Wednesday, January 25, 2006

MEDIA FOR DEVELOPMENT INTERNATIONAL : If you want to get the word out.

When you first look at th web site for Media for Development International (MFDI) you may think that it is a commercial site despite its ".org" web address. But after you take look at what they are doing, you realize that it is an NGO tackling many of the problems facing Africa.

A quick rundown of some of its most recent movies will illustrate this.

MFDI helped to organize the premier for SHANDA, a new film made by Cross Culture in Zimbabwe and they partially supported it. SHANDA is "the life story of Oliver Mtukudzi (Tuku), one of today's most popular musicians in Zimbabwe." Mtukudzi also talks about his role as an AIDS spokesman in Zimbabwe. He has been a AIDS spokesman because he's been a very popular entertainer in Zimbabwe for years. In addition to its involvement in SHANDA, MFDI has worked with Mtukudzi on several projects, and helped get him interested in AIDS. MFDI even sponsored him to sing one of Africa's first AIDS songs at the first World AIDS Day in Geneva in the 1980s.

The film was primarily funded by a soft loan from the Media for Development Property Trust's revolving fund. This revolving fund was indirectly financed by MFDI several year ago.

Additionally, through efforts of MFDI a rough cut of the video was shown to Bonnie Raitt, who loved the film and offered to be involved in the premier. Ms. Raitt has also long been friends with Tuku, and has bought several of his songs, including "Hear Me Lord" included in her latest album. At the premier, Ms. Raitt gave a heart-warming speech. In addition to Bonnie Raitt, Huey Lewis, Micky Hart (drummer for the Grateful Dead), Gordon Radley (CEO of George Lucas Films) and several academy award winning documentary filmmakers were present at the premier.

MFDI is also distributing a new video title called "DUARA". "DUARA" was a video pilot project collaboration between West Virginia State College and the University of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, filmmaking program. The video is 28-minutes long and there is also a 24-minute "Making of Duara" documentary called "Sound the Drum" as well.

The well-known Kenyan filmmakers Stephen Makau of Worldview-Kenya and Albert Wandago of Alwan Communications have 2 new titles that are currently being made available by MFDI. "Life Must Continue" is a 35-minute video that deals with AIDS and FGM (Female Genital Mutilation). "Naliaka is Going" is also a video about AIDS but covers the issue of girls education as well. This video is 85 minutes in length.

Over the past few years MFDI has undergone a slow transformation. From the 1980s to a few years ago, the principals of MFDI carried out their work through DSR, Inc, (which is now solely a computer business, based in the state of Maryland in the USA. DSR provided a very large portion of the financial and logistical support to the African film work of the organization in the early years. And it continues to provide support today.

MFDI is a 501©3 non-profit corporation located in the U.S. and has been operating for over 10 years. MDI is also closely related to Media for Development Trust (MFD) a Zimbabwean registered charity. MFDI's web site says that the two "have been sister agencies for about 15 years now, both were initially funded by DSR, Inc. MFDI provides support to MFD in Zimbabwe, and they work together in film productions as well as distributing African social message films and videos." MFDI also says that some of the films that they have produced have been some of the most widely viewed films throughout Africa.

While all of the titles in MFDI's stocks are available in English, many are available in several other languages. Additionally all titles are available in the VHS PAL and NTSC formats, and the French ones are also available in SECAM. MFDI tries to make the titles as available as possible because their motto is "A video is only as good as the number of people that see it."

MFDI sells videos to support the emerging African cinema industry, and regularly sends out royalty checks to African filmmakers, but it believes that its main contribution is "just keeping these titles available and getting them to audiences." Over the last 15 years, MFDI and its sub-distributors have distributed many thousands of videos and had hundreds of these videos broadcast on television stations. Most of the distribution and television broadcasts have been in Africa nations, but they have been distributed and viewed in other nations as well.

MFDI's main marketing tool, which is its catalog is now available online. In the catalog, titles are listed under categories, such as AIDS, Family Planning. In addition the listing by categories there is a search engine. Each title lists the synopsis, length of video, production information, formats and languages they are available in and price. Also there is a page listing the various languages in which the titles are available. Additionally, dubbing rights for most titles are available for those who are interested in making additional language versions of a title.

MFDI's web site also has a list of African sub-distributors from whom most titles can be ordered locally as well.

MFDI also has an African cinema email list server (that the call a "conference") that is free. The conference is for the discussion of African Cinema and currently has about 200 members globally. The conference has been operating since early 1996 and includes a variety of information on African cinema; including press releases about new books and articles, films and videos and as well as other resources relating to African cinema. Information on the conference can be found at the MFDI web site.

The various categories in which films and videos can be found are as follows:

Agriculture/Ecology/Socio-Economic Videos
AIDS Videos
Conflict videos
Cultural videos
Education & Training videos
Feature Films
General Health videos
New Titles
Teenage Pregnancy / Family planning videos
Women's Issue videos

I started out trying to list many of the titles that they have, but the number was too great. Just to give you an example, there are 31 AIDS videos alone.

MFDI is a 501©3 non-profit, registered by the US government. It has been active since 1990. MFDI owns no significant non-financial assets other than office equipment, many files and office and shipping supplies. It holds about 1,000 VHS videos of inventory at any time (valued at about US$6,500), as well as a number of 16mm and 35mm films, posters and promotional documents and materials. Copies of MFDI's Form 990 (annual IRS tax submission) are available from MFDI, or on .

MFDI posts it total annual income since the year 1990 as well as its sponsors. Some of its Major Sponsors include:

Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
DSR, Inc / Steve & Sally Smith
DFID / Department for International Development
Family Health International (FHI)
Ford Foundation
The John D McArthur Foundation
Johns Hopkins University Center for Communication Programs (JHU/CCP)
Pathfinder International
Swedish International Development Authority (SIDA)

In addition to the major sponsors there are also additional donors who have made Significant Contributions to MFDI. Those include, in part:

Anglo-American Corporation Zimbabwe
The Botswana government
British Petroleum (BP)
Canada Fund
Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA)
Federation of Ugandan Employers
Johns Hopkins Program for Int'l Education in Gynecology and Obstetrics (JHPIEGO)
Kenya Institute of Mass Communication
National Video Resources
Norwegian Royal Agency for Development (NORAD)
PLAN International / Zimbabwe
Red Cross
Royal Norwegian Embassy
Rockefeller Foundation
Street Kids International
United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
United Parcel Service (UPS)
Western Union
The World Bank

This is just a partial listing of these donors and the full list can be found at the MFDI web site. Finally, it should be said that over 10 private donors have contributed to the organization.

In addition the donations MFDI has earned interest and dividends on its savings accounts of about $35,000 and has received royalty payments of about $15,000 on video sales.

MFDI has Affiliate Distributors in the follow countries.

Africa Consultants International (ACI)

Film Resource Unit (FRU)

TANZANIA: No web site found
Kwanzaa Productions

Media for Development Trust (MFD)

As usual, there is too much to tell in an article, so I urge you to visit Media for Development International and see if there is a socially significant film or video you can use to get out your message.

1 comment:

Steve Smith said...

Thanks Oscar for the great summary and intro to our company. We're a small home-based business mainly supporting the work done in Tanzania and Zimbabwe by Media for Development Trust (Zim) and Media for Development International (Tanzania). We're a family of companies. Also we are I believe the largest distributor of African social message videos - well, that isn't such a big deal, as there is no money in it, and a LOT of volunteer work. But we have about 100 titles and keep them available.

Thanks again Oscar!
cheers, Steve Smith