Malawi’s award winning film maker Shemu Joyah has complained about taxes that local filmmakers are charged when trying to bring their films into the country after duplication.
In an interview, Joyah said he felt government could help artists by not charging duty, excise and VAT when a DVD that was replicated outside Malawi is entering the country.
“This is because the filmmaker made the film here in Malawi; paid Malawian actors and crew, thereby providing employment to Malawians. The DVD cannot be taxed like a foreign film which is coming to Malawi only to make profits. If the filmmaker has to pay the duties then the rates should be less than the foreign made DVD, otherwise the Malawian filmmaker is getting unfair competition,” argued Joyah.
He said when the DVD for Seasons of a Life (his first movie) was coming from South Africa, he paid 30 percent duty, 30 percent excise and 16.5 percent VAT which almost doubles the price of DVD production.
“For us to realise a small profit, we had to sell the DVD at K2 000, which most Malawians found too expensive compared to the K1 000 [about $2.50] or even K500 [about $1.25] they were paying for foreign DVDs,” said the film maker.
He added that without the heavy taxes he could have been selling the DVD comfortably at K1 000.
This he said is what had delayed the DVD release of his latest film The Last Fishing Boat which was premiered in December 2012.
“The DVD of The Last Fishing Boat is not yet out. We would like to sell it at K1 500 [about $3.75] or K2 000 [about $5], but I don’t know if that will be possible with the continuous sliding down of the kwacha. We have not done the replication yet and we have not decided whether to have it done in Malawi or South Africa. Others are even saying that we should try China,” said Joyah.
He said attempts to have the charges reviewed when he worked on Season’s of a Life proved futile due to government bureaucracies.
“I met officials of MRA and they showed me the thick book where they take their tariffs from, and they said there isn’t much they can do about it unless the tariff book is changed. Since thick tariff books like that don’t get changed overnight, I had to pay the money and get the DVDs from the warehouse, where, had they stayed too long, I would have also paid a storage penalty,” said Joyah.
On March 15 at the African Movie Academy Awards Gala in Lilongwe President Joyce Banda pledged support to the industry when The Last Fishing Boat received five nominations for the awards.
However, Joyah feels there is need for a collective approach to the pledge.
“While it may be advantageous to quote the President’s speech when we approach the Ministry, it will be even better if there is a tangible Cultural Policy as an operational manual on how the arts have to be treated by the government and also the private sector,” he said.
He explained that filmmakers, through the Filmmakers Association of Malawi, should be proactive and approach the relevant ministry with our issues collectively.
“We need proper structures with a proper legal basis to serve as a foundation for the arts to operate as serious businesses and not just as expensive hobbies, which is what I am doing at the moment,” he said.
Nigeria is one country which managed to invest into the film industry and is making millions out of it.
According to The African Broadcast Network , the Nigerian Film industry has evolved into the third largest film producing industry in the world. According to industry analysts, the country’s brash film industry – dubbed “Nollywood” is worth nearly US$200 million a year in revenues, making it the third-largest box office in the world after the United States and India.
Nollywood generates over sixty movie titles each month and has become one of the major sources of employment in Nigeria.
Though made cheaply with budgets of about only $10 000 to $15 000, Nigerian movies have become huge hits across sub-Saharan Africa and throughout the African Diaspora.
Nollywood movies are in regular demand by primetime television audiences within most of sub-Saharan Africa’s viable television advertising markets with story themes ranging from tales of love, fidelity, witchcraft, demonic family ties, and unshakable Christian faith.
Recently, Amaa held film training called film-in-a-box which according to Joyah would give a boost to the small industry which he said greatly needs the training because of its sophisticated nature.