The government this past week completed cross-country consultative meetings for the review of the Cinematography Act. The exercise was designed to allow the film and television industry to contribute to the country’s Gross Domestic Product and improve the lives of Batswana creatives.
Globally, sectors such as film and television are estimated to contribute hundreds of billions of dollars to the economy. Spearheaded by the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development (MYSC), the government held consultative meetings in Maun, Ghanzi, Francistown and Gaborone. MYSC intended to engage local film and television producers to suggest ideas on how the new or updated Cinematography Act could be improved to better suit their present-day needs.
In the last lap of the consultative meetings held in Gaborone, MYSC acknowledged the need to take advantage of the film and television industry as it can offer unconventional methods that stimulate innovation, create employment opportunities and grow Botswana’s economy.
The Deputy Permanent Secretary (Policy development and research) at MYSC, Victor Paledi said:
“Government has embarked on a strategy for the diversification of our economy as well as creating employment opportunities, hence the need to encourage the vigorous involvement and participation of Batswana in the creative sector. The reviews will lead to the development of regulations governing the sector as well as help it grow.”
“Don’t try to write the law, suggest all the ideas that you can think of so that the Act can be relevant. Those who write the law will be instructed to put the ideas in more appropriate legal terms,” Paledi said.
Introduced in 1970, the Cinematograph Act was aimed at regulating the making and exhibition of films and the licensing of cinemas among other things, as the production of motion pictures having not been in existence in the country.
Policy Specialist (Arts & Culture), Dineo Phuti said;
“As Botswana, we are still crawling in terms of developing the industry. There is the need for us to have appropriate governance structures, one of the structures would be appropriate legislation, policies, implementing and even regulations that are fully resourced for us to reach our destination.”
“When considering the impact of productions, you can see that it is a win, in terms of the diversification of the economy and it can bring foreign direct investment easily. It is an area in which we have to work together in order to achieve the desired goals; improving our livelihoods and ultimately, improving the economy of the country,” Phuti said.
The Botswana film and television industry experiences setbacks ranging from lack of funding, scarce filming permits to a lack of coordination among film and television producers. As there is a lack of member organisations such as the Arts Council and Associations representing the views of a collective, the government is unable to serve them individually.
The scarcity of training institutions that offer training in film and television production is another factor. There is also the need for more activities such as film festivals in the country to provide a platform for creatives to showcase their productions.
As of June 2019, a review committee was set up after Cabinet gave the go-ahead for the review of the Cinematography Act. Members of the committee included stakeholders in the film and television sector, among them the Botswana Film Association and the Copyright Society of Botswana (COSBOTS). The setting up of the committee involved inviting comments on what needed to be reviewed in the Act to get the best possible views of what people in the industry think.
The October General Elections have resulted in the benchmarking exercise being scheduled for November. However, after gathering the necessary information, the review committee will draft instructions to the Attorney General to give guidance to develop the bill and put it in more appropriate legal terms. The Ministry of Youth expects the proposal to be taken to parliament later this in December, as a Cap memo.