African youth make scripts for AIDS films

November 2006 -

The idea of letting African youth write their own film scripts to provide information about AIDS was born in 1997. Since then, 105,000 young Africans from 37 countries have participated in scenario contests.

A man is in a small shop to buy condoms, but is embarrassed by the other people in the shop. He asks for a roll of cookies. And another one. And another one. In the mean time, two other people have purchased condoms without embarrassment. "Why am I being so stupid?" the man wonders with amusement. This is a scene from one of the many short films made by young people thanks to Scenario from Africa.

Project manager Daniel Enger explains: "In 1997 we started with the idea of having young people write scripts to make AIDS information more appealing. It was an enormous hit. In recent years 105,000 young Africans from 37 countries have participated in scenario contests. We are now working together with a thousand local and international organisations. In 2005, the judging alone involved a total of 234 people from 203 different organisations."

The process from script to film is sometimes complicated and delicate. Enger: "In Warrior, a woman touches a man's gun. To some ethnic communities in Burkina Faso, this is a serious taboo based on centuries of tradition. If the film had been shown there, it would have gotten the local people involved in a lot of trouble in their community. Sensitivities like these sometimes mean that the script goes back and forth between the producer and script writer five or six times. That makes the project complicated sometimes, but it cannot be avoided."

Enger is in the Netherlands to meet with organisations including the Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen to discuss how the project can continue to receive financial support and how more broadcasts can be achieved in the region of the African Great Lakes. Enger is optimistic. "Because the young people themselves supply the ideas and because of the contest element, the project is receiving an enormous amount of attention. Young people in particular talk about it a lot. Then there is suddenly a big buzz about it."

The films are broadcast via one hundred African TV stations and also on stations including TV5, CFI, RFO, Canal+Horizons and RTP.