Between December 1 to 5, Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, is the place to be for film festival attendees as the city plays host to the first African Film Festival (AFRIFF), which the state government is also lending its financial support. In this interview, the founder of the festival, Chioma Ude, he told Deputy Editor, Charles Okogene, some of the things to expect at the festival. Excerpt
Tell us the things we do not know about you, which we ought to know.
First, my name is Chioma Ude and for those who don’t know, I live in Lagos. I moved back to Nigeria four years ago from America. And for the past four years, I have busied myself with one thing or the other in the film industry; I have an interest in the industry, which has grown to something I am very passionate about now.
And what is that that you are passionate about?
Using medium like AFRIFF to raise the bar in the industry. That is my passion for now.
And what role do you play in AFRIFF?
I founded it; I am the MD/CEO.
What are we to expect at the festival?
Many things. This year, even though it is the first edition, we are not going to start out like a regular festival. You will recall that last year I produced ION Film Festival. I have done a lot of things in the film industry and it is getting easier for me to function in it. This year is exceptionally good because I am working with Peace Anyiam-Osigwe, who has a wealth of experience on the job. She is driving content; I’m driving marketing, production and of course budgeting. So, we are coming with a good package for all those who will find time to be in Port Harcourt for the festival.
Last year it was ION Festival. What is the relationship between ION and AFRIFF?
The only relationship I see is that the person who produced ION Film Festival is now the owner of AFRIFF. After my experience with ION, I found out that this is what I really wanted to do. I not only found out that I could put a festival together but that I could manage it. I kind of conquered the fear but I knew that in ION, the content was lacking, though, the entertainment bit of it was really good and to correct whatever flaw in the content, I decided to work with Peace, the founder of African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA).
It means ION won’t happen anymore?
Right now, you will agree with me that there are a couple of film festivals in Nigeria and there are also a lot of entertainment awards, what actually is going to stand AFRIFF from the rest?
The most important thing for me is the content viewing aspect of the festival, which Peace is handling. I tell you what, in every film festival, there is content sourcing and from the best of my knowledge I do not think that such is happening in other festivals that take place in our country. We have taken the pains to invite TV stations from different countries that are coming to Nigeria to source for content. We are also inviting the right producers to bring their contents to the market.
Two, this is not a money- making venture for me, which I am grateful for; I am well established in what I do, so for me, it is very key that I make it succeed.
What do you do?
I have a production company – Jatta Logistics - that does a lot of outsourcing to Total Nigeria. I have a business that is thriving outside of this, let’s put it that way. So, we are putting everything back at least for the first two years to make the festival strong. In other words, I am inviting film directors from all over and script writers from all over too. I am trying to bring in the best and in fact, as at this morning, the guy in charge of the logistics came to me to say that we have 18 new names.
People that want to come for the festival from different parts of the country but we have exceeded our flight budget and we could not take them. However, right or wrong, we have spent a lot of money on publicity and a lot of people are now aware of the festival especially with Peace coming on board. Do not forget also that I also worked with her on AMAA – I produced the timetable.
So what were you doing in America?
Very funny and very different; I studied nursing. I first studied marketing in Nigeria but on getting to America, I decided to study nursing and I still love it. Though, I miss it; it is past now.
Were you also in charge of marketing for ION? Was it the reason for the huge corporate support ION got?
I would not say that; everybody put in his/her best. I knew what I did. I did quite some.
And what is the support like for FRIFF?
This year the support is wavering; and there is a reason we are called the Third world country. We still see things differently because a Nigerian is the one championing it this time around and so they want us to prove ourselves first. But luckily, Total Nigeria is on board, MRS, another oil company, is on board too; today somebody at Sopetrol called me and was very upset that I did not introduce the sponsorship package to him. Zinox Computers is on board in addition to the computers he has given to us. So we are doing good but it could be a whole lot better.
Then how much in terms of naira and kobo have you been able to gather from all these people?
I will give that to the commissioner for culture and tourism, she sends out the letters.
Okay, how much will cost to organise a festival of AFRIFF nature in Nigeria?
Nigeria is a very expensive country, super expensive. Last year, we spent just N2 million hiring Polo Club, spent N15 million to erect a tent on it but this year, the same Polo Club is asking us for N5 million which came as a big shock to me. I was particularly upset about it. Prices just keep skyrocketing. It will cost you what it will cost you; you do not have to do what we are doing. There are parties because that is what film festival is all about. You can’t ignore the parties because that is where the networking takes place.
How much support are you getting from Nollywood?
I will say very good; Peace has worked with a couple of them and I also happen to know them. We are getting positive response from them.