by Adenike Adebayo
Anytime the African International Film Festival (AFRIFF) comes around, I get excited. Mostly because of the workshops, training and movie screenings, but this year my excitement was based on the theme “Embracing The World.” 2016 has been a significant year in the African movie industry, Nollywood especially. With 8 movies in the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and more international recognition, Nollywood had been embraced by the world and so it is only natural for it to return the favour.
AFRIFF opened with a simple opening ceremony and film. Numerous actors and filmmakers from all over the world turned out to watch the movie “Birth of A Nation” by Nate Parker. One exciting segment is the red carpet ceremonies – guests interacting and sharing their excitement about what to expect at the festival. This year compared to previous years, the opening ceremony wasn’t as exciting and the turn out was a tad disappointing. While we saw notable faces like Richard Mofe Damijo, Rita Dominic, Lala Akindoju, Kunle Afolayan, Stanlee Ohikuare, DJ Tee, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and others, the ceremony was void of the exciting vibe and presence as it was before.
I should tell you about my experience with Alhaji Lai Mohammed. He met a friend of mine at the ceremony who told him that he was there to support me. So, the minister requested for me. On getting to him he engaged me in a conversation about my job and the company I work for (Red Media Africa). What struck me as interesting was his warm and friendly demeanour – the fact that he was genuinely interested in what I do. This is certainly not what you would expect from a busy minister on whose shoulder the information apparatus of the country rests.
Moving on to the week of the festival, it was a completely different story as there were so many interesting activities that it was difficult to choose which to attend. Film screenings, industry sessions, master classes and other programmes, took place simultaneously at the Silverbird Galleria, Victoria Island; Genesis Deluxe and Filmhouse-IMAX, Lekki; Maryland Mall, Ikeka, and Afrinolly Space, Oregun, Lagos.
There was the acting class, taught by veteran actress, Hilda Dokubo – there couldn’t have been a better teacher. Just like her movies, Hilda threw herself into impacting the students with knowledge was she brilliant or what? There was also a branding class by Mykel Parish, President of the African Film Consortium. This class was strategic because beyond filmmaking and selling movies, branding is an essential part of the filmmaking business and it’s exciting to see African filmmakers with requisite exposure. It will impact the quality of movies produced in the industry.
The festival featured a film/filmmaking experience for hundreds of school children hosted to a film screening at IMAX. The movie “Born to be Wild”, was an exciting selection for such young school children because of what it represents – a documentary based on the life of orphaned orangutans and elephants rescued by humans and returned to their natural habitat.
Overall, the week-long activities of the festival were detailed and impactful. AFRIFF took things a step further this year by including classes and training that went beyond the expected and involved people outside of the movie-making business.
The closing film was ’76, arguably one of the best movies in 2016 – produced by Izu Ojukwu featuring Rita Dominic and Ramsey Nouah. It was a brilliant selection and it ended the festival on a high note. The closing gala and awards ceremony was themed “AFRIFF Broadway” and it featured performances by Osas Ajibade, Toni Tones. The event was hosted by Lala Akindoju. It was a indeed a beautiful night.
I can’t end this without this though – Nollywood needs to improve on keeping to time. The closing gala started at 9:30pm because people came late to a red carpet that should have started by 7pm. If AFRIFF can work on keeping to time and encouraging anyone who in the film business to come out and participate in the festival, it will become even greater. AFRIFF 2016 was definitely a success and I say congratulations to Chioma Ude and all the ambassadors of AFRIFF.