The African film industry received a much-needed boost on Wednesday, 23 September 2009, when DSTV Online, in partnership with M-Net, launched the African Film Library - the largest electronic library of feature films, shorts and documentaries from 50 years of African film production.

Over the past three years, M-Net has been negotiating the rights to almost 600 works in English, French, Arabic and Portuguese and digitally re-mastering them. The result is the African Film Library  the largest library of its kind in the world.

Consisting of award-winning works from more than 80 film makers including Senegalese Ousmane Sembene and Djibril Mambety, Yousef Chahine from Egypt, Kwaw Ansah from Ghana and Haile Gerima from Ethiopia, the African Film Library will offer a wide selection of films through its cutting edge video-on-demand (VOD) service.

Forming an important digital archive of the continent's cultural cinematic heritage, and making African artists' works easily accessible via the internet to a wide viewership around the world, the online library is creating a new audience for existing and emerging African filmmakers.

In its quest to contribute to the modernization of film distribution services on the continent, DSTV Online, in partnership with M-Net, will utilise conventional and new media (digital and internet broadband) distribution approaches to ensure maximum and sustained exposure of African films across the globe.

Says Mike Dearham, curator of the African Film Library: "Making African produced films and documentaries accessible to both Africans and the world must be a key driver of any strategy to grow the film industry. Distribution is vital, as are the platforms through which the films are delivered, and thus becomes a pre-requisite to any serious growth strategy."

By accessing the African Film Library online , users of the service will be able to effortlessly search by genre, director or language and pay for and download digitally re-mastered footage. Similar to a DVD rental service, viewers will have 24 hours access to the content. It is important to note that the content is portable, but the license is not so viewers can download the film on to a disc or flash drive, but will be required to pay again should they wish to watch it on another device or after the 24 hour period has expired.

Says Jason Probert, General Manager at DSTV Online: "This initiative will offer a radical Pan-African solution to the historic challenge of distribution. Through the delivery of a VOD service, users will be able to access and view film maker biographies and reviews, trailers and full feature films. The African Film Library is unique and cutting edge in terms of concept and design, however we are aware of the constraints faced when trying to effectively bridge the commercial and development divide facing the peoples of Africa. We hope that by helping to preserve and grow the African Film Industry, and by making it accessible to not only Africa, but the world at large, we are taking a step in the right direction."

Source: The National Film & Video Foundation, go to www.nfvf.co.za