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‘Inject funds into film industry’

Mohalenyane Phakela

THE outgoing Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture (MTEC) Principal Secretary (PS), Motena Tsolo, has urged the government to inject funds into the local film industry.

Tsolo said the industry has the potential to boost the country’s economy much like the Chinese film sector has done for its country.

Ms Tsolo made the remarks on Friday night at ‘Manthabiseng Convention Centre during the launch of the Chinese Film Festival.

This was the second edition of the festival in the country since 2016 in an effort to promote cultural exchange between China and Lesotho as films are more effective in telling a country’s heritage stories.

The event was attended by government officials which included minsters Motlohi Maliehe (MTEC), Samonyane Ntsekele (Water) and ‘Mamotsie Motsie (Forestry). Also in attendance were the European Union Ambassador to Lesotho, Christian Manahl, as well as members of parliament and local filmmakers among others.

The 2013 Chinese drama, The Nightingale was screened on the night. The drama is about an old man who sets off to his native village with a bird in a cage in order to keep a promise he made to his late wife.

Along the way, together with his granddaughter, he discovers new values, particularly those related to the heart and in the end finally manages to mend relations with his son (the granddaughter’s father).

Two more films, My Avatar Horse and Confucius were shown yesterday to the general public with another one, Dragon Blade, expected to be screened today at 2pm at the same venue.

The PS said that the Motion Pictures Association of Lesotho (MPALE) needed financial boost in order to achieve its goal of creating jobs and marketing the country through film.

“The Chinese film industry is one of the biggest in the world contributing heavily in the country’s gross domestic product,” she said.

“In Lesotho we are currently building our own industry and MPALE has engaged us at all levels for the ministry to feel how it is like to grow the industry.

“In order for us to be like China, we need to accompany the dream with investment so it can be fulfilled. I challenge you, honourable minister (Mr Maliehe) to talk to the Minister of Finance so that he can release funds into the industry so that it is able to tell the world about Lesotho.”

MPALE president, Mpho Letima, echoed similar sentiments saying other challenges they face were lack of infrastructure and copyright law.

She further said they also have a lot to learn from the Chinese film industry.

“MPALE was formed to offer the youth with the opportunities to excel in their passions which for a long time they were denied to follow. There is a lot being done in Africa to promote the sector such as the African Union Audio Visual Commission which is meant to promote the sector,” Letima said.

She commended the tourism ministry for walking with the filmmakers in the journey but said it was also important to accompany words with action.

“The basic issues that we need addressed are among others, studios and a strong legislative framework which will be friendly to investment,” Letima said.

She said since 1896, 53 percent of the Chinese film industry’s projects have been funded by the government and it was important for Lesotho to learn from that.

For his part, the Chinese Ambassador, Sun Xianghua, said he hoped that local filmmakers would take interest in studying filmmaking in his country.

“The purpose of this film festival is to enhance the cultural and people-to-people exchanges between our two countries and people.

“Over the years the Chinese film industry has grown tremendously both by learning from other countries and by contributing their ingenuity and distinct features.

“China leads the world by having 45 000 screens across the country. Last year, the box office sales in China reached USD 7.9 billion and the Chinese films account for 65 percent of the increase of the box office sales globally. 60 percent of films screened in China domestically produced.

“More Basotho are going to China to study and I believe the film festival will provide another window for Basotho to learn more about China and its film industry,” Dr Xianghua said.

For his part, Mr Maliehe said Lesotho’s film industry remains untapped and his ministry is working closely with MPALE to grow it.

“Lesotho has a lot of talent which needs to be natured and the initiative of MPALE will soon put growth into our industry and we can achieve that by walking the route together. The government has marked creative industry as a potential to boast our economy and create jobs.

“Let us use this opportunity to make our own signature film industry and I hope that in the near future we will showcase in China,” Mr Maliehe said.

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