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POPULAR Nollywood actresses and actors, including Omotola jalade-Ekeinede, Genevieve Nnaji, Rita Dominic, Omoni Oboli, Ramsey Nouah, Stephanie Okereke-Linus, among others, were conspiciously missing at the opening ceremony of this year’s Africa International Film Festival, AFRIFF, which held Sunday night, at the Genesis Deluxe Cinemas, The Palms, Lekki, Lagos. Despite their absence, however, the event was no less a gathering of the best of African and indeed, world film makers and stars.
This year, there was a double dose of films, as the opening night selection consisted of one short film, ‘Waiting for Hassana’, an ode to the missing Chibok girls, abducted from their secondary school in 2014, directed by Ifunanya Maduka, and the Zambian entry, ‘I am not a Witch’, helmed by Rungano Nyoni. Both films, according to the organizers were selected on the strength of their merits, as they highlight important topical social issues relating to African children.
Nollywood stars who walked the red carpet included, Wale Ojo, Uche Jombo, Linda Ejiofor, Kemi Lala Akindoju, Hilda Dokubo, Funlola Aofiyebi-Raimi. Others were Biola Alabi, Peace Anyiam-Osigwe, Fred Amata, Zick Zulu Okafor, Kunle Afolayan, CJ Obasi, Belinda Yanga, Kenneth Uphopho and Ifeanyi Dike. Also, in attendance was Kelechi Eke, the founder of the Africa International Film Festival, Dallas, the United States. Welcoming delegates from across the world, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed expressed President Buhari-led administration’s willingness to support the creative industry through grants, tax breaks and funding opportunities. Speaking at the event, Mr. Herbert Wigwe, patron of the festival and Managing Director of Access Bank, lead sponsor of the festival pledged his bank’s support for filmmakers, especially through the AFRIFF/Accelerate Filmmakers Project, an initiative set up to help aspiring youthful filmmakers fast track their ideas and nurture them to reality. Wigwe also stressed the importance of film as a powerful tool for Africans to tell their own stories, separate from the usual story of poverty that has been championed by the Western media. Representing the Governor of Lagos State, Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, welcomed delegates to the centre of excellence and positioned AFRIFF as “one of the leading creative platforms in Africa that has been consistent, truly awe inspiring and which has found the Lagos arty landscape compatible with its own vision.” Introducing the opening night films, former Governor of Akwa Ibom State and current Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, gave a lengthy account of his efforts to bring the exaggerated problem of witchcraft, associated to children in the state to an end. According to Akpabio, his administration had succeeded through education, convictions and rehabilitation in halting the dangerous trend.
Also speaking at the event, French Consul General, Lagos, Mr. Laurent Polonceaux said; “This is a great opportunity for us because this is the first time that the French government is involved with Africa. We will be having two days at the festival for French films, with possibility of co-production with Nigeria and Africa.” He noted that it was good that the festival will be closing with the French film, ‘Felicite’, and disclosed that arrangement has been made to have about 70 film students for further training in France as an exchange programme with AFRIFF.
The festival continued Monday, with film screenings and an interesting keynote conversation on matters relating to technical film crew with emphasis on Nigeria, facilitated by BCI studios. Filmmakers such as Bose Oshin, Baba Agba and Queen Martins were also around to share tips on the realities of filming in Nigeria. This was followed by a keynote conversation facilitated by Forde Pro on the role of technology and strategic partnerships in getting African content on the global scene.The festival is an annual week-long, all-encompassing world class showcase running from October 29 to November 4, 2017.