Women take centre stage at AFRIFF 2019

THE activities of this year’s Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) with the theme ‘Sheroes’ have been unveiled.

The ninth edition of the festival will hold from November 10 to 16 at the newly constructed Filmhouse Cinemas, Landmark Retail Village, Lagos, with support from the US Consulate and Access Bank. The other partners include Nvivo TV, Century and Filmhouse Groups, and the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB).

Highlighting the programmes at a recent media event held at Radisson Blu, Victoria Island, Lagos, AFRIFF founder and Executive Director, Chioma Ude said it would feature business networking, movie premieres, film screenings, industry sessions, masterclasses, workshops and the Globe Awards amongst others.

She also explained why the festival was being dedicated to female achievers, otherwise called ‘Sheroes’. “We are proud to theme this year’s festival as one dedicated to ‘Sheroes’, those who enable us to dream and to celebrate storytelling which challenges society. We are very much focused on training and supporting more female filmmakers this year and beyond. It is said that when you empower a woman, you empower a nation. So, we are focusing on that narrative to make sure that more women are included in the festival every year. This year, we have a particular focus to train 60 per cent women, going forward,” Ude said.

But apart from celebrating and empowering women, the AFRIFF founder said it would also focus on social issues. “The festival is very focused on social causes. If you noticed, most of our opening night films have always been very topical. We noticed that documentary films haven’t been a focus for Nigeria, and so this year, the US Consulate is introducing something new to our training programme. There is going to be an emphasis on documentary film training so that we could talk about our social causes and hopefully be a part of the change. We want to use film to emphasise social causes in this country and hopefully, make a change, make a difference.”

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Public Affairs Officer, US Consulate, Lagos, Russel Brooks, said the US was happy to support AFRIFF for the third time and commended the theme. “We are thrilled to join the organisers to engage in much-needed attention to the role that women play throughout the world,” he said.

He added that the US would host a four-day documentary workshop for Nigerian filmmakers during the festival, “with the support of the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, through the American Film Showcase, we will be hosting a four-day documentary film workshop for Nigerian filmmakers. The documentary workshop will feature an AFS Film Envoy Robert Hurst, an Associate Professor at the Department of Film and Media Studies at the University of Kansas, and a veteran filmmaker.”

Brooks further explained that the “workshop is designed to build the capacity in Nigeria filmmakers to tell authentic and compelling stories to address societal ills. Twenty-five local filmmakers will be selected through a competitive process to participate in the free workshop, and during the workshops, participants will learn storytelling techniques as well as shoot and edit mini-documentary films. As a follow up to the workshop, we will launch a competition for filmmakers to make documentary films on topics affecting the Nigerian society. The United States believes in the power of film as a tool to tell compelling stories, to bring ills to light and to celebrate the people working to correct this.”

Nvivo TV’s Victor Anjorin explained that the company’s partnership with AFRIFF is an expression “of our commitment to distribution of great content across Nigeria and Africa. Our primary goal is to bring digital transformation across various sectors.”

The Chief Executive of the NFVCB, Adedayo Thomas, said AFRIFF is a “brand that makes Nigeria proud almost everywhere. AFRIFF has come a long way and I hope the support from different stakeholders will keep coming.”

Creative Director, Chioma Onyenwe, explained that in line with this year’s focus on females, the festival would open with Waad Al-Kataeb’s ‘Sama’, an intimate and epic journey into the female experience of war. The festival will close with Akin Omotoso’s ‘The Ghost and The House of Truth’, a compelling film on crime, convicts and forgiveness.

Onyenwe disclosed that the festival received a record-breaking 4000 entries from over 130 countries including Uganda, Egypt, South Africa, the US, Spain and Nigeria. Almost 150 features, shorts and documentaries will be screened during the festival.

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