The First Edition of the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF), themed, ‘Africa Unites’, is scheduled to hold from December 1 to 5 at the Genesis Deluxe Cinema, Port Harcourt. This was announced at a press briefing held on September 15 at City Mall, Onikan, Lagos. According to Chioma Ude, Founder and Project Director of the Festival, “AFRIFF draws on the principle that being African is a bond that goes beyond geography, birth or lineage; people of African origin are spread across the globe and Africa is a proud home to many non Nigerians.” Calls for registration of film productions by both indigenous international film makers have been made by the festival body. And according to Ude, the response has been encouraging, “We have over 200 movies registered already, from which [those] to be screened at the workshops will be selected”. The festival will also culminate in an award ceremony in recognition of outstanding movies screened during the festival. Movies to be screened fall under the categories of features, documentaries, short films and animation. Workshops Chioma Ude revealed that while planning the festival has been challenging as expected, she has had a lot of support from four other organisers, all female. “What I like about the festival planning is the planning committee, each of us have come together with different competencies.” Peace Anyiam-Osigwe, founder of the African Movie Academy Award (AMAA)’, is the creative director of the festival. She says concerning her role, “This will be the first time that there will be a call for projects. A content market is one of the best things that the festival is bringing. Most times we say that we have the stories, now we want to work in putting those stories out properly.” In a novel development, the festival will incorporate workshops in the aspects of scriptwriting, sound and cameras. Soledad Grognett, Technical Director of the Festival, spoke further on the scriptwriting laboratory, saying, “It will contribute to the long-term ambition of the festival. We are already receiving short stories with a maximum length of 30 pages. Instructors will select 3 to 5 projects which will be awarded cash prizes towards the realisation of their production, with a view to having them featured next year. We are utilising the youth and their raw talent in the way stories are being told.” While however the scriptwriting workshop invites new entrants and university students, especially from the Niger Delta, some of whom are being sponsored by corporate bodies; the other workshops, According to Grognett, “are more inclined to enhance skill rather than start planting; and work with practitioners rather than students.” Ude also disclosed that, “this year, with the help of Film 24 and other partners, we are introducing an equipments market, where equipments can be bought or leased. The idea is to foster the African Film industry from within. There is also the film content market established with the view to meet supply with demand; to stimulate Africans to know the type of project the market is interested in. And enable international film makers to get the real African content.” Rivers and Cannes Scheduled to hold annually in Port Harcourt, AFRIFF hopes to unite film makers from across the world on African soil. And speaking on the choice of Port-Harcourt, Ude disclosed that, “the Rivers State government is our main sponsor; when you have a project, you take it to the most receptive body. And the government of Rivers State has been a foremost supporter of Arts and Culture.” On hand to give his support at the press briefing was movie marketer Emma Isikaku, who praised the festival committee. “The people behind the festival are tested hands behind the AMAA and the ION film festival. At the ION festival last year, I saw something different from what we had been seeing, so with AFRIFF I hope to see that same quality,” he said in a chat with NEXT. Isikaku, who expressed a desire to market his films and acquire marketing rights to some movies, at the festival, also remarked that, “Festivals like this help producers and marketers to begin to see that they need to up their game. It is a starting point.” Ude, whose career has spanned nursing, medical staffing, marketing and logistic planning, is the initiator and organiser of the AMAA charity balls and producer the ION Film Festival held last year in Port-Harcourt, through which the vision for AFRIFF was derived. She concluded the press conference by expressing hopes that the festival will take on a national significance, “I want AFRIFF to be viewed as a national programme, like Cannes is for France.”
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