‘The biggest problem with 2016 AFRIFF was funding’ | Founder, Chioma Ude speaks on the success of the Festival

The 2016 Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) held about a month ago but it hasn’t stopped generating buzz. The YNaija interview with the AFRIFF team was scheduled for last week so the team got on the road with a mission to put our fingers on what made AFRIFF 2016 a runaway success that it was.

The drive from Surulere to Lekki that sunny afternoon was far from hectic, Rick (the AFRIFF PR coordinator that was constantly in contact with us) called a few times to ask our whereabouts. When we arrived the building by the laundry, we didn’t quite know what to expect.

The YNaija team members deployed for this task had never met AFRIFF founder, Chioma Ude in person so we were too eager. There were other names too; Julian, Nobert, and more.

Rick walked us in, he was casual and pleasant, like he knew we needed the calm. We’re finally in the office where the interview is to hold and there are two men and no Chioma obviously. One of them is Julian and the other is Nobert. They smiled at us and made quick jokes. They seemed interview ready so rather than wait, we got right to it. Just while we were rounding up with Nobert, Chioma walked in and you know what? Everything flipped.

There was laughter, bants and of course, plenty gists for her team. There was no air of the typical Nigerian “madam, madam” around Chioma. Her graceful charm and wit is endearing. So after one or two jokes, we got to chat about the 2016 Africa International Film Festival. Here’s how it went down:

Is the growth of AFRIFF ahead of where you thought it would be when you started?

Definitely! I like to grow things organically. It’s gone beyond us ahead of where we thought it would be. I have team members who come up with various suggestions, I come up with mine as well and that way, it grows. AFRIFF ended over a month ago and we’re still granting interviews. Left to me, i would have stopped the interviews long ago but the team is still working, we’re still in newspapers, still chasing down the people we’re owing and explaining the situation of things. AFRIFF continues to work, when this year’s festival ended, people were already calling to talk about the 2017 festival and is that beyond our scope? Of course, it’s way beyond our scope but people see the value in our work. Collectively, we’re growing the festival.

What are your plans for AFRIFF in 2017?

We have a lot of plans but if we tell you about today’s plans for tomorrow, then you won’t be excited about tomorrow. Our plan is to keep you at the edge of your seat and we’re already working towards that. Every year, we get bigger and better so there’s pressure to keep up with the standard. The good thing, though, is there’s a lot of us under that pressure so personally, I don’t feel like I’m buckling under.

What are the mistakes from 2016 AFRIFF that you intend to improve upon and how?

It’s very arrogant to say that there are no mistakes but I think we had the biggest problem this year with funding and despite that, we still made it happen better than last year. So what we have to make sure we do is find a way to get funding in time. We’ve worked with the same team over the years and everybody is quite clear on their job descriptions, with funding, things will run smoothly in all the different departments. I hardly have a say these days, I tell the team to do something, they do the other but that’s what defines progress for me because I can actually relax or step in whenever I want to.

You haven’t stopped referring to your team and this is a country where people generally have a laidback approach towards work, so how do you make your team work?

Well, we’re not like that here. God helped me to pick very passionate people. Everybody is happy with what they do, we’re broke yet we’re happy. Although, we’ve not always been broke.

*the laughter is almost uncontrollable at this point*

So you say you’re broke, is this as a result of the economic recession in the country?

100 per cent yes. It’s hard to believe because this year’s festival was the best so far but internally, we know what we’ve given up. We pulled in everything we had and made it happen and or the first time ever, we’re in debt but we’ll be fine.

How did you deal with naysayers and negative feedback at the beginning?

Ultimately, success proves naysayers wrong but there are still a lot of negative people out there. As we go along, their voices are drowned by the success of AFRIFF.

How about the predominance of Nollywood movies at a festival that’s supposed to be all African?

We actually do have movies from across Africa and the rest of the world, Brazil, India and even the United States, but of course, there are more Nigerian movies.

*AFRIFF Programme Coordinator, Chioma Onyenwe interjects* people tend to gravitate more towards feature films which make up only 20 percent of the festival. There are animations, documentaries, short films etc but people tend to remember the 25 feature films more and those are mostly Nigerian.

So, where do you see AFRIFF in 10 years?

It makes me sad where I see AFRIFF because at that point, we’ll be lost in it, it’ll be too big for us and we won’t have that oneness, that closeness we share as a team. It’s like the Dubai Film Festival when it was only 5 years old and when it was 10, there has been a clear difference. So what will happen is that people will come for the festival, meet up with their friends in their little clusters and leave unlike how it is at the moment, where everyone at the festival is familiar and we can all party in one room. It’s going to get really big very fast.

*Chioma Onyenwe* In that growth, the focus will be businesses and markets, there’s going to be film markets next year. AFRIFF is already a distribution hub but we’re going to focus on being the economic destination in addition to the film and cultural values we bring.

And her final words?

I’m exceptionally happy with the team. I have an amazing team, I don’t know many things about the festival because I’ve never had to worry about all the details. The team takes care of that. We don’t work based on my ideas alone, we come together and pool our ideas and that way, we give a beautiful show.

Aside the team, we have a lot of contributors even from the industry who assist with getting the job done. This time, we had people like Gideon Okeke, Adesua Etomi, C.J Obasi etc on our side.

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