The launch party of the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) held on Friday, April 23 at Atlantic Beach Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos. Artists including Genevieve Nnaji, Rita Dominic, Ini Edo, Jude Idada, Lucky Ejim, comedian Ali Baba, Mike Nliam, Paul Obazele, Mike Isikaku and Mahmod Ali-Balogun amongst others were at the launch of the festival birthed from the success of last year’s ION International Film Festival.

Port Harcourt, capital of Rivers State was agog from December 9 to 12 2009 when ION, an international touring festival berthed in the Garden City. Celebrities and professionals from Nollywood, Bollywood and Hollywood were among those that converged for the festival.

Like ION, AFRIFF with the theme ‘Africa Unite’ will also hold in Port Harcourt this November. It will feature a film market, seminars and workshops focussing on key industry topics. It will similarly host both local and international celebrities, actors, directors, film buyers, distributors, film students and others interested in film. The Rivers State government will host the festival as it did ION.

Networking opportunities

Anchor of the launch event, Rivers State-based comedian and filmmaker, Yibo Koko, had a hard time getting guests who were busy backslapping, hugging and doing justice to the available small chops and drinks to quieten for the main show. “The sisters that helped us organise ION saw it proper to help organise something indigenous but international in outlook,” Koko stated while introducing the trio of Ilaria Chessa, Caterina Bortulossi and Soledad Grognett, directors of Omcomm, the company that produced ION . He also introduced Chioma Ude and Peace Anyiam-Fiberesima, founder, Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) as the five people behind the forthcoming festival.

Koko affirmed that AFRIFF will be a great melting point for African filmmakers and those in the Diaspora to network and further promote the art of filmmaking on the continent. A three minute video clip of what transpired during ION was subsequently screened for guests.

Corroborating Koko’s assertion that ION gave birth to AFRIFF, Bortulossi thanked everybody that contributed to the success of the festival, which moves on to Turkey this year. She described the experience as a “nice journey” and promised that “there is more to come.”

Feeling Africa

Rivers State Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Marcus Nle-Ejii, assured of the state’s readiness to host the festival and also seized the opportunity to sell his state. “Rivers is a lovely place. We are willing and ready to accommodate you this year,” he stated. Nle-Ejii did not fail to show appreciation to the organisers of ION for choosing Rivers as the festival’s host state. He nonetheless expressed happiness that AFRIFF “is a little bit indigenous.”

Anyiam-Fiberesima said she was “looking forward to AFRIFF” because it would afford professionals in the film industry the opportunity to network and discuss film content. She also lauded the host state for its dedication to promoting tourism and hospitality. The founder of AMAA who touched on the uniting qualities of film assured those who will attend AFRIFF of a nice time in Port Harcourt.

Grognett toed the same path. She reiterated the power of film to bring people together and noted that AFRIFF “will make people feel Africa even if they don’t care to come to Africa.” Grognett didn’t fail to affirm her love for Nigeria. “I can’t go anywhere else. This is where my dreams are turning to reality,” she said.

Singer Nneka who had performed during ION with former Fugees star, Pras Michael, entertained guests at the occasion, also attended by musician Baba Dee.

Entries have already opened for the competition aspect of the new festival. It will close on August 13. The available categories are feature, short, documentary and animation.