Film & TV

How to Apply for African Development Funding for your Film or TV Project

By Sughnen Yongo

July 2023

As an African filmmaker, applying for funding for your project can be daunting and downright intimidating. While it may seem as though the African filmmaking landscape is the best that it has ever been in recent years, with African films leaving their mark on the global landscape and more filmmakers gaining access to capital, obtaining the resources needed to fuel your dream may still seem far-fetched.


The film and television industry in Africa may be growing rapidly, but with that comes the need for additional funding to help projects move forward, and challenges still remain. According to UNESCO, across Africa, the leading challenge that exists for creators include weak or non-existent governmental incentives encouraging African creators to pursue their stories.


With the right funding, projects can further push the envelope and open more doors for the future. Fortunately, numerous African development funding sources are available for filmmakers and TV producers. To help filmmakers on the continent, STATEMENT has compiled a list below on how to apply for African development funding, some of the places to find them, and ways to go about it.


1. Understand African Development Funding


African development funding is a niche sector that hinges on regional organizations and philanthropic institutions to support creators in the arts and entertainment industry. These funds are frequently earmarked to support projects that advance cultural preservation, economic growth, job creation, and social impact. The Alter-Ciné Foundation offers several yearly grants to young filmmakers in Africa, Asia and Latin America to direct documentary films that tell important stories. The African Development Bank has also been on this wave for years. In 2023, the organization unveiled the iDICE program—an ambitious endeavor aimed at fostering the growth of digital and creative enterprises. With a staggering $618 million in investments, this initiative is one of the bank’s attempts to invest in African-powered creativity.


2. Find the Right Fit


An important step to take while applying for funding is to identify the right fit. A practical way to achieve this is to create a spreadsheet of every organization that offers funding, detailing the deadlines and the exact type of projects they’re looking for. This way, you can streamline your hunt and be more intentional about the process. 


There are numerous organizations and charities that provide grants or other forms of financial assistance to African film and television projects, but the right fit is imperative. It’s important to do some digging to find the opportunity that aligns the most with your project. This way, there is a higher chance that you will get an approval. The IDFA Bertha Fund, for example, supports independent, critical, and artistic voices from Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Oceania regions.


To secure a grant from an organization like this, you will need to ensure that your objectives are aligned by honing in on the organization’s mission and goal. This will provide valuable insight into their preferences and priorities, and the mission they are aiming to fulfill. In your application, it will also be important to highlight the potential impact your film can have on the organization’s target audience, and how it aligns with their goals. Highlight any research or data that supports the positive outcomes your film can achieve.


Showcasing opportunities for collaboration and partnerships with the organization by highlighting how your project can provide mutual benefits by involving the organization in various stages of the filmmaking process. This could include involving their members or beneficiaries as actors, consultants, or advisors, or providing opportunities for promotion or outreach through joint initiatives.


3. Know the Ropes


To navigate the world of African development funding effectively, it’s important to become a savvy investigator. Eligibility criteria differ for each competition or grant opportunity, so make sure you read each application thoroughly, so that you can share your work with investors in the most concise, yet effective way. Organizations like the African Development Bank (AfDB) are pouring into grants that foster creativity and freedom of cultural expression in budding filmmakers. On an international scale, the prestigious Sundance Institute offers several resources to creators including a grant that prioritizes films led by artists from Africa, China, India, Latin America, and the Middle East, according to its website. Creators living in the diaspora can also apply to this fee-free opportunity. By staying on the pulse of current funding programs, eligibility criteria, and application deadlines, you can increase your chances of securing financial support.


4. Build Relationships


In an industry built on collaboration and storytelling, investing time and effort into building relationships is not just important — it’s essential. Good old-fashioned relationship-building can help to foster trust, inspire creativity, and open doors to new opportunities. Strong relationships enable filmmakers to assemble talented teams, secure funding, access resources, and navigate the intricate web of the industry. A great way to navigate this is to keep your ear to the ground. Industry events like Sundance’s Collab online events that draw in creators globally to learn from, and engage with industry experts, network and get your name and brand out in the open. Another major event is the prestigious African Film Festival. It can get really expensive to attend these events, so it is a great idea to offer to volunteer at these events. Volunteering creates a win-win situation, because it gives you first-hand access to many film power players and other rising creators who are looking to get their name out.


5. Know Before You Go


Before crafting a proposal, it is imperative to know the pulse of your work. What do you stand for? What is the crux of the film or TV project? You need to also have a concise explanation for your work- an elevator pitch, if you will -that is compelling enough to draw attention. In crafting your pitch, be prepared to highlight an in-depth overview of the project, its goals, and its potential impact. Know the answers to questions about the project’s budget, timeline, and creative vision, because this will keep you ahead of the curve. Additionally, it is important to treat your project as a full – fledged business, and that means knowing, and highlighting any potential risks or challenges that may arise during the development and production of the project.



How to Find and Apply to African Film Festivals

By Wale Oloworekende

July 2023

There has never been a more exciting time to be an African filmmaker. With the eye of the world tilting towards cultural output from the motherland, titles from Africa are already starting to have global traction thanks to the impact of streaming platforms and the global brand of African actors. The rise of African films has similarly inspired a number of festivals across the continent dedicated to curating, celebrating, and platforming some of the most exciting movies made by Africans with a focus on their technical merits and narrative styles.


At STATEMENT, we decided to compile a list of some of these festivals, where to find them, and how to apply to them.


The Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO)


Founded in 1969, The Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO) is a film festival that takes place biennially in Burkina Faso with a specific focus on African filmmakers and works chiefly made in Africa. Accepting all sorts of entries from short films to documentaries and feature films, the festival traditionally holds two weeks after the last Saturday in February but held its 2023 edition from the 25th of February to the 4th of March. The next edition of FESPACO is scheduled for 2025 and filmmakers can keep up with more information on the festival’s website.


African Film Festival


Committed to spotlighting films that capture the infinite possibilities in African films and stories, the African Film Festival founded in 1993 has grown to become one of the leading tastemakers and authorities on movies, shorts, and documentaries coming out of Africa. The 2023 edition of the festival was held from May 10 to June 1 and was billed as a “journey through a landscape of cinematic possibilities, where creativity knows no limits and boundaries are mere suggestions.” The African Film Festival welcomes submissions in both feature and short film categories. Applicants looking to showcase their work next year might find some information on the About page and look out for more extensive information on the Submissions portal.


Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF)


Alternatively known as the Festival of the Dhow Countries, the Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF) is the largest film festival in East Africa and is held in Tanzania annually. Film entries are considered from all over Africa and the African diaspora with entries from parts of the Arab world and Asia also considered. The Zanzibar International Film Festival places a primary focus on feature-length movies and is especially popular for its Golden Dhow award given to the best movie at the festival. The deadline for 2023 entries has already passed with the event taking place from June 24 to July 2, 2023, but filmmakers interested in applying in the future can check for updates on the ZIFF website.


Durban International Film Festival (DIFF)


Founded in 1979 by Teddy Sarkin and Ros Sarkin, Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) is one of the oldest film festivals in Africa. DIFF accepts entries from African and international filmmakers but African filmmakers are given priority. The 44th edition of the Durban International Film Festival is set to take place from July 20 to 30th at the University of KwaZulu-Natal after a three-year hiatus and the deadline for application has since elapsed. With the 45th edition sure to come along next year, filmmakers can follow the festival’s social media pages and website for more information for admittance.


Carthage Film Festival


The Carthage Film Festival, alternatively known by its French name Journées Cinématographiques de Carthage (JCC) is an annual film festival founded in 1966. Originally held biannually, the festival has taken place annually every year since 2014 in Tunis, the capital city of Tunisia with a hyper-focus on shorts and feature films by African and Arab filmmakers. 2022’s edition took place from October 29 to November 5, 2022. Preparations for this year’s event are happening in earnest with the festival expected to take place from October 28 to November 4. Applicants for the festivals are encouraged to apply through the application links on the festival’s website.


African International Film Festival (AFRIFF)


Widely regarded as the most popular film festival in Africa, the African International Film Festival (AFRIFF) was founded in 2010 by Chioma Ude with the task of providing total immersion into the world of African filmmaking from shorts to documentaries, feature films, and student films. Since its inaugural edition was held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State in 2010, the festival held annually in Nigeria has grown to be an annual celebration of African filmmaking across these formats. The 2023 edition of AFRIFF will be held from November 5-10, 2023. Applicants for the festival can head to the AFRIFF website where updates about upcoming events and instructions for registering for the festival are shared.


Africa in Motion (AiM)


Africa in Motion (AiM) is an annual African film festival that celebrates the best of African talent across all visual formats with a strong focus on feature-length movies. Traditionally taking place in Scotland and open to African-based filmmakers and diaspora-based Africans, it has been running for over 15 years. Last year’s edition was its 17th with a series of screenings and panels held from the 11th of November till the 20th of November. Details have not been announced for the 2023 edition but filmmakers and prospective attendees can keep an eye on the Africa in Motion Instagram page and website for additional info.


Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF)


Founded in 1976, the Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) is the only international competitive feature film festival recognized by the FIAPF (International Federation of Film Producers Associations) in Africa. CIFF places a heavy focus on feature-length submissions with its highest prize, The Golden Pyramid, being awarded for the best film at the competition. The 45th edition of the Cairo International Film Festival will be held from the 15th to 24th of November 2023 with submissions from Africa and the Middle East being considered. Submissions are still ongoing for CIFF and prospective attendees can find more information on the application process on the festival’s website and social media pages.