Afrostream TV: Building the Infrastructure for Black Power in the Global Film Industry
Photo Credit: S & A

Afrostream TV: Building the Infrastructure for Black Power in the Global Film Industry

Afrostream TVThe following has not been written so that you might run and tell

Master what the Negroes in the field are about to do, but instead so that you

might run and tell your brother, "Now’s our chance to be free."

One of the most important steps to building an infrastructure for

Black independent cinema in the digital age must begin with the creation and

maintenance of a distribution platform that allows people of color to have

instant home and mobile screen access to all films by people of color across

the globe.  Such a digital

distribution platform must concentrate on the ability to deliver Black content

to the home and mobile screens of those consumers who are willing to pay a

monthly subscription fee so that they might unify the African Diaspora via the

exchange and enjoyment of images and stories made by Blacks across the

globe.  The existence of such a

digital distribution platform would have incredible political and economic

potential in the context of the White controlled American Entertainment Complex

because it would mean that Whites and their tokens of color or ethnicity would

no longer have the exclusive power to dictate what kinds of films Blacks would

be able to produce and see of themselves. 

That is to say, we would finally have the power to choose what images

and stories we want to see of ourselves without having a White cultural censor

performing the role of gatekeeper with various weapons of denial and sabotage such

as: screen ratios, international distribution impediments, false and misleading

demographic evidence, casting requirements (i.e., “Where’s the White hero?")

marketing restrictions and budgetary prohibitions.

In other words, with a digital distribution platform dedicated to

Black content, we would be able to freely share in our own cultural wealth and

willingly profit economically from our own diversity and the richness of our

existence as Black people across the globe.

As a means to accomplishing these ends that have just been described

above a French African entrepreneur Tonje Bakang, a French actor and filmmaker

Fabrice Eboue and a French technical project manager Ludovic Bostral have

collaborated together to form a new start up company that will launch later

this year called, Afrostream TV.  Afrostream

TV is a SVOD (Subscription Video On Demand) distribution company that intends

to become the," Netflix of streaming Black content around the world,"

in the words of the company’s CEO Tonje Bakang in a recent interview with this


Although the idea of streaming Black content specifically to Black

audiences is not new and without competition what makes the intention of

Afrostream TV unique is that Black content will not be excluded from the existing

international audiences to which such content would appeal.  For example, Bakang explains that there

is an estimated population of 15 million people of Sub-Saharan African descent

in Europe alone (France, Belgium, Spain and the U.K.) as well as a huge market

within several countries within the continent of Africa.  Yet these audiences are underserved by

the American Entertainment Complex which has for decades intentionally denied

Black American filmmakers legitimate profit making access to these international

audiences under the lie that Black films won’t sell well overseas.  Bakang was adamant during our interview

that Afrostream TV is not being created to distribute domestic Black content to

its domestic Black audience, but instead their mission is to deliver domestic

Black content to its existing but underserved international foreign audience.

In other words, Black films from the United States will be streamed

to subscribers in Europe and Africa as Black films from Europe and Africa will

be streamed to subscribers in the United States.


Afrostream TV African-American filmmakers who have been deliberately segregated

from international markets will soon be able to license SVOD rights of their

films to Afrostream TV for 24 months and have their works subtitled in various

languages and seen in France, French Overseas Territories, Belgium, Luxembourg,

Switzerland, U.K., and in Sub-Saharan Africa.  Black audiences across the globe will be able to see and

enjoy the work of Black American filmmakers without having to resort to

bootlegging this content.  The

bootlegging of Black cinema overseas while it allows an existing international

Black audience access to Black American content that is denied to them by the

American Entertainment Complex, it also impoverishes Black filmmakers across

the globe because profits cannot be recouped by the copyright holders.  As a result, Black films are ghettoized

within the American Entertainment Industry with smaller budgets, shorter

development schedules and narrow genre definitions precisely because of the

lowered expectations regarding the international appeal of these films.  Such an assertion gains its validity

from the fact that over the last ten years the foreign market accounts for a

larger percentage of the unadjusted box office grosses than the domestic box

office of all major studio films in release today. (See: boxofficemojo for

unadjusted foreign and domestic box office figures)

I will reiterate a conclusion about the bootlegging of Black movies

that I have stated elsewhere: The bootlegging of Black movies domestically and

internationally has been allowed to persist unimpeded by the American

Entertainment Complex as a means of maintaining power and control over Black

filmmakers and the images they are allowed to create. (See: Bootlegging and the

Plot Against African-American Film)    

Afrostream TV intends to be a corrective to this major problem of

bootlegging by allowing the international audience legitimate access to U.S.

Black content while returning a percentage of its subscription fees back to the

filmmakers as recompense.  We must

understand foremost that this digital distribution platform is not a get rich

quick scheme, but instead it provides a necessary service in this digital age

to deliver Black content directly to a Black global audience without a White

person as a nay saying gatekeeper in the middle.

Interested Black independent filmmakers with completed feature length

works, shorts and/or web series are urged to contact Afrostream TV at for more details about the film

submission process and other legal and financial matters.  CEO Tonje Bakang will also be attending

the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) in New York, June 19-22 2014 where

enterprising Black independent filmmakers can ask more detailed questions and

get the precise information they need to make their successful use of this

digital platform a reality.

Returning to a challenge that was discussed in a previous article

Black Power in the Global Film Industry that you can access here: How do we put

up or shut up?

To expand on that question in another way: What are the necessary

means to accomplish our own self-determined Black cinema that would be an

answer to our long complaint against the White controlled globally

interconnected American Entertainment Complex?  Part of the answer is that we must establish, maintain and

insure the success of a digital platform for the streaming of Black content internationally

on home and mobile screens which will allow us to bypass the fixed and minimal theatrical

screen ratios determined exclusively by the White controlled American

Entertainment Complex which negatively impacts the ability of Black films to be

seen and to be profitable.

Of the many important reasons concerning the establishment of a bi-lateral

digital platform for the on-line distribution of Black content I would like to

highlight two reasons that take precedence:

1) By reaching these international Black audiences legitimately, we

as Black people can begin the first economic and political steps necessary to

have unlimited control over Black images and the economic context wherein which

we can profit from these images. 

In short, we will be exerting and profiting from Black power in the

global film marketplace.

2) The success of a digital platform like Afrostream TV will also

have tremendous consequences for African-American filmmakers working within the

American Entertainment Complex.  For

example, African-American filmmakers will have independently documented

demographic evidence of the existence of an international audience of people of

color who are willing to pay to see Black content produced domestically in the

United States.  This evidence can

be used as leverage in the contentious negotiations with various studios of the

American Entertainment Complex for foreign licensing rights by African-American


No longer will we have to accept the lie that Black films don’t sell

well overseas. 

Of course there is no guarantee that the negotiations for foreign

licensing rights with the American Entertainment Complex will be successful,

but coming in to the negotiations armed with independently produced evidence is

better than coming in empty-handed which is something we have done to no avail for


The real power here is that now in this digital age Black filmmakers

and audiences have options.

The sooner we let go of our romanticized vision of a domestic theatrical

release as the only criterion for a Black film’s legitimacy the sooner we can

begin to embrace the advances in technology and film delivery systems to

unshackle ourselves from the degrading ghettoization of Black cinema by the

White controlled globally interconnected American Entertainment Complex.

Yet ultimately the key to Afrostream TV’s success is if high profile

Black independent filmmakers like, for instance, Spike Lee whose crowd funded

new film Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014) were to be acquired as a SVOD deal for

international streaming or if a large amount of high quality smaller films like

Brady Hall’s SCRAPPER (2013) starring Michael Beach or the work Ava DuVernay

and many of the releases of AFFRM could be acquired as both pledges of support

and demonstrations of legitimacy in building the infrastructure necessary for

Black power in the global film industry.

But we can never become complacent because our opponent is watching

everything we do so that they might be able to put that shackle back on our

ankles and control the vision that we have of ourselves.

The most difficult truth to accept here is that some people of color

don’t actually want to be free from White capitalist exploitation and are indeed

on their way right now to tell Master what the negroes in the field are about

to do…

Is it you?