by Tolu Omoyeni
The African International Film Festival (AFRIFF) held in November 2016 but preparation and submission processes are year-long. As the conversation about the success of last year’s festival still continues, Barrister Nobert Ajaegbu who is in charge of Industry Relations at AFRIFF speaks to YNaija on matters that concern the festival and Nigeria’s Nollywood industry.
Tell us about your position as director of Industry Relations.
I coordinate the relationship between AFRIFF as an entity and the local industry. As you know, there are bound to be basic issues that will arise with the local industry as this is Nigeria hosting the world.
How do you deal with the divisions in the Nollywood industry?
Whether it’s Kannywood or the Igbos or Yorubas, we have one industry and it’s Nollywood. The other names are all integral parts of a larger industry and basically, we have some organisations that bind us together. In most cases, the government addresses us as one industry. We have one film corporation, one film and video censors board etc. So we reach out to the guilds who represent the various regional bodies and we work with them. AFRIFF does not meddle into internal guild affairs, we do not discriminate.
But some of these indigenous industries are not duly represented at the festival, for example, the Yoruba movie industry. Why is that?
A criteria is set by the organization which is what is applicable at other international film festivals too. If you’re a filmmaker and you want your film to go into context, irrespective of the language and someone in faraway countries like Egypt participates, I don’t see why the people here will hear about a festival where they can showcase their work and not act. You don’t just sit at home, see calls for submission and ignore.
It’s not only the Yoruba industry but most of the indigenous players in Nollywood. It’s mostly because they are young industries and are a bit complacent so I expect that they will grow over time.
How has the federal government under President Buhari contributed to the Nollywood industry, especially as it concerns structure?
Upon his assumption of office, the Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed saw something no minister from recent past administrations has seen, except for 2004 when the then minister under President Olusegun Obasanjo, Mr Chukwuemeka Chikelu saw to the appropriation of a structure for the industry through MOPICON bill/document.
Lai Mohammed immediately set up a committee to review the MOPICON bill/document and do a redraft which will be pushed to the National Assembly and this is a commendable action.
Also, the Project ACT was started under former president Goodluck Jonathan’s administration but was about 30 percent complete at the time he left office, but with the help of Lai Mohammed and the minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, the project has been completed.
How would you rate the success of the just concluded AFRIFF?
It is more like a year that AFRIFF decided to go indigenous. The closing night was a showcase of originality, of the true African picture. AFRIFF has always been a reference point of every international filmmaker and it has never done below expectations so far.