The recently held ION international film festival in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, suffered a heavy setback, due to massive boycott, from virtually all the major guilds in Nollywood, the Nigerian motion picture industry. We reliably gathered that aside boycotting the festival, which they openly described as “a huge insult on Nollywood and its professionals”, these major guilds are also angry and disappointed with network giant Zain, for investing millions in the festival without regard and concern for Nollywood and its growth. And as a prove of their seething anger, these guilds, according to a reliable source, are secretly sensitizing and mobilizing their members to begin a mass boycott on anything that has to do with Zain. In the words of one of the major players in Nollywood, who spoke with us on the condition of anonymity, “we are currently mobilizing our members in all the guilds in Nollywood to stop using the Zain network. Since they can give a nomadic festival that is not resident here in Nigeria millions of Naira, to organize a colourless film festival that was of no importance to Nollywood and the entire Nigerian motion picture industry, we will also boycott and blacklist them. Zain, should tell us one major thing they have done for Nollywood? Each time, we take our proposals to them for sponsorships, its usually cock and bull stories. We have AMAA, the Abuja and Lagos international film festivals and the recently held AMP/Eko international film festival, which one did they support? Its appalling the way they treat us here. Collectively, our members are almost a million and the bulk of us use Zain, right now, we want to mobilize them to stop using or patronizing Zain, because we have gained nothing from them as professional bodies working for the growth of the nation through Nollywood. Enough is enough. Now that we have boycotted the festival, Zain should now tell us the importance of their sponsorship?” While speaking with us, another angry top player in Nollywood queried the rationale behind spending so much millions on ION, which has no structure or any major development plan for the Nigerian motion picture industry. “In fact, Gov. Rotimi Amaechi should tell us his reasons for wasting several millions of Rivers State tax payers money on the so called festival? How many Rivers State born filmmakers has he empowered and how many true Nollywood projects has he supported or hosted in Rivers State. All the billions he wasted on this festival would have been used to kick start a film village project in Rivers State, which at the end of the day will be beneficial to both Nollywood and the State. We see all these people as those stunting the growth of Nollywood”. Aside the conspicuous absence of the leaders and key officers of guilds such as the: Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), Directors Guild of Nigeria (DGN), Association of Movie Producers (AMP), several leading practitioners and stakeholders in Nollywood also shunned the festival, thus making it a poorly attended event. Meanwhile, a joint press conference to address the issue of ION, the boycott and Zain’s apathy towards Nollywood and its core practitioners holds very soon, at a yet to be fixed venue.
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