Wednesday, October 21, 2020

New hope for aspiring actors and filmmakers in Botswana

They say the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, and the second best time is now.

Twenty years since it was established in South Africa as the South African School of Motion Picture Medium and Live Performance, AFDA hopes to give the local television and film industry the well needed kiss of life. For a long time the Botswana entertainment industry has lacked the necessary creative talent to make our cinematic voices heard and tell our own stories from our own perspective. Save for Connie Ferguson back in the nineties, it has until much recently been difficult to name a single Motswana who has made it internationally in film and/or television. Even the introduction of the state owned Botswana Television (Btv) at the turn of the 21st century has not done much to help cultivate raw talent.

It has failed to elevate the local industry to at least within reach of international standards. Those who had access to television sets in the early to mid-nineties would agree that even more than two decades later, the then SA’s CCV television station would still give Btv a run for its money. AFDA Botswana, a private tertiary institution based in Oodi village, will open its doors in August later this year. “Our aim is to offer tertiary training in the creative and entertainment industries to invigorate the Botswana creative industry,” says a statement from the institution. Speaking at a press briefing on Friday AFDA Botswana’s Spokesperson Tsholofelo Ntshingane said 65 percent of active people in SA’s creative industry are AFDA’s alumni. “The institution has in one way or another contributed immensely to South Africa’s GDP. We are more hands-on than just academic,” Ntshingane said.

Frustrated by the lack of well-trained performers, government complacency, and an audience that has been so exposed to the best of Hollywood material they would settle for nothing less, local film makers are struggling to bring their stories to life. When a rare opportunity presented itself and the international audience had finally set their eyes on Botswana, foreigners stole the limelight. The producers of Alexander McCall Smith’s No 1 Ladies Detective Agency had to source the main actors from outside while locals stood in the background and watched. Only the best was required and we didn’t meet the criteria.

Locals were only good enough for extras. Is AFDA Botswana just what the doctor ordered for the local entertainment industry? “Our goal is to develop a tertiary education institution that contributes to Botswana’s nation building and rewards all stakeholders by providing stimulating ,rigorous and globally integrated learning experience that empowers students with creative professional skills, enabling the graduates to grow innovative and sustainable entertainment and media communication economies,” said the institution’s Gerda Dullaart. She said 61 percent of the institution’s alumni in SA find work within three months of graduation while the other 14 percent continue their studies.

Koketso Mophuting, a Motswana young woman who plays the role of ‘Kaone’ in SA’s Isibaya tv drama series, is an AFDA alumna. Lifestyle got the opportunity to have a conversation with her recently while she was in the country. She said it was while studying at AFDA that she landed a small supporting role in E-TV’s Rhythm City. “I also did commercials for KFC and MTN Nigeria and played a role in a miniseries, Single Mothers,” Mophuting told Lifestyle. She would land the Isibaya role after completing her studies at AFDA. The institution will offer among others: Barchelor of Arts in Live Performance; Bachelor of Arts in Motion Picture Medium; Bachelor of Arts (Honors) in Live Performance; Higher Certificate in Film, Television and Entertaiment Production; and Master of Fine Arts.

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