Hi Jean, you are in Lagos for AFRIFF as part of a project you recently founded CINEWAX. Can you introduce yourself and tell us how you came to CINEWAX?
My name is Jean Fall, I am Franco-Senegalese, I am 23 and I am a law student at the University Of Paris 1 Sorbonne.
During my trips to Senegal, where I went for the first time when I was 19, I realized that the cultural life was quite dynamic, but that in terms of cinema it was more limited.
Initially, the project was more about screenings, I just wanted to bring cinema. But the more I advanced in my researches, the more I realized that there is no structured film industry in West Africa and that what exists is not yet very well organized. I especially had difficulties to access cultural statistics. For example, when I tried to get movies there, it was almost impossible. Similarly, when a director wants to make a film, it’s very difficult to build a team, to find funding so unfortunately or fortunately, many films are produced abroad by foreign funds. There are plenty of cinema-related projects but people do not always know each other.
The other aspect that motivated me is the low youth employment who spend their time plod along, whether in Dakar or in other cities.
With all these facts, I wanted to get involved to create a project that can both create jobs, provide a new cultural offer and support the establishment of a pan-African professional network. Unfortunately in Senegal, the communication is not going very well between the population and the various cultural initiatives. So I created CINEWAX who settled in Senegal since March 2015.
What’s the project about? What is the connection between cinema and wax?
This is the philosophy of the project. There are two aspects. The first one, is linked to these fabrics that make the clothes always very colorful, which is for me the meaning of diversity. The second is a pun with the word wax, that is pronounced Wakh in Wolof and which means talking.To me it also refers to the notion of exchange that can be provided by the cinema.
In terms of content, there are two main parts to this project.
There is a fixed location and a mobile dimension, but whose core is the use of cinema as a vehicle for training and education. We therefore will propose language courses, professional training workshops, conferences, master classes … In the training aspect, we would like to develop among others, a partnership with film schools, like the FEMIS in France. They already have activities in Mali where students go every year for one month training courses for professionals. We are also working on making MOOC.
The fixed location, so-called film club, is actually more a place of culture and encounters. There will be two main areas; the cinema featuring an international program, and the restaurant that will be the meeting place. And we also wanted to include other spaces, so there will be a library, a cybercafé and a space with a stage, which will probably in the screening room. In this way we offer an integrated venue where people can accessevery forms of culture.
Regarding the mobile part, it will be more focused on screenings and meeting with the public. We started working with local partners who have been around longer than we are and the idea here is to adapt the program to the public and partners with whom we work.
We take each project step an inclusive approach.
What is the business model chosen to make this project sustainable?
As I said earlier, the idea is to generate employment (direct and indirect) and therefore to find a viable and accessible business model. To give you an idea, the entry ticket to the cinema will be at 1000 FCFA (1.5 euro). We are also thinking about other options, including packages, but this base price will allow us to pay salaries at a rate a little bit higher than the minimum hourly rate that is around 422 FCFA, so an approximate monthly salary of 42,000 CFA francs (64 euros). Our goal is to reach 1 500 FCFA per hour for our direct employees assigned to the cultural spaces, and who will be local residents that we will train to the different jobs required to ensure a smooth running of the place (cinema, events, programming, technical …).
For some other spaces such as the restaurant, we will offer local cooks to do their business here, in exchange for which they will return us a lump sum of their turnover, for example.
The completion of the project is to be able to generate enough funds to finance other local initiatives.
This economic model in my opinion is a circular social and cultural economic model that does not rely on institutional funding, which are often too precarious for the sustainability of the initiatives.
How are you going to raise awareness of the fact that people must pay for access to culture?
I do not think that’s a problem. Senegal is one of the African countries that counted the most of theatre rooms, about 90. They were all managed by a National Society until they sell them to private companies that turn them into commercial spaces. So, even if today only around 5 must remain, cultural cooperation included, the Senegalese were already used to pay to see a movie.
What are your partners on the ground?
Our first partners are the directors and producers on site. I think of Cap Cine, Plan B, Cinemascope, associative places; (Ker Thiossane, Ciné banlieue, Africulturban). The audiovisual schools likeSup’Imax. We started working with the French Institute, the Spanish Culture Institute in Dakar, the Goethe Institute to have access to the widest catalog of movies possible. We also worked with mobiCINE.
Does CINEWAX aim to move within Africa or is it only aSenegalese project?
Yes it is a project that will move. For instance, in West Africa, fifteen countries that are concerned by this lack of theatre rooms. If we compare the figures of the French CNC (National Centre for Cinema), which give 5200 screens in France, public and private alike, the study of Dayo Ogounyemi, director of Media 234, gives 1 room for 6 million inhabitants in Africa. So there is a screening rooms issue, but the question is, what kind of facilities are built? Multiplex? 3D High-Tech rooms? What is really necessary? My vision is to bring spaces that are close to the way of life of people and are suitable for the African social life, and I do not think the Western concept is adapted.
You’ve heard of the Mokolo project. The portal features three thematic platforms, one dedicated to networking, the second one dedicated to databases and general information, and the third one will propose among others, Open Educational Resources. It joins some of your goals. How could you use these resources for CINEWAX?
It is the perfect tool since it fully meets what we want to create. We thought about a platform where people can register and have access to our program and our partners’ ones, our catalog and book online sessions, individually or collectively. Subsequently, this tool will also allow us to have statistics.
To answer your question more specifically; first, I thought about professional physical meetings and so we created a Facebook group called Pro Network CINEWAX Senegal, in which we include practitioners but also people from parallel field of work. So the Mokolo portal will allow us to expand these databases and access to a more international audience. So yes it’s a wonderful tool!