News / Latest / Ernest Kanjo / Wednesday, 13 August 2014 20:55

otia tiptopstars

CAMEROON - Soon after June 2008, men and women who love the seventh art and aspire to thrive in it have been putting on a different lens with which to view the practice of this noble profession. This is thanks to the setting up a structure whose mission is the oversee the dos and don’ts in a bid to provide the most acceptable quality of work in a sector hitherto considered as lame within the entertainment circles in Cameroon. That body, the Cameroon Film Industry, CFI kicked off that year with an unimaginable pump and since then has been a veritable centre of attraction, even with numerous challenges. For one thing, it is generally agreed that CFI is and will remain one of the most brilliant ideas and initiatives in the history of filmmaking in Cameroon, perhaps reason why it has not quickly gone the readers’ digest way as has been the case with several other sassy Cameroonian courses. The organization’s turning point came in March 2013 when a board, made up of 15 members, drawn from the various guilds was elected. This board replaced a defunct caretaker committee with a clear-cut and non-negotiable assignment of shooting CFI into the skies. Results, no matter how they were defined, had to be delivered, an elective General Assemble on March 26, 2013 in Yaounde insisted. At the helm of the team in which hopes were vested was talented and famous elderly actor Otia Vitalis. The CFI ride has continued since the Yaounde-based film administrator took up the command baton. To some keen Cameroonian film industry observer, this is work that doesn’t get done in a day, so Otia’s administration is gradually, but steadily moving towards the lighted end of the tunnel. To others, the pace is rather too slow for a course that is so badly in need of quick progress. But to the CFI board chair, much ground has been covered despite challenges that are independent of his making. TIPTOPSTARS has been observing the scene and 16 months after the Otia team came on board, we decided to take the temperature of progress. Otia Vitalis accepted to speak to Editor Ernest Kanjo. In the following interview, he makes certain breaking revelations including the fact that the Minister of Culture does not care about CFI. Because of the sensitive nature of the interview and for purposes of accuracy, we published Otia’s words the way they came. Excerpts!

Ernest Kanjo (EK): It’s sixteen months plus since you rose to the office of Board chair of the Cameroon Film Industry, CFI with the mission of implementing change which had been clamoured for energetically by the filmmakers and artists. How far have you gone in achieving this change?


Otia Vitalis (OV): Thanks for this huge opportunity to inform ourselves about recent happenings in the film industry in Cameroon. It is sixteen months already and we believe that we are effecting lasting impact in the industry. The first year was wasted because we were waiting on the Minister who had made many lofty promises when she received the board in April 2013, just after our elections. Amongst others thing, she promised us an equipped office, a Collywood Night at the Yaounde Hilton Hilton and most of all, she promised to always stand by us. But as we speak it’s simply not the case and we have decided to take our destiny into our own hands.

EK: Some members of CFI whose names we won’t mention for the sake of averting conflict say the board chair has not really been a good listener and would rather shot his ears to proposals. Is this true?

OV: Well I wouldn’t stop anybody from having his or her own opinion on the way I handle the affairs entrusted to me by the GA on the 26th of March, 2013. If there is one thing I know is the fact that , I’m very conscious of the fact that I’m not a filmmaker, and so I go closer to these experts, plus the fact that we are working in a formidable team with even some good and positive minds that are not on the board . Generally, I rate myself as a slow speaker but good listener. Those who are really close to me would tell you in all honesty that I don’t talk much. Meanwhile, as I listen to proposals coming from all directions, I think it’s our duty to diagnose and bring out exactly what we need at that moment. We are not going to implement all the ideas as they come in, else we’d be encouraging disorder.

EK: Some CFI members have complained that the board has been more silent. They say there is little or no communication and that even achievements said to have been made are known to just a few people and not the entire assembly? How would you react to that claim?

OV: We are all aware that we have a serious issue with communication. We are looking at possibilities of reinforcing the team we have in place now. We are aware that we need the facilities and more human resource. Let me use this medium to appeal to all of us who can be of help in any form to indicate. We need it badly.

EK: CFI is supposed to have had conventions with the Turkish Embassy and Cameroon’s airline company Camair-Co. What have been the fruits of these conventions and others?

OV: Well, the last time I spoke with the Turkish Ambassador was in October last year and he said he was still waiting for Ankara to reply to his proposal. Meanwhile, with Camair-co, Ethiopian Airlines and Brussels Airlines, we have made great strides. Anybody in the industry who wants to travel should come closer to the board and you will have a reduction, accordingly.

EK: The erection of sales booths in towns and cities of Cameroon was agreed upon as one of the ways to solving the problem of marketing Cameroonian movies. TIPTOPSTARS is told that an agreement to that effect was reached with some mayors. How many of the booths have been erected and effectively functioning so far?

OV: This is what is taking most of our time, at least for the past couple of weeks. The CFI hierarchy was invited by the city council delegates of Limbe and Bamenda and the mayor of Buea, first of all to show their approval and support for the project, then to map out the spots where we could have the kiosks in the various towns. We are still looking for funds to acquire the booths. But arrangements have been concluded with a home-based company to set them up accordingly. Some have been done as we speak, but we need money to get them and put on the streets. It should be mentioned here that these kiosks will be given out on franchise for people to run, but CFI will supply and supervised its content. We are calling on filmmakers to be the first to take up this very lucrative business. Meanwhile, other business men are invited to come on board as well. I can assure you that nobody will regret it.

EK: The struggle to have guilds function independently from CFI did not seem to have succeeded which means they still operate under the big umbrella of board you head. Now, there are complains that the guilds are not up-to-date and not much is happening within them. How has the board been overseeing this to ensure that there is pump within guilds?

OV: We believe that for CFI to be strongly erected, we need to have strong and vibrant guilds. Through their representatives on the board, we are trying to encourage the guilds to have regular meetings and to let us know how we assist. So far, it’s real timid in some guilds. However, we doff our hats to the Actors Guilds’ which is permanently on the field, thanks to the dynamism of its leaders. We’ll keep doing what we are supposed to do.

EK: How committed is the board as a team that has to work together – do you have members who are not satisfied with the way it is run?

OV: The Board is diverse in its membership, just as the film industry itself. You have all shades of opinion represented there with varied reasoning capacities. With these you can imagine. But the good news is that, despite all this disparity, most of the time we wear the same thinking cap. Nevertheless, we could have a better team.

EK: What is government via the Ministry of Culture saying about CFI now?

OV: Last year we were on a sleeping pill administered by the Minister of Culture, with a lot of promises. From that time till now, she has proven beyond reasonable doubts that she does not care. So like orphans, we are handling our own affairs. We have dropped a comprehensive memo at the Prime Ministers office, Senate, and the Parliament. We are currently preparing another that will include the Presidency this time. We believe that if cinema has helped enormously in the development of many countries, it can also happen in Cameroon.

EK: Are you aware of the existence, for a couple of days now, of a new social media platform that groups CFI members created by your PRO?

OV: I have just been informed about it now. CFI has a valid constitution, where every executive committee members’ functions are well spelled out. We have to learn to keep strictly attention on what we have to do and if we have any extra inspiration, we should approach the hierarchy of CFI for clearance before we execute. We are still to understand what is the real motive behind this. However, we will handle it in due course. CFI is ready to welcome all good ideas that will move the industry forward, but we’ll not encourage disorder.

EK: Some members of CFI say they expected the board chair to be part of this Whapsapp medium…

OV: Well we’ll look at it closely, but if it’s for CFI, the procedure to creating it, is already very wrong. If it’s a group of people then it’s okay.

EK: There is a fast-growing CFI branch in the USA, but members really don’t seem to know much about the mother branch which you run. How much do you communicate with your diaspora?

OV: We heartily appreciate the efforts of all those who are making it to happen in the US and we encourage them to keep it up. We have sent them an official recognition letter of late and copied the US ambassador to Yaounde and the Cameroonian Ambassador to the US. Emmanuel Takusi, for CFI and Mat Atungu, for Actors Guild are our official representatives now in the USA. We are encouraging filmmakers all over the globe to emulate. Wherever you are, put yourselves together and let the board know.

EK: What have been your biggest challenges since you came into office and what have you been doing to handle these problems?

OV: Our biggest challenge has been acquiring funds to run the activities of the group. We were actually expecting the Ministry of Culture to sow a seed and then leave the rest to us. But so far it’s been nul and void. So, we are taking steps to raise our own funds through various means.

EK: According to the CFI calendar, when will you be having the next General Assembly?

OV: According to our calendar, the last week of October till the first November 1 will be cinema week in Cameroon. On Monday that week, CFI will show its human face through some voluntary works in all the regions. Tuesday will be dedicated to workshops, forums and seminars. We will have sporting activities on Wednesday and Thursday we will be putting everything in place to travel to Yaounde for the AGM slated for Friday. Collywood Night comes up on Saturday at Hilton Hotel. All of these activities will be highly publicized through the media.

EK: The mandate of the current board ends in March 2015. By that time, would you have taken CFI to the level of professionalism and specialization which are the two main goals on which the organization was created in 2008?

OV: According to the constitution, this assertion is erroneous.

EK: On last word to CFI members…

OV: CFI is for all of us. We should not look at it from a distance. Our ideas are what constitute the CFI and we should bring them forward. Every person should feel free to propose to us where you think we should touch to make it better. No one person owns it .The Cameroon Film Industry has come to stay and I believe, in the next three years, the world will talk about Cameroonian cinema. CFI is on the table for our collective diagnosis and treatment. I can be contacted at +237 7069 3770

EK: Thanks for talking to us!

OV: Thanks Ernest, the pleasure is mind!


Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 August 2014 22:30

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