THE prospect of the nation’s film industry as a reliable source of income for Nigeria has been emphasized. At the on-going second Ife International Film Festival, which opened on Tuesday at the Oduduwa Hall, Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU, Ile-Ife, Osun State, the Honourable Minister of Culture and Tourism, Senator Bello Jibril Gada who was the Special Guest of Honour at the event stated that Nollywood could be a huge source of wealth for the country.

In his remarks presented by his representative at the opening ceremony of the five-day event, Mr. Seyi Womiloju, the minister while noting that the theme of the festival is timely to address issues affecting the industry, assured stakeholders that the government is willing to offer necessary assistance to ensure the development of the sector.

The theme of the festival is African Film: Looking Back and Looking Forward.

Film festivals, Gada explained, are expected to contribute to the development of the industry and to foster renewed determination of the industry home and abroad. The government, he added, would not relent in its fight against piracy.

His words: “While government will continue to support the industry, especially in the fight against piracy, I want to call on the private sector not to give up the fight.”

And as quality of the output from the industry keeps generating concerns, the minister said, “we need to improve a great deal on the quality of works produced to face the challenges of the future. I have no doubt in my mind that Nollywood will soon be one of the leading sources of the nation’s revenue.”

Among the participants at the event were ten scholars from across Africa and in the Diaspora.

In his welcome address, the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Michael Faborede noted that it was not by accident that the university is hosting such an event of wide cultural dimension.

OAU, he argued, is well-positioned to be leading voice in Africa’s movie world.

He said: “Indeed for good measure, Obafemi Awolowo University has made a great impact on the film industry in Africa. Right from the days of the old Institute of African Studies, film had played a very prominent role in the university. Films were produced by Frank Speed in the 1970s, with the themes focusing on performance and management. Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka also made a very important film, Blues for the Prodigal in 1984, while he was lecturing in the university.”

The VC also told the gathering that the Department of Dramatic Arts is now training students in Camera, non-linear editing, modern equipment, “preparing them for a challenging future of self-employment as movie makers without running after non-existent salaried jobs.”

In her address, the director of the festival, Dr, Foluke Ogunleye explained the rationale behind the choice of the theme, as it “deals with the nature of the film profession.”

She added, “It is hoped that a new vision of filmmaking will arise from this workshop.”

The chairman of the occasion, Ambassador Segun Olusola traced the link between TV and film and recalled that back in his active days, as actor and producer, it was very difficult to differentiate between TV and film. He therefore used the occasion to remind the audience that TV in the whole of Africa started with the establishment of Western Nigerian Television (WNTV) in Ibadan in 1959. That landmark, he disclosed, would be 50 years old and celebrated in September this year.

At a gathering of this nature, the past would always define the present while creating a microscopic view of the future.

This was witnessed when the first paper of the event presented by Professor of Comparative Literature, Manthia Diawara of the University of New York re-enacted the spirit of the late Senegalese statesman and poet, Leopold Senghor. Diawara argued that the vision of the late controversial literary giant was not shared by most leaders of African cultural revival, hence the continue dominance of Western culture in the continent.

For the Ghanaian film legend, Kwaw Ansah whose paper treated the history of film in Ghana, the commonality shared between great leaders like Kwame Nkrumah, Obafemi Awolowo and Nnamidi Azikiwe should be enacted today through film to reduce Western influence. Ansah recalled that the coming together of the three leaders led to the eventual independence of Ghana in 1957 and Nigeria later in 1960.

According to Ansah, the position of Ghana as a leading spot in filmmaking during and after the colonial days, is however not commiserate with the current situation in the country. Today, Nigerian home video, he said, has “over ran” the emerging Ghanaian industry.

While commending the role of Nigerian video in reducing the influence of Western film across the African continent, Ansah, an award winning filmmaker of repute advised the practitioners to portray the better side of the country. He frowned at the idea being sold through these videos that an average Nigerian is dishonest.

Ansah while presenting a paper on the history of cinema in Ghana underscored the Nigerian character of hardworking, diligence and entrepreneurship, arguing that some of the negative attributives being portrayed nowadays through the Nigerian home video, are strange to average Ghanaians.

The renowned filmmaker recalled that the honesty of Nigerians in Ghana has yielded fruits in such area as commercial activities. He explained that names like ‘Alata’ (pepper seller) is popular in Ghana as a result of the virtue of industry of an average Nigerian.

“The Nigerian we know is that man or woman who, through selling pepper (Alata), is able to make bigger business. Today, in Ghana, one of the leading markets is called Mokola, a Nigerian name,” he remarked.

While commending the initiative of Nigerian video movie practitioners for offering alternative to Western domination of the big screen, he insisted that those pristine aspects of Nigeria, and indeed Africa should be focused as well.

In line with the theme of the festival: African Film: Looking Back and Looking Forward, it is expected that both classics and new works, which have helped to define the shape and texture of the African film will be shown at the festival.

Such films include selections from NFC’s Archives and Ghana’s 1952 film, The Boy Kumasenu, which was the first full-length feature film produced in Ghana by the Gold Coast Film Unit.

Others include the 1969 Kenyan film, End of an Empire, and 1964 South African film, Zulu.

Post colonial, modern and post-modern films to be shown include award-winning filmmaker, Kwaw Ansah’s films, Heritage Africa and Love Brewed in the African Pot.

Very importantly, Jeta Amata’s The Amazing Grace will also be screened at the festival. The Public Affairs Section of the American Embassy is also supporting the festival by bringing three films that reveal the African-American experience.

The films are Everyday Use, America Beyond the Color Line and Scottsboro: An American Tragedy. Films made by Hubert Ogunde, Moses Olaiya Adejumo (Baba Sala) and Isola Ogunsola (I-Show Pepper) and Ousmane Sembene are also expected to be shown during the festival.

Set up to celebrate excellence in the film industry and to allow African filmmakers and film scholars to interact in order to improve filmmaking and film studies in Africa, the festival is not award-based, so, prizes will not be awarded for the films screened.

It is also designed as a forum where experimental works can be tried out on the audience. Also, being situated in a university, student filmmakers also have the opportunity of showing their works at the festival.

Highlights of the festival include a workshop on Voice and Speech by Professor Wendy Coleman, Director of Theatre at Albany State University, Georgia, USA; workshop on acting by award-winning actor and academic, Dr. Kola Oyewo; Masterclass Sessions with seasoned African film directors such as the President of Independent Television Producers Association of Nigeria (ITPAN), Busola Holloway and award-winning filmmaker, Jeta Amata.

The festival, which ends tomorrow, is supported by the Obafemi Awolowo University, Veritas Educational Trust and the Prince Claus Fund.

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