By Victor Akande
MY thirst for film festivals is highly assuaged again, knowing that some notable African films will be coming to Nigeria for all to see. With The Square, an Oscar-nominated documentary by Egyptian filmmaker, Jehan Noujaim, as the opening night film and Hard To Get, from first-time feature director, Zee Ntuli, as the closing night movie, I may just forget for once, that I am in Nigeria for a film festival.
Kudos to the organizers of Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) for keeping it real, coming from the fact that AFRIFF is meant to be a continental film event that will also sell the potentials inherent in Nigeria, and indeed, Calabar, a major tourist attraction.
Last year, Of Good Report, the work of South Africa’s first-time feature film director, Jahmil Qubeka was an eye opener for Nigerian filmmakers and film students who attended, and there is no doubt that these new choices by AFRIFF’s Artistic Director, Keith Shiri, will be worth our while.
It is a learning process, and we may just have a lot to take home from The Square, a stunning film that charts the course of three years of Egyptian political upheaval that began in 2011.
On the other hand, I saw Hard to Get in Durban early in the year, and I can tell that the film is fuelled by a bewitching visual poetry. The action romance explores the universal theme of love in the very specific context of contemporary South Africa. The film is set against the unpredictable backdrop of Joburg’s criminal underworld.
That aside, AFRIFF’s eagle eyes, has also caught good films from several other countries, including Nigeria, with Tunde Kelani’s Dazzling Mirage, Kunle Afolayan’s October 1 and Lancelot Imasuen’s Invasion 1897.
What more? Gone Too Far, an adaption from Bola Agbaje’s Olivier award-winning play set in London and directed by Destiny Ekaragha; Difret, another affecting feature debut from Ethiopia, detailing the traumatic experience of an Ethiopian girl accused of killing a man who had sexually abused her.
No doubt, AFRIFF is poised to celebrate Africa, giving room for filmmakers in the continent to showcase their works, without the kind of restriction posed by the biennial Festival of Pan African Cinema (FESPACO) holding in Burkina Faso. I hear there are lots of hard-hitting documentaries and a generous selection of shorts representing over 30 countries from all the regions of Africa.
The subjects of discourse in the industry sessions are another area to look forward to. Actors, filmmakers, film marketers, distribution houses and various professional guilds in the entertainment industry will gather at different venues, discussing issues of benefits, while charting a new course for African cinema. Film students and filmmakers alike will also engage in trainings, as part of the capacity building initiative of the festival.
There is no doubt that these sessions are the artistic and business sides of showbiz, and are essential to the development of the creative non-oil sector of the economy. Some of the great subjects to be explored by the festival include, Acting laboratory Acting with integrity, to be hosted by notable producer/director, Mildred Okwo and Adapting African literature for screen- A cinematic goldmine, to be handled by an army of industry bests such as Jude Idada, a screenwriter, playwright and novelist; Tunde Kelani, foremost cinematographer; Yemi Akintokun, a movie director; Jane Maduegbena, a lawyer and mobile application expert and Jeremy Weate of Cassava Republic publishing outfit.
Other sessions will include Art of Film Criticism, a conversation about the work and art of a film critique to be handled by Don Omope, Editor of African Screens Magazine and Shaibu Husseini of Nigeria’s Guardian newspaper; Demystifying Distribution in Nigeria, to be hosted by Gab Okoye (Gabosky), Chichi Nworah, Uwem Jacobs and Kene Mkparu of FilmHouse; Film Marketing 101 by Uzoma Onwuchekwa; Finance For Film Workshop by Akintunde Oyebode; The History, The Picture, The Art, The Film by Pat Nebo and International Co-production to be handled by knowledgeable filmmakers in international treaty such as Zama Mkosi, Mahmood Alli- Balogun, Neil Mccartney and Madu Chikwendu.
The week-long event will also treat topics like Going International…, a window to major festival circuit; Nollywood Alert, information platform for film industry on health and development; The Restless Pitch, a training workshop to be followed by an open, creative live pitching session and Relativity Nollywood Summits on digital distribution and piracy.
No doubt, there will be a place for glitterati, with a glitzy opening and closing ceremonies, with celebrities rocking the red carpet. And while filmmakers cool off, at the end of the day’s intellectual programmes, the various parties and cocktails sponsored by institutions, the awards night also holds a lot of promises for some films, even as 10 students will be selected from the workshop sessions for further training in an American university.
The programmes are just too rich to ignore, and I cannot wait to be a part of a process that works. Abeg, let’s go to AFRIFF.