Here's what went down at the just concluded African International Film Festival.
After the past year of turmoil and health challenges around the world, Africa International Film Festival(AFRIFF) returns to celebrate its tenth anniversary this year with a week-long activity and theme that is focused on ‘Africans for Africa’. Despite the enormous challenges ー economic and otherwise ー that African filmmakers face, African directors and producers are increasingly taking on the challenge of rewriting history and telling neglected and repressed stories with an artistic vision that is on par with the greatest films from anywhere in the world.
Acknowledging this feat in storytelling, the festival celebrated both emerging and well-established filmmakers who sought to produce bold new narratives by exploring less popular genres in horror, fantasy, magic, psychological thrillers and the likes by engaging them in several activities that will foster collaborations and development in African cinema.
Film festivals are a vital link in the chain of global film culture because of the opportunity it gives indie filmmakers to tell their stories. In recognizing this link, the Executive Director and founder of AFRIFF Chioma Ude, spoke about the aim of the programme this year: “I am super excited to announce our 10th-anniversary edition, following the global pandemic. We are proud to theme this year’s festival as one dedicated to Africans for Africa, those who enable us to dream and to celebrate storytelling that challenges society. We will continue to focus our efforts on training and supporting more filmmakers than ever before, as well as building global bridges, and promoting further cross-cultural exchanges.”
With over 150 films from across the continent in the showcase, AFRIFF produced a top-notch event across the board. This can be directly ascribed to all the capacity-building training programmes and networking opportunities that the festival created, with different stakeholders in the business of filmmaking from across the globe in attendance.
During one of the panel sessions aimed at fostering international collaborations with African creatives James Farrell, Amazon Prime Video’s International Head of Local Originals disclosed that Amazon Studios is open to a great partnership with Nigeria’s creatives to deepen and develop quality movies for international audiences leveraging on the over 200 million people on the Amazon platform across 240 countries. “Right now, we are very interested in finding good partners to work with, in Nigeria. My team and I have a lot of people here talking to people on how we can partner with people. It’s not about how do we set up and do it ourselves – the whole thing is about the partnership: beginning to end,”
Amazon, preparing itself for a showdown with Netflix and other internet streaming platforms, recently appointed Nigeria’s well-celebrated content strategist Wangi Mba-Uzoukwu, M-Net West Africa's former Regional Director, as its first Principal Head of Content Acquisition in Africa. Wangi’s appointment will help define and execute the content strategy for Prime Video in Sub-Saharan Africa, oversee content licensing/ commissioning, selection for US and local film and television as well as build the content acquisition pipeline for local and US/Hollywood content across languages.
International festivals like AFRIFF serving as a liaison between these local filmmakers and international studios further enforce the narrative that African stories are arguably the new frontier for global storytelling. Asides from fostering international collaborations, AFRIFF maintained its ‘Africans for Africa’ theme through a speed dating exercise with South Africa’s film industry known as The KwaZulu Natal Film commission(KZN) to intensify its relations with Nigeria and position KZN as a film destination of choice by exhibiting KZN content and assisting in the creation of collaboration opportunities for KZN and Nollywood filmmakers. “This is an excellent opportunity for a plethora of creative properties that will enhance the skill level of South Africans in the film industry,” says Asivhanzhi Mathaba while speaking on the need for collaborations within the continent of Africa.
One of the key things film festivals have the power to do is provide a platform for indie filmmakers to get distributors/distribution for their projects. The relationship that can develop between festivals and filmmakers is a mutually beneficial one, and AFRIFF really did live up to that. The festival closed with the AFRIFF Globe Awards, presenting awards to black creatives from different fields of the film industry while also spotlighting all the craftsmanship that goes into creating a film. It also beamed its searchlight on Nigeria’s anime space to deepen the animation and eSports ecosystem on the back of a growing youth population and its overall contribution to the nation’s gross domestic products (GDP).