Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2013

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Film Studies

First Advisor

Creekmur, Corey

First Committee Member

Amad, Paula

Second Committee Member

Scullion, Rosemarie

Third Committee Member

Kruger, Marie

Fourth Committee Member

Eko, Lyombe


This thesis examines the industry of non-profit educational filmmaking in Sub-Saharan Africa, from the 1930's to the present, with particular attention on the contemporary period of video production from the late 1980's to approximately 2010. This thesis, first, identifies that there is a consistent industrial infrastructure around non-profit educational filmmaking in Sub-Saharan Africa, which has not previously been articulated. Second, it describes the industry's historical origins and contemporary manifestation, delineating the pathways for funding, systems for production, and avenues of distribution and exhibition, as well as the ideological underpinnings of each. Finally, this thesis proscribes alternative industrial practices for the imagination and execution of non-profit educational videos that alleviate some of the otherwise deeply engrained hierarchical features of the industry by drawing on several examples of recent innovations in the industry.

This thesis claims that the standard procedures by which non-profit educational films and videos in Sub-Saharan Africa come to be are problematic in the way that they maintain colonial hierarchies between Western philanthropic funders, cosmopolitan humanitarian professionals acting as producers, African casts and crews, and audiences that are necessarily objectified in order to be studied quantitatively. This structure has profound effects on content, most recently evident in neoliberal ideas that valorize the privatization of solutions to public health problems and quaint stories designed to encourage audiences to emulate ideal behavior based on Western gender norms as a primary solution to complex social problems, such as HIV/AIDS.

Drawing on examples from recent innovations in the industry, this thesis finally proposes that changes in the balance of decision-making power in the African educational film and video industry - changes such as sourcing audiences for stories addressing HIV/AIDS, integrating with existing media markets, or more loosely providing international support to existing local initiatives that pinpoint local concerns - are necessary in order to better realize the potential of cinema to effectively address the myriad of social, environmental, political, economic, and medical challenges faced by real and distinct Sub-Saharan audiences.


African film, African women, Colonial film, Educational film, NGO film, Transnational film


v, 176 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 156-176).


Copyright 2013 Allison McGuffie