Leveraging Ai (artificial intelligence) to Accelerate Film for Sustainable Development

The 2023 Varsity Film Expo concluded its run in Nairobi, Kenya, on a high note, leaving a trail of inspiration and innovation in its wake. Held under the theme “Time for Aifrica: Leveraging Ai (artificial intelligence) to Accelerate Film for Sustainable Development,” the event stimulated debate and interesting conversations around filmmaking and artificial intelligence (Ai) in tackling critical sustainable development goals.

In a 2021 report titled The AFRICAN FILM Industry Trends, Challenges and Opportunities for Growth, UNESCO noted that African film has the potential to create 20 million jobs and 20 billion in GDP. The ongoing digital revolution in Africa has made it possible to produce content faster and cheaper. New media and technologies have liberalised content production and distribution. Platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney + are looking to Africa as emerging markets with great potential.

“There is a high appetite for content and Artificial intelligence can be leveraged in order to meet this demand. Processes of pre-production make up the backbone of film and television content and these can be enhanced by platforms like Filmustage in order to achieve accelerated efficiency,” said Ivan Zhurko a seasoned entrepreneur with a focus on AI-driven projects.

Ivan Zhurko presented on the topic ‘Ai in Filmmaking’ at the Varsity Film Expo 2023. He allayed fears that AI was going to take away jobs from the industry. “Instead of looking at Ai as technology that will replace jobs, we should look at AI as technological evolution that we can use to amplify our productivity. There are new markets that are emerging, and in order to maintain the market leader position, production companies are using new media, new technologies and new approaches,” he said.

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Dr Ureke, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Communication and Media at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa presented on the topic ‘The implications of Artificial Intelligence on African screen media economies’. He highlighted algorithmic biases on some AI platforms which use ‘particular geopolitical territories as a basis at the expense of our African continent’.

“As far as this AI phenomenon is growing, for example, can we embed our own languages in these large language models. Is it possible for us to do a script in Swahili, isiZulu or Shona. Because for starters, most of the innovations that we have, be it in filmmaking or any other industry for that matter are designed for the cultural context of the global north. The global north emerges as the innovation centre, while the global south becomes the peripheral user. That we need to pose and think about,” said Ureke.

He also underscored concerns about intellectual property in AI. In his presentation, Ureke explained how AI can ‘resurrect’ dead actors through ‘computerisation of stardom’. “We need to think about copyright issues because it takes us into new territories. For example, in Gemini Man, the older vision of Will Smith was replaced by a scanned image of him that was taken from Bad Boys, a 90s movie he acted in. So what does that mean in terms of intellectual property? What does that mean in terms of compensation of Will Smith’s labour back then, which is now being replicated and reproduced and reused.”

The Varsity Film Expo supports the United Nations Global Goals and African Union’s Agenda 2063. “The Varsity Film Expo theme supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals for a better world. The theme is in line with Agenda 2063, Africa’s master plan to achieve inclusive and sustainable economic growth and development by the year 2063,” said Kudzai Chikomo, the Founder.

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“Film is a powerful and effective medium for raising awareness and motivating community action towards Sustainable Development Goals. The Varsity Film Expo puts critical sustainable development issues in the limelight and stimulates conversations and dialogue around them,” he added.

The culmination of the Varsity Film Expo 2023 saw the recognition of outstanding short films, celebrating their talent and commitment to using film as a force for good. A total of 1450 entries were received through FilmFreeWay. The following are winning entries from the Varsity Film Expo 2023.


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