Global Demand Grows For Black Filmmakers

Shows, movies and networks boost Black artists while Nigeria's "Nollywood" profile rises.
Posted at 5:36 PM, Sep 15, 2020

There's a growing demand for Black filmmakers all over the world.

Since June, companies like Netflix and Disney+ have been promoting Black stories. Series like "Dear White People" and "When They See Us" saw major boosts in U.S. demand. Bounce, a broadcast network serving African Americans and owned by Newsy parent E.W. Scripps, announced a full slate of new projects. And KweliTV, a streaming service entirely devoted to Black artists, films and documentaries, more than doubled its number of subscribers since April. 

DeShuna Spencer, founder and CEO of KweliTV: "I think that's what's beautiful now about seeing so many people wanting to understand Black culture more, because I think they assume that, 'Well, this is for them. This is for me.' But, this is for all of us."

This growing demand for stories from Black artists doesn't just focus on the U.S. Experts say the success of "Black Panther" — and its depiction of the fictional African country of Wakanda — also threw a spotlight on stories from Africa.

Chidi Afulezi, creative consultant and co-founder of The Massive Company: "More eyeballs, more scrutiny or focus on the continent as a source of really, really great movies and TV shows."

Spencer added, "I also think there's a beauty of understanding other cultures even within our own community. And as a Black American, you know that there are Black people around the world, but we don't really know how they live. Sometimes, we don't know where they are." 

Outside of U.S. films, KweliTV's largest group of content comes from South Africa, Ghana, Kenya … and from Nigeria — which is home to "Nollywood," the second largest employer in the country

Spencer explained, "Nollywood is almost up there with Bollywood when it comes to cranking out new content, and they just want the opportunity to showcase their work outside of their continent of Africa — even outside of the country of Nigeria." 

Despite the massive volume of titles and artists from the continent, there's still a struggle to distribute films globally. 

Afulezi said, "There's a hustle with the creative media in Africa right now, but they're not funded. They're not supported like Hollywood or the Chinese movie industry or the Europeans." 

"They have these amazing award-winning titles, but because they don't have a connection with the right distributor, their content won't be seen," Spencer said.

KweliTV and other streaming services like Demand Africa are filling in the gaps of global distributors. And as both the pandemic and calls for racial justice continue all over the world, Spencer wrote that having access to "authentic, impactful stories" from Black artists is more important than ever. 

 "Since we've had this 'uprising,' as I call it, we've had a lot more White people who have come to the platform. And they're subscribing, because they want to understand. They're trying to get the missing pieces of history that we're not taught in school about the Black experience," Spencer said.