The following has not been written so that you might run and tell
Master what the Negroes in the field are about to do, but instead so that you
might run and tell your brother, "Now’s our chance to be free."
One of the most important steps to building an infrastructure for
Black independent cinema in the digital age must begin with the creation and
maintenance of a distribution platform that allows people of color to have
instant home and mobile screen access to all films by people of color across
the globe. Such a digital
distribution platform must concentrate on the ability to deliver Black content
to the home and mobile screens of those consumers who are willing to pay a
monthly subscription fee so that they might unify the African Diaspora via the
exchange and enjoyment of images and stories made by Blacks across the
globe. The existence of such a
digital distribution platform would have incredible political and economic
potential in the context of the White controlled American Entertainment Complex
because it would mean that Whites and their tokens of color or ethnicity would
no longer have the exclusive power to dictate what kinds of films Blacks would
be able to produce and see of themselves.
That is to say, we would finally have the power to choose what images
and stories we want to see of ourselves without having a White cultural censor
performing the role of gatekeeper with various weapons of denial and sabotage such
as: screen ratios, international distribution impediments, false and misleading
demographic evidence, casting requirements (i.e., “Where’s the White hero?")
marketing restrictions and budgetary prohibitions.
In other words, with a digital distribution platform dedicated to
Black content, we would be able to freely share in our own cultural wealth and
willingly profit economically from our own diversity and the richness of our
existence as Black people across the globe.
As a means to accomplishing these ends that have just been described
above a French African entrepreneur Tonje Bakang, a French actor and filmmaker
Fabrice Eboue and a French technical project manager Ludovic Bostral have
collaborated together to form a new start up company that will launch later
this year called, Afrostream TV. Afrostream
TV is a SVOD (Subscription Video On Demand) distribution company that intends
to become the," Netflix of streaming Black content around the world,"
in the words of the company’s CEO Tonje Bakang in a recent interview with this
Although the idea of streaming Black content specifically to Black
audiences is not new and without competition what makes the intention of
Afrostream TV unique is that Black content will not be excluded from the existing
international audiences to which such content would appeal. For example, Bakang explains that there
is an estimated population of 15 million people of Sub-Saharan African descent
in Europe alone (France, Belgium, Spain and the U.K.) as well as a huge market
within several countries within the continent of Africa. Yet these audiences are underserved by
the American Entertainment Complex which has for decades intentionally denied
Black American filmmakers legitimate profit making access to these international
audiences under the lie that Black films won’t sell well overseas. Bakang was adamant during our interview
that Afrostream TV is not being created to distribute domestic Black content to
its domestic Black audience, but instead their mission is to deliver domestic
Black content to its existing but underserved international foreign audience.
In other words, Black films from the United States will be streamed
to subscribers in Europe and Africa as Black films from Europe and Africa will
be streamed to subscribers in the United States.
Afrostream TV African-American filmmakers who have been deliberately segregated
from international markets will soon be able to license SVOD rights of their
films to Afrostream TV for 24 months and have their works subtitled in various
languages and seen in France, French Overseas Territories, Belgium, Luxembourg,
Switzerland, U.K., and in Sub-Saharan Africa. Black audiences across the globe will be able to see and
enjoy the work of Black American filmmakers without having to resort to
bootlegging this content. The
bootlegging of Black cinema overseas while it allows an existing international
Black audience access to Black American content that is denied to them by the
American Entertainment Complex, it also impoverishes Black filmmakers across
the globe because profits cannot be recouped by the copyright holders. As a result, Black films are ghettoized
within the American Entertainment Industry with smaller budgets, shorter
development schedules and narrow genre definitions precisely because of the
lowered expectations regarding the international appeal of these films. Such an assertion gains its validity
from the fact that over the last ten years the foreign market accounts for a
larger percentage of the unadjusted box office grosses than the domestic box
office of all major studio films in release today. (See: boxofficemojo for
unadjusted foreign and domestic box office figures)
I will reiterate a conclusion about the bootlegging of Black movies
that I have stated elsewhere: The bootlegging of Black movies domestically and
internationally has been allowed to persist unimpeded by the American
Entertainment Complex as a means of maintaining power and control over Black
filmmakers and the images they are allowed to create. (See: Bootlegging and the
Plot Against African-American Film)
Afrostream TV intends to be a corrective to this major problem of
bootlegging by allowing the international audience legitimate access to U.S.
Black content while returning a percentage of its subscription fees back to the
filmmakers as recompense. We must
understand foremost that this digital distribution platform is not a get rich
quick scheme, but instead it provides a necessary service in this digital age
to deliver Black content directly to a Black global audience without a White
person as a nay saying gatekeeper in the middle.
Interested Black independent filmmakers with completed feature length
works, shorts and/or web series are urged to contact Afrostream TV at http://afrostream.tv/ for more details about the film
submission process and other legal and financial matters. CEO Tonje Bakang will also be attending
the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) in New York, June 19-22 2014 where
enterprising Black independent filmmakers can ask more detailed questions and
get the precise information they need to make their successful use of this
digital platform a reality.
Returning to a challenge that was discussed in a previous article
Black Power in the Global Film Industry that you can access here: How do we put
up or shut up?
To expand on that question in another way: What are the necessary
means to accomplish our own self-determined Black cinema that would be an
answer to our long complaint against the White controlled globally
interconnected American Entertainment Complex? Part of the answer is that we must establish, maintain and
insure the success of a digital platform for the streaming of Black content internationally
on home and mobile screens which will allow us to bypass the fixed and minimal theatrical
screen ratios determined exclusively by the White controlled American
Entertainment Complex which negatively impacts the ability of Black films to be
seen and to be profitable.
Of the many important reasons concerning the establishment of a bi-lateral
digital platform for the on-line distribution of Black content I would like to
highlight two reasons that take precedence:
1) By reaching these international Black audiences legitimately, we
as Black people can begin the first economic and political steps necessary to
have unlimited control over Black images and the economic context wherein which
we can profit from these images.
In short, we will be exerting and profiting from Black power in the
global film marketplace.
2) The success of a digital platform like Afrostream TV will also
have tremendous consequences for African-American filmmakers working within the
American Entertainment Complex. For
example, African-American filmmakers will have independently documented
demographic evidence of the existence of an international audience of people of
color who are willing to pay to see Black content produced domestically in the
United States. This evidence can
be used as leverage in the contentious negotiations with various studios of the
American Entertainment Complex for foreign licensing rights by African-American
No longer will we have to accept the lie that Black films don’t sell
Of course there is no guarantee that the negotiations for foreign
licensing rights with the American Entertainment Complex will be successful,
but coming in to the negotiations armed with independently produced evidence is
better than coming in empty-handed which is something we have done to no avail for
The real power here is that now in this digital age Black filmmakers
and audiences have options.
The sooner we let go of our romanticized vision of a domestic theatrical
release as the only criterion for a Black film’s legitimacy the sooner we can
begin to embrace the advances in technology and film delivery systems to
unshackle ourselves from the degrading ghettoization of Black cinema by the
White controlled globally interconnected American Entertainment Complex.
Yet ultimately the key to Afrostream TV’s success is if high profile
Black independent filmmakers like, for instance, Spike Lee whose crowd funded
new film Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014) were to be acquired as a SVOD deal for
international streaming or if a large amount of high quality smaller films like
Brady Hall’s SCRAPPER (2013) starring Michael Beach or the work Ava DuVernay
and many of the releases of AFFRM could be acquired as both pledges of support
and demonstrations of legitimacy in building the infrastructure necessary for
Black power in the global film industry.
But we can never become complacent because our opponent is watching
everything we do so that they might be able to put that shackle back on our
ankles and control the vision that we have of ourselves.
The most difficult truth to accept here is that some people of color
don’t actually want to be free from White capitalist exploitation and are indeed
on their way right now to tell Master what the negroes in the field are about
Is it you?