Pan-African fest unspools in heart of Nigerian entertainment biz
When the organizers of the ION Intl. Film Festival decided to bring their traveling event to Port Harcourt, Nigeria, nearly a decade ago, they called on Chioma Ude – then managing director of a local logistics company – to help it take flight. It didn’t matter that a fest founded in Hollywood was unspooling in the heart of the country’s restive Niger Delta region. Things went smoothly, and a year later, the state governor called Ude with a simple proposition: why not do the same thing for Nigeria?
“I’m a film lover…[and] I always thought I could do something for the industry,” Ude told Variety ahead of the latest edition of the Africa Intl. Film Festival (AFRIFF), the pan-African film showcase that was launched in Port Harcourt in 2010. “I felt I could help in that respect.”
Eight years later, as Nigeria’s dynamic entertainment industry continues to grow, AFRIFF has maintained a steady presence in a country where stability is often hard to come by. Through political uncertainty, through wild fluctuations in the currency, through an ongoing Islamist threat and rampant insecurity, the festival has stuck to a vision Ude hatched eight years ago to use film as a unifying force—both in Africa’s most populous nation, and on the continent as a whole. “I just wanted to show how we could all celebrate [African film] as one, how we could all learn from our different stories,” she said.