The final version of the Investment and Development Strategy for Film Industry in Malawi (2015-2020) has highlighted several challenges affecting the growth of the film industry in the country with absence of the cultural policy as one of them.
The absence of the cultural policy has been a key feature in several areas affecting the growth of the creative industry and many artists have cried for it.
The cultural policy was drafted a long time ago but has been gathering dust in the shelves with one government after the other failing to bring it to light it up to now.
Last month, Minister of Information, Tourism and Culture Kondwani Nankhumwa revealed that government was making headway on the policy adding that artists need not worry as the Cultural Policy was approved by the cabinet committee on social services.
He said that the policy now has to go to the plenary of the cabinet. Nankhumwa said they are serious on the policy stressing that through it they are looking at creating the National Heritage Council to coordinate various issues.
Other challenges highlighted in the strategy include censorship under which it has been observed that Malawi still maintains the Censorship and Control of Entertainment Act passed in 1968.
The Act is what established the Censorship Board. The Censorship Board's mandate is to regulate public theatres, public performances and other entertainment facilities but stakeholders noted that censorship laws have tended to limit people's intellectual creativity.
The other challenge is finance where stakeholders have observed that production of film in Malawi is impeded by lack of regular and sustainable funding structures and that there was the non-existence of National Film Fund.
The strategy also zeroes in on the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) saying there is general lack of awareness by stakeholders.
It says the outdated IPR laws and government's failure to accede to important IPR treaties and conventions relating to the industry is affecting development of the industry.
The issue of education and training is also featuring highly among the challenges where it has been noted that there is lack of trained personnel and expertise at all levels of film and television production.
"This is a major handicap in attempts to establish a viable industry in the country. Tertiary institutions that offer courses in film and television do not adequately equip the students with necessary skills," reads the strategy.
The distribution of films has also been singled out as one of the challenges stressing that there is lack of proper and clearly defined structures for distribution of films in the country.
The final version of the strategy is an effort by film and television stakeholders in the country to facilitate growth of the industry through a collective and holistic approach to dealing with the various challenges.
The strategy was developed during a film roundtable conference in Lilongwe in November. The conference also followed a consultative roundtable conference held in Blantyre in July participants to which included screenwriters, directors, producers, actors, actresses, distributors, financiers, technicians, policy makers and academics.
The strategy has been developed in line with Film Association of Malawi's (Fama) strategic plan which operationalises the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy II (2011-2016) and contributes to the Economic Recovery Plan, in the context of Vision 2020.
Fama's President, Ezaius Mkandawire, has said the association is determined to uplift the film industry in the country stressing that this will only work through collaborative efforts by film stakeholders.
The strategy, among others, intends to enhance investment and prioritises growth and development in Malawian film and television by articulating background to film and television industry, challenges, opportunities and priority areas.
The strategy is titled Investment and Development Strategy for Film in Malawi 2015-2020 and financially supported by the International Fund for Cultural Diversity under the 2005 Unesco Convention on Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.