Local Animation: A Way Out of Poverty

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions


One of the more remarkable creative developments since 2000 has been the explosion in animation production in the developing world, in particular Asia. Once seen as frivolous or unnecessary, animation is now acknowledged as a high-growth area and a critical component in the emerging economies being shaped by information technology.

The demand for more animation is being fuelled by several trends. Lucrative outsourcing contracts with major global film studios like Walt Disney and Warner Brothers get much of the attention. But even more importantly for small entrepreneurs, the rapid growth of information technology and mobile phones is fuelling demand for animation with a local flavour, which is an excellent way to make applications more attractive to users. As computers and animation software become cheaper, it is easier for entrepreneurs to compete with the bigger studios. It all started with the popularity of Japanese anime animation, which kicked the door open in the West, sparking an appetite for fresh, new styles unseen before.

The animation leaders in Asia are Japan, Republic of Korea, Philippines and Taiwan Province of China, with India rising quickly. As animation production is very lucrative and a labor-intensive business (labor takes up 70 to 80 percent of business costs), other Asian countries such as India, China, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore have recently started their own industries.

The National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM) has forecast the Indian animation sector to gross overall turnover of US $950 million in 2009, while its gaming industry will reach US $300 million in 2009 (from US $30 million in 2005). The global industry is huge: it is estimated that games will gross US $11 billion and animation US $35 billion by 2009. In the Philippines, growth has been 25 per cent a year since 2005 (National Statistics Office), and the government has been heavily promoting animation as a viable career and business opportunity. China was able to make US $604 million in 2005. The AWN’s Animation Industry Database lists 48 studios operating in the Philippines alone. Others benefiting are Thailand, Taiwan Province of China and Republic of Korea. And even in Africa, there have been attempts to get things going.

Ambitiously, China hopes to raise its home-made share of the animation pie from 10 per cent and to increase its overall animation programming from 5,000 hours/year to 16, 7000/year. In 2004, the Chinese government set up four animation schools: Communication University of China, Beijing Film Academy, China Academy of Art, and Tianjin Sorun Digital Media School. More than 200 animated films were produced in 2004.

Indian animation feature productions have exploded in the past few years. In 2005, animated feature Jai Hanuman started the current boom. Its quality marked a departure from past Indian productions and heralded in a new era. Importantly, it out-grossed any Disney film in India, and proved films featuring local topics could be commercially successful. It is a difficult market with 14 official languages and 1,400 dialects. At present, the huge Indian market has little locally produced animation to feed its needs. But by 2007, 71 Indian animation films were announced to be in production.

Productions in development draw heavily on India’s culture and love of gods. They include Epiphany Films’ The Dream Blanket, a Tibetan fairy tale, and Graphiti studios’ Action Hero BC, a teenager who fights evil.

The world’s animation producers scour India for talent to outsource. Global films with some Indian production in them include Finding Nemo, The Lion King and The Adventures of Tenali Raman. Toonz Animation Studio based at the Technopark in Kerala, was called by Animation Magazine one of the top ten studios in the world.

In Africa, South Africa has by far the most dynamic and sophisticated animation sector. Ten years after the birth of democracy, hundreds of production companies and several 2D animation houses were established. In turn, South Africa advertises itself as a cheaper place to produce animation.

The highly successful South African 3D animated series Magic Cellar by Morula Pictures – the first of its kind based on African culture – was successfully sold to the US Home Box Office channel this year. Based on 20 folk tales, the stories were collected through interviews with elders in African villages. Mfundi Vundla, 58, who owns Johannesburg’s Morula Pictures, South Africa’s largest black-led studio, said his productions are meant to counter the perception of “Africans as unsophisticated, superstitious idiots who visited witch doctors to solve problems.” It employs 60 people and dozens of actors.

In 2004, UNESCO’s Africa Animated! was launched, with East Africa’s first animation project. The participants undertook animation, drawing techniques, scriptwriting for animation and storyboarding. The project was launched to assemble resources and expertise for the production of culturally relevant children’s animated cartoons and programmes in Africa. It sought to create a high-quality “African branded” training and production model, in order to make African animation competitive for regional organizations to produce animated TV series, Public Service Announcements (PSA) and short films.

The Nairobi office is seeking to establish a Regional Training and Production Centre for Animation in Kenya in 2008.

Moustapha Alassane of Niger and one of Africa’s film pioneers, said: “The good thing about animation is that you can do it on a shoe-string budget. With the computer, animation is getting easier and anyone can do it now. I want to encourage young Africans to use new technologies for animation.”

Published: December 2007


Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

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New African Film Proving Power of Creative Economy

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions


A new movie is generating excitement around life in the war-torn, chaotic and impoverished Democratic Republic of the Congo( – the central African nation – and proving how versatile and resilient a creative economy can be in a crisis.

Viva Riva! ( is set in the capital, Kinshasa, and gives a raw portrayal of sex, violence and gangsters in the city. The film has already won a fistful of awards, and will now be released in 18 African countries.

Written and directed by Djo Tunda Wa Munga, it is being hailed as the first feature-length film to be made in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 25 years. The industry was shut down by long-serving dictator and President Mobutu Sese Seko, who was overthrown in 1997 in the First Congo War by Laurent-Désiré Kabila, who was supported by the governments of Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda.

Africa has a rich film history but its movies have struggled to reach commercial audiences – both on the continent and around the world – outside of showcases at film festivals. Without access to a wide audience, filmmakers are not able to make the sort of profits possible for films with a wide commercial distribution. It has also been hard to compete with the big budgets and the big publicity machines of traditional film centres like Hollywood or Europe. But it looks like Viva Riva! could change that situation.

Indigenous African filmmaking took off as countries became independent of their colonial European rulers in the 1960s and 1970s. One example is the Senegalese film comedy Xala (, directed by Ousmane Sembéne, and considered a classic. Previous portrayals of Africa have mostly been viewed through the cinematic lens of Europeans.

As the second largest country in Africa, the Congo has an estimated population of over 71 million (2011 estimate), with Kinshasa home to more than 8 million people (CIA – The World Factbook). It has suffered badly from war and chaos and has some of the world’s worst statistics for rape and sexual violence brought about by these conditions. The so-called Second Congo War began in 1998 and is considered the world’s deadliest conflict since the Second World War.

As a result, the world’s biggest United Nations peacekeeping mission is in the country in an attempt to stabilise the situation. (

Filmmaking forms part of the creative economy, a vital and growing sector in many countries. As the Creative Economy Report 2010 states: “A new development paradigm is emerging that links the economy and culture, embracing economic, cultural, technological and social aspects of development at both the macro and micro levels. Central to the new paradigm is the fact that creativity, knowledge and access to information are increasingly recognized as powerful engines driving economic growth and promoting development in a globalizing world.”

For example,Nigeria’s US $2.75 billion annual film industry is the third largest in the world, following the U.S. and India. Nigeria’s ‘Nollywood’ produces more than 1,000 films a year, creating thousands of jobs, and is the country’s second most important industry after oil. In recognition of its importance, the country’s government has invested in the industry, reforming policies and providing training to promote film production and distribution.

The Creative Economy Report 2010 has highlighted a few key trends for the global South. It found that creative industry products, especially domestically consumed ones like videos, music, video games and TV programmes, are weathering the global economic crisis well. It also found the creative economy can help boost economies and bring countries out of recession if the right government policies are in place.

The exporting of creative goods and services continues to grow, doubling from 2002 to 2008. This represented a 14 percent per year growth rate. The global South’s exporting of creative goods reached a high of US $176 billion by 2008 and represented 43 percent of the world’s total creative industries trade.

The majority of the world’s mobile phones are now in developing countries, representing a vast, new platform for distributing, sharing and selling cultural products and services. Broadband Internet is also being rolled out to more countries and represents an enormous emerging opportunity waiting for enterprising people to seize.

The report also found more and more cities across the global South are placing creative economies at the centre of their urban development, emphasising culture and creative activities.

For Viva Riva!, the next stop is Africa-wide release in Botswana, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Lesotho, South Africa, Swaziland and Uganda. The film’s producers have their sights set on even more countries in central and West Africa.

“We want to show that you can release African films acrossAfrica,” co-producer Steven Markovitz told The Guardian. “As far as we can tell, it’s unprecedented. No one has tried to do an Africa-wide release in so many countries.”

There is more at stake with the film than just Congolese pride: it is about proving an African film can successfully take on the slick and well-funded film distribution machines deployed byAmerica’s Hollywood and European film distributers.

With the African middle class growing and a burgeoning African consumer class now clearly identified, many see this as the right time to make African film pay.

“African cinemas have been dominated by Hollywood and European cultural programmes catering to the intellectual elite, not tapping into a growing middle class who are interested in seeing films about themselves and their neighbours,” Markovitz told The Guardian.

“There is an audience, a real market for African films. They have disposable income and they want to be entertained. We hope that this will create a pipeline for further African titles on the continent.”

Viva Riva! is in French and Lingala ( The story revolves around a hustler who makes quick cash stealing oil and celebrates by going on a hedonistic romp through Kinshasa’s night clubs.

The film had its international debut at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival and won the 2011 MTV Movie award for best African film.

Markovitz is from South African film production company Big World Cinema ( The producers hope the film will appeal to both French speakers and English speakers.

“There are distribution challenges in Africa but we thought this one presents an opportunity to make it happen,” he said. “Some African films have felt like homework but this is an entertaining action film and we think it can cross language barriers. We have to try things out.”

Critics have said good things about the film. The Nigerian actor and director Akin Omotoso told The Guardian: “I loved Viva Riva! Absolute breath of fresh air, an adrenalin rush from top to bottom, a great gangster flick.”

The film is unique as an African production that has “captured not just international attention but the continent’s attention”, he added.

“I think it stands a good chance; as we know, it’s up to the audience but either way it has made history.”

Published: November 2011


1) UNCTAD Global Database on the Creative Economy. Website:

2) Creative Economy Report 2010: Creative Economy: A Feasible Development Option. Website:

4) Dictionary of African Filmmakers from Indiana University Press. Website:

6) The Filmmakers Guide to South Africa is the most recognised, established and representative brand marketing the South African film industry locally and internationally. Website:

7) Youth Filmmakers Africa: An initiative in Kenya to inspire the next generation of filmmakers. Website:

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Bolivian Film School’s Film Scene Paying Off

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions


A film school in Bolivia shows how a creative hub can become the start of something much bigger. The school is inspiring a new generation of young people to get into filmmaking. And one of its lecturers is already experiencing global success acting in an award-winning new Spanish film.

Bolivia’s economy has grown over the last decade, and the country is beginning to shed its long-standing reputation for grinding poverty and political instability. Public spending has risen, and more money has been put into programmes to reduce poverty. More students are entering higher education and the country recognizes an urgent need for greater awareness and understanding of modern technology.

Film and media production have been targeted as an important way to advance Bolivia’s social and economic development.

Veteran Bolivian filmmaker Jorge Sanjines ( has been one of the most passionate exponents of using film to spread the stories and wisdom of Bolivia’s indigenous people. He believes their stories understand the need to balance the demands of humanity with preservation of the environment. Film, to him, is a way to liberate Bolivian society and address its pervasive problems of poverty, hunger and marginalization.

This chimes with rising global awareness of the importance of the creative economy in future development. No longer seen as a frippery, the creative economy is the “interface between creativity, culture, economics and technology in a contemporary world dominated by images, sounds, texts and symbols” (UNCTAD). It is seen as a way for emerging economies to leapfrog into high-growth areas in the world economy.

It’s a formula that has worked well in many other places. A successful art gallery fosters a scene and draws in audiences, buyers and new businesses. Soon, a creative economy comes alive and that means serious money. Both New York and London have shown how this can work. By 2005, New York City’s creative economy employed over 230,899 people in 24,481 businesses (Americans for the Arts).

Creative economies tend to create excitement and pride in the country; creative businesses like advertising and design make it much easier to sell products and connect with customers. It is hard to imagine the Apple computer brand ( being as successful as it is without intelligent and engaging design.

Regeneration – of poor neighbourhoods, districts, even whole countries – is both a challenge and a key to transforming lives. There is a strong track record of turning to artists and creative people to re-imagine neighbourhoods or a country’s culture, restoring pride and vitality to places beaten down by life’s hardships.

In the Bolivian city of El Alto (,_La_Paz), the Cine Alto film school at the Municipal Arts School of El Alto (, offers students a free education in filmmaking. Lecturer and actor Juan Carlos Aduviri is one of the high-profile successes to come from the school since it opened in 2006.

A graduate of the school and a lecturer on screenwriting, he got a big career boost by acting in a major new, award-winning film and is nominated as Best Newcomer by Spain’s top film awards, the Goyas ( The nomination is for his role in the Spanish film Even the Rain ( – set in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba, where protests a decade ago broke out over privatisation of water services. It stars well-known Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal, who plays a filmmaker set on making a movie about the Spanish conquest of the Americas. While making the film, the so-called “water wars” break out and the actor played by Aduviri must balance his film role with being a protest leader.

The protests against water privatisation in Cochabamba led to the election of Evo Morales ( as Bolivia’s president in December 2005.

Cine Alto is one of four film schools in Bolivia but the only one that does not charge students tuition. Cash is tight for the school, which is a simple place and runs on thin resources. The classrooms have bare walls and broken windows, but the school is serious about transforming the lives of young people. The curriculum emphasises a strong theoretical foundation in combination with technical and practical training.

“Conditions in Bolivia to make a film are challenging and in El Alto, it’s even more difficult,” Aduviri told the BBC.

“Life is hard here in El Alto, and this film school is trying to rescue this talent, and support these young people.”

A member of Bolivia’s indigenous people, the Aymara (, Aduviri grew up in El Alto, a city known for its strong pride and resilience. It is home to almost a million people, most of whom are Aymara.

He studied screenwriting and turned to teaching at the school after graduating. He is passionate about filmmaking as an alternative to negative influences in the community: he wanted the film school “to give a voice to all the talent that we’re losing to alcohol, drugs, prostitution, homelessness and gangs.”

One student, Edson Chambiborque, told the BBC: “”He has taught us to value the little that we have in this school, and never drop our heads despite all the difficulties we may have.”

Aduviri comes from a poor family but now makes a good salary by Bolivian standards: US $200 a month. (The average monthly wage in Bolivia is around US $90). He still lives with his mother in a poor neighbourhood. His father, a miner, died of lung disease.

He wants to become a director and screenwriter and dreams of his film career taking him to the Cannes Film Festival in France (

He will continue acting to raise the money to be able to finance his own films. With the money he has made from appearing in the Spanish film, he has bought a computer with film editing software and a television. He has a goal to watch two movies a day on his new television and keep learning.

Appearing in the film has catapulted his career to the next level: the phone is always ringing and the world’s media keep asking for interviews. It has come with trips to Europe to promote the film and receive awards. He also won the best actor award from the Festival de Cinema Europeen des Arcs ( An impressive journey for somebody from a poor family.

When he saw his first movie he was inspired by the magic of filmmaking. He told the BBC: “It was showing Rambo. And that day I realised what I wanted to do. When I left the cinema, I said: I want to make films.”

Bolivian film has had to fight for attention with other Central and South American countries. Brazil, Argentina and Chile all have experienced global success. The country has a rich – but little-known – film history, with significant Bolivian filmmakers including Pedro Sambarino, Jorge Ruiz, Oscar Soria, Jorge Sanjines, Antonio Eguino, Paolo Agazzi, Rodrigo Bellott, Juan Carlos Valdivia, Adriana Montenegro, Marcos Loayza.

Bolivia is looking to the digital age to rectify its relative anonymity, and Cine Alto may be ground zero for a Bolivian film new wave.

Published: March 2011


1) European film festival in Bolivia, with screenings across the country. Website:

2) Cine Alto on Facebook: Website:

3) Global Creative Economy Convergence Summit 2009: The summit is about the successful and emerging creative technologies and initiatives that are driving economic growth locally, nationally and internationally. Website:

4) AltoTV: A non-profit television documentary-making project that has made small films on El Alto. Website:

5) The Public University of El Alto: Website:

6) Creative Economy Report 2008. An economic and statistical assessment of creative industries world-wide as well as an overview of how developing countries can benefit from trade in creative products and services, produced by UNCTAD and the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation in UNDP. Website:

7) A course on Bolivian filmmaking taught by award-winning filmmaker Ismael Saavedera. Website:

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Angolan Film Grabs Attention at Film Festival

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions


The power of the creative economy to transform lives, livelihoods – and perceptions – should never be underestimated. Creativity can transform the image of places and situations often seen in a negative light. A film from Angola is shining a light on the country’s music scene and showing the vitality of the nation in the wake of a long-running civil war.

Angola’s vicious civil war ran from 1975 to 2002 ( and the country is still recovering from the economic and social damage wreaked by the conflict.

The film Death Metal Angola ( was a hit of the recent Dubai International Film Festival (, an annual film showcase running every December in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the Middle East.

Death Metal Angola illustrates the power of film storytelling to draw attention to a country and spark interest in its culture and challenges.

The film focuses on the hidden world of heavy metal music (of which death metal is a sub-genre) ( in Angola – but it was not supposed to be about heavy metal music at all.

The story starts with American director Jeremy Xido ( Originally asked to do a film on immigration, Xido happened upon a railway line in Angola being built by Chinese workers. The railway line was being built in the town of Huambo ( in central Angola.

“There’s only one cafe in Huambo where you can get a decent cup of coffee,” he told the UAE’s The National news website. “Everyone interested in coffee is there: expats, military guys, Lebanese businessmen, people from all over the place.”

Hanging out in the café, he met a young man, Wilker Flores, who said he was a musician.

“He said he played death metal, and I just thought: ‘I have to hear this.’”

Flores’ partner, Sonia Ferreira, runs an orphanage and Wilker invited Xido to come hear him play.

“It was in this really poor neighbourhood with no electricity, and there’s Wilker with an amplifier and guitar and stolen electricity from this wire. We lit him with the headlights from an SUV (sport utility vehicle) and he proceeded to play this impromptu death metal concert in the middle of an orphanage with kids running around. It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.


Xido then discovered that Ferreira and Flores were organizing the country’s first heavy metal music concert. While they were planning the concert, Xido was inspired to switch to making the film Death Metal Angola.

The documentary took about six weeks to film. Filming took place around Huambu, Benguela and Angola’s booming capital, Luanda. It is a mix of interviews with musicians, including some from the death metal and thrash metal scenes.

The origins of this music scene in Angola reaches back to the country’s former colonial ruler, Portugal, a country where heavy metal rock music has a strong fan base.

Xido found the love for metal music was a by-product of the civil war years. “During the war, a lot of the young guys – if they had the opportunity – would go to Portugal to study to get away from armed service, and they were often exposed to contemporary rock.”

There are local links, too. “Wilker says that rock is actually African in its roots, and says that a lot of the rhythms you’ll find in the countryside are the rhythms you’ll find in death metal.”

“I think a lot of it has to do with looking back at the war and the sort of unfilled promises of post-war,” said Xido, who adds that the lyrics have very political messages and those involved are highly intellectual.

“A lot of these guys are working in banks or doing IT. There’s a young guy who is considered to have the best metal growl. He wanted to come to Dubai, but is studying electronics and has exams.”

Filmmaking is a vibrant part of the global creative economy. According to a 2011 UIS (UNESCO Institute for Statistics) survey, two countries in the global South lead the world in filmmaking. India remains the world’s leading film producer, and Nigeria, with its prolific home video market, continues to hold second place ahead of the United States.

According to the Creative Economy Report 2010, the creative economy is “A new development paradigm” linking the economy and culture, embracing economic, cultural, technological and social aspects of development at both the macro and micro levels.

“Central to the new paradigm is the fact that creativity, knowledge and access to information are increasingly recognized as powerful engines driving economic growth and promoting development in a globalizing world,” the report says.

And as for Xido, making the film has opened his ears to heavy metal music, which he says was not what he listened to growing up.

“Because of these guys I started listening to Pantera and Sepultura and I really got into it. Metal on headphones in New York is fantastic. I love the way they like it in Angola, where it’s a huge expression of joy.”

But what about the other film, the one about immigration and the railway? “It’s still in production,” Xido said.

Published: February 2013


1) UNESCO Institute for Statistics: A treasure trove of data and analysis on the impact of culture. Website:

2) How to Make a Movie: Tips on movie-making in 23 steps with pictures. Website:

3) How to Make a Video: The 3-step process of making a video. Website:

4) Coming soon … how to make the perfect movie trailer: If you want to get your movie noticed, you need an eye-catching trailer. Just follow these simple rules. Website:

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London Edit

31 July 2013

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