An Emerging Cameroonian Film Industry

In high school, I happened to be good friends with two amazing actors who went on to Julliard and Tisch acting schools, respectively, in New York. Working for a writer in New York, I spent two summers with them and their friends, meeting some of the most promising young singers, actors and dancers in the city. Zigoto Tchaya Tchameni, a prolific all around entertainer and artist that I became close friends with this month in Yaounde, Cameroon, is easily as talented as any of the performers I met in New York. However, being born in Cameroon instead of America, Zigoto got the short end of resources and support when it comes to the arts and entertainment. To me, this juxtaposition embodies the challenges that young African entrepreneurs with great talents and ideas face.

Zigoto Tchaya Tchameni

The most ambitious project Zigoto has undertaken is to create a Cameroonian film industry out of thin air. Cameroon's neighbor, Nigeria, is famous for producing more films that any other country besides India, but no other Sub-Saharan African country (besides South Africa) has made inroads into the industry. Zoomer's Pictures, Zigoto's company, envisions the Cameroonian film industry as the 'art house' of West African film making, focusing on high quality, thought provoking pictures instead of exclusively on commercializing their content. This is smart, considering that Cameroon has less than 20% of the population of Nigeria and far less of a global reputation.

Zigoto assembled the Zoomers team for our group one night in Yaounde, where we saw a viewing of their premier film, Taboo. Taboo is a film that says a lot, and illustrates the challenging topics of marijuana smoking, lesbianism and more. The movie seems to have successfully struck the nerves of many Cameroonians to whom these issues cause significant tension. However, Zigoto and the Zoomers team recognize the importance of getting into a debate about what the Cameroonian culture values. That's what I like about their work.

In terms of the international networking that unfortunately seems to be obligatory for African entrepreneurs, Zigoto has done quite well for himself, linking up with the British Council, as well as with supporters in Belgium and France (covering both sides of the bilingual support available in Cameroon), but I am certain that Zigoto is only just getting started with what he has to contribute to Cameroonian culture and business.

When I got home from Cameroon, I started catching up with the TED Global talks from last month's landmark conference in Arusha. By far, my favorite talk was by Hans Rosling, a international health professor from Stockholm. At the end of the talk, he elegantly pointed out (through a on-stage sword swallowing demonstration!) that the end of any people's struggle to make life better is not economic development, for this is simply a means. The end, rather, is creating and engaging in culture, the stuff that gives our lives meaning. In this sense, Zigoto and his team at Zoomers are doing some of the most important work taking place in Cameroon.

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17 Comments:

  • I guess we don't get the Cameroonian movies here that much because of the language wall*. I should seek out some, since said wall is lower for me.

    * `Language barrier' had just called in `tired and over-used'. :o)

    By Blogger The 27th Comrade, at 10:47 AM  

  • Josh! What a brilliant blog :) I was googling Zigoto yesterday and I found your interview with the internet radio guy! You are such an inspiring speaker :) Hopefully many people hear your interview and develop interest in Cameroon! hope you made it home safely!

    By Blogger Annelisa Lindsay, at 11:45 AM  

  • It is clear that Zigo has talent that cannot be taught in any school, not even the best of the best. His talent lies in his spontaneity and wit as well as huge heart. Countries can work for years - but it takes a breakthrough like Zigo to put a place on the map. Lets pray he does...

    By Blogger Cassi, at 1:56 PM  

  • Nice post Josh. As someone who advocates for hollywood to develop better roles for African talent, I find it inspiring that there are Africans on the continent who are building an industry which no doubt hollywood will soon mine for talent.

    By Anonymous g. kofi annan, at 3:39 PM  

  • hello,
    i am elvis, a cameroonian and i must say i have great ambitions for our movies but i have never found someone who can confide in me, and link me to a film industry. i thank God it's a talent and not jus imaginations. I will be greatful, if some one hears me out. you can contact me through 023779364486 or elisafons@myway.com.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:30 AM  

  • hello,
    i am elvis, a cameroonian and i must say i have great ambitions for our movies but i have never found someone who can confide in me, and link me to a film industry. i thank God it's a talent and not jus imaginations. I will be greatful, if some one hears me out. you can contact me through 023779364486 or elisafons@myway.com.

    By Anonymous lil kernzy, at 8:33 AM  

  • Hi,
    Thank God for the Zoomer Pictures Film Company.From all what i have read concerning this Film Company and about Zigoto,i want to believe it is a dream come true.I am glad that a Cameroonian has come forth to bring our Film Industry to limelight,thereby making the dream for the competitiveness of films made in Cameroon Film a reality.
    i am 39years old and really interested in acting.When i see the likes of Ngozi Ezeonu,Ozokwor Patience,Onyeka Owenu,Rita Edochie etc.in the Nigerian films,i just imagine that if i had an opportunity to be an actress,i will something like them.They are some of the artists about my age group that i admire a great deal.
    Welcome Zoomer Pictures.This is sure an opportunity for me i believe to delve into acting so as to put in my own quota in fostering the growth of the film industry in Cameroon.This dream i believe will come true only if Mr.Zigoto Tchaya Tchameni would be able to offer my humble person a chance of acting under the banner of his prestigious film house:ZOOMER PICTURES.
    I am resident in Yaounde,Cameroon.
    telephone +23799433083.
    e-mail:awah69@yahoo.fr
    If i had your e-mail address,i would have sent you a mail.That not withstanding,i hope to hear from you.
    TCHAO.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:07 AM  

  • Hi,
    Thank God for the Zoomer Pictures Film Company.From all what i have read concerning this Film Company and about Zigoto,i want to believe it is a dream come true.I am glad that a Cameroonian has come forth to bring our Film Industry to limelight,thereby making the dream for the competitiveness of films made in Cameroon a reality.
    I am 39 years old female and really interested in acting.When i see the likes of Ngozi Ezeonu,Ozokwor Patience,Onyeka Owenu,Rita Edochie etc.in the Nigerian films,i just pray that i should have an opportunity to be an actress,so i will do something like them.They are some of the actresses about my age group that i admire a great deal.
    Welcome Zoomer Pictures.This is sure an opportunity for me i believe to delve into acting, so as to put in my own quota in fostering the growth of the Film Industry in Cameroon.This dream i believe can only come true if Mr.Zigoto Tchaya Tchameni would offer my humble person a chance of acting, under the banner of his prestigious Film House:ZOOMER PICTURES.
    I am resident in Yaounde,Cameroon.
    Telephone +23799433083.
    e-mail:awah69@yahoo.fr
    If i had your e-mail address,i would have sent you a mail instead.That not withstanding,i hope to hear from you.
    TCHAO.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:20 AM  

  • Dear sir,
    Thank God for the Zoomer Pictures Film Company.From all what i have read concerning this Film Company and about Zigoto,i want to believe it is a dream come true.I am glad that a Cameroonian has come forth to bring our Film Industry to daylight,thereby making the dream for the competitiveness of film acting in Cameroon a reality.My names are Elvis Mochime,
    i am 31years old and really interested in acting.I was a member in a theatre act company named MTC(mirrior theatre company)based in Yaounde.I left because at one point the company was not that serious and since i wanted an active acting company like yours.
    Welcome Zoomer Pictures.This is sure an opportunity for me i believe to continue in acting so as to put in my own quota in fostering the growth of the film industry in Cameroon.This dream i believe will come true only if Mr.Zigoto Tchaya Tchameni would be able to offer my humble person a chance of acting under the banner of his prestigious film house:ZOOMER PICTURES.
    I am a resident in Yaounde,Cameroon.
    telephone +23777611922.
    e-mail:moch2005@yahoo.fr or elvo2005@ymail.com
    If i had your e-mail address,i would have sent you a mail.That not withstanding,i hope to hear from you.Thanks.

    NB:Sir i do write plays and films.I have some samples with me.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:00 AM  

  • Hello,
    The Cameroonian Movie Industry is growing fast day and night!
    In future like in Nollywood now, many of us will say "It's very hard to join Collywood."
    This is the time. It's easier now than will ever be.
    Promote yourself, your profile, your talents, your services and products et http://www.camermovies.com

    Together we can make it work.
    Yes we can.
    Webmaster
    CMMC.

    By Anonymous Camermovies, at 11:41 PM  

  • I am a cameroonian but, i am in the united state. I in school right but i really love acting. I will like to prove my talent in a cameroonian movie. contact will be qaachajeng@jeffstateonline.com

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:25 AM  

  • Yo Zig is Excapee...you are wonderful man, thank God you have much to offer to us as time goes on. You nothing but simply the best, i'll compose a song for the Zoomoer's as soon as possible.
    Cheers

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:04 AM  

  • Great post ! I'm planning to include Films from Cameroon for the 3rd Annual movie marathon at my house this year. What a brilliant blog you have. Thanks!

    By Blogger Proma, at 9:40 AM  

  • i hear the rising movie star kernzy in zoomers pictures is also the youngest and the best r n b rapper in cameroon, how i wish some one could give me his contact letto_p@yahoo.com

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:29 AM  

  • hi
    am a female Cameroonian who have heard so much abt ur wander full film industry. i wish to express my talent by acting with u and the other actors and actresses. u can contact me through theomiyen@yahoo.com. i will be gratful to hear from u soonest.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:51 AM  

  • hello;thank god for he has done it this time by sending the zoomer film industry to cameroon i am a cameroonain living at emana,a lover of art.i will be thankfull if i will be givene the oppotunity to show my talent at the zoomer film indutry i am 20yaers of age.i respond to 0023775095684 and clebelĂ yahoo.com

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:30 PM  

  • I was born in Cameroon, and am presently in the third year at a university in England studying for a degree in Media Production. I and a couple of interested friends have been brainstorming for more than two years, on ways to start up a film making company in Cameroon and to make it work. To be honest, we have been met with more setbacks in the process than positive points. The core of the problem (and this is the same with most african countries) is empathy on the part of the administration of the country to invest in promoting their own culture. They are oblivious to the tremendous benefits that could come about from encouraging art, and creativity, music, drama etc. Most Cameroonians now do not regard painting or music as something anyone can make a livelyhood from, other than creating a brief dinner table intertainment.Not to cite too many examples, all i'm saying is, art and culture has been dying for so long because the government did so little to create a breeding ground for its development that people no longer value it. It has gone so bad that if someone hears that the kid across the street has produced a record, or made a film, he would not buy it. I know it sounds strange, but he won't because that sounds like a good joke to whoever hears it, that kid must be a clown, i mean like he could not posibly have made a record, only AMERICANS make records, and well now Nigerians. 'It doesn't exist in Cameroon'.

    Having said this, my fervent wish is that that awarness be created by more and more artists doing things that are originally Cameroonian, then maybe we wll begin to believe in our own values and culture, and go on to promote it. I appreciate the step taken by Zigoto as i know what odds he is facing, and for people like myself who hope to come someday to Cameroon to practice, we will invariably have to network internationally for recognition, and support to keep running in a country where the structural facilities and boost from the powers that be, are shy. I welcome suggestions on gustavndamukong@hotmail.com

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:02 PM  

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