put in money in any such project when they know that the atmosphere is not conducive”.
To recall, all four films that Netflix picked up feature some of West Africa’s biggest stars: Richard Mofe-Damijo and Iretiola Doyle in Therapy; Ramsey Nouah in The Fisherman’s Diary; Alex Ekubo in A Man for The Weekend; John Dumelo in Broken. This has helped the films attract a wider audience and immediate recognition.