The African Film Library was three years in the making, sponsored by South African satellite television service M-Net, which digitally remastered the movies and placed them online for rental to make them available to a global audience, said project director Mike Dearham.
“The advent of the AFL has also established a new market for African content,” he said in a statement.
“Where previously, old films that completed a commercial cycle — from theatrical window to sell through — gathered dust, the AFL has established a new source of revenue for old films whilst simultaneously breaking new ground with delivery of content via new media platforms,” he said.
The films come from across the continent, in English, French, Portuguese and Arabic.
They include works by Ghana’s Kwaw Ansah, Guinea-Bissau’s Flora Gomes, and France’s Jean Rouch.
Users can rent the movies for three days for $5, with the initial collection showcasing the works of Sembene including classics like “Guelwaar” and “Ceddo”.
“The vast majority of African filmmakers have struggled to effectively engage the challenge of promotion and distribution of African films,” Dearham said.
“M-Net promises regular television broadcast of these films as well as distribution through other media platforms, like the online AFL portal,” he said.