The Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF), the biggest film gathering this side of the Atlantic, kick-started its 7th Season in spectacular style, at a ceremony heavy on star wattage, Sunday night, at the Genesis Deluxe Cinemas, The Palms, Lekki, Lagos.
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 were selected on the strength of their merits, as they highlight important topical social issues relating to African children.
Kemi Lala Akindoju, Wale Ojo, Uche Jombo, Linda Ejiofor, Hilda Dokubo and Funlola Aofiyebi-Raimi were some of the A-list stars who made their appearance on the red carpet.
Others dignitaries include filmmakers and film entrepreneurs such as Biola Alabi, Peace Anyiam-Osigwe, Fred Amata, Zick Zulu Okafor, Kunle Afolayan, CJ Obasi, Belinda Yanga, Kenneth Uphopho, as well as media personalities like Shaibu Husseini and Ameyaw Debrah from Ghana.
Delegates from around the world were welcomed by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed who expressed his administration’s willingness to support the creative industry through grants, tax breaks and funding opportunities.
Mr. Herbert Wigwe, patron of the festival and Managing Director of Access Bank, which returns as lead sponsor pledged his- and 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 the 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 Africa International Film Festival is an annual week-long, all-encompassing world-class showcase running from October 29 to November 4, 2017.
About 200 carefully curated feature-length, short, documentary and student films will be screened this year. The festival also encompasses talent development classes, industry workshops and inspiring creative discussions.
Photo Credit: Adeolu Adeniyi photography | @adeoluadeniyiphotography | www.adeoluadeniyi.com