I have enjoyed seeing the 2014 Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF Film Festival) on all of my social media timelines. I have even shared some of these news stories. I think Chioma Ude, founder of AFRIFF, comes off as a very impressive woman, although I have never met her.
From aggressive marketing of the AFRIFF event to building requisite relationships with Nigerian and international press, so much so Hollywood’s Variety, an entertainment industry trade magazine, has paid attention, Ude seems to have dotted all of her “i’s” and crossed her “ts.”
Indeed, Ude comes from a logistics and marketing background so to some extent, one could say it is no surprise she could pull such an event off. However, from my research, Ude gained real industry experience and fine tuned her skills and industry connections under the wings of the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) and also ION International Film Festival.
I will confess, when I read about the prior roles she played at the aforementioned award events in Nigeria, I raised an eyebrow. The lawyer in me naturally thought, “hmm…, I hope this is not one of those cases where the prior organizations pinched themselves hard for not having some sort of non-competition clause in place, especially the ION film festival which it appears AFRIFF seems to mirror.” I discussed this concept recently in the PANA TV situation where the former CEO left and launched a parallel distribution company with a rather large catalog of similar genre of films.
Despite my thought, I was glad to see strong and glowing reviews for the AFRIFF event. Indeed I of course join to celebrate a woman who has dared to launch an event that to me appears well executed. Here are some strong features of Nigeria/Africa’s own AFRIFF film festival:
1. AFRIFF offers film workshops. Needless to say, this is an important part of a film festival and a great thing.
2. AFRIFF offers screening of movies. Again, important and a great thing. It is a chance for distributors, financiers et. al. to see important feature films and get to brokering the requisite deals with filmmakers/producers.
3. AFRIFF has an amazing location, Tinapa Calabar studios. Apparently, Mo’Abudu (dubbed Africa’s Oprah) purchased Tinapa studios where she now houses her Ebony Life TV production company. Both Ude and Mo’s Ebony Life TV have brokered a deal that will keep AFRIFF in Calabar for some years to come. How awesome is that?!
As a side note, you all already know or should know how I feel about the AMAA awards in Bayelsa State. I just don’t like AMAA in Bayelsa. I think AMAA has made it so easy for any new comer Pan-African awards event to house their events in the entertainment capital of Nigeria (Lagos), or the beautiful Calabar or Akwa-Ibom states and simply dominate. A case in point, The Africa Magic Viewer’s Choice Awards (AMVCA). AMVCA is only two years in the making and it already looks quite formidable and seems to drown out AMAA.
Indeed I am of the opinion that if AMAA continues to insist on Bayelsa as its choice of venue to stage its awards, it may have a really hard time continuing its film awards trajectory. I also believe even if it survives, it will have a hard time contending with events like AMVCA and other foreseeable players in the future.
AFRIFF, while a film festival, understands the importance of “location, location, location.”
4. AFRIFF offers great ambience from all I can see and have watched. Even better, it has managed to pull off its events with Africa’s high profile talents and is not so focused on foreigners gracing its events, by that I mean Hollywood and Bollywood talents.
5. AFRIFF also has, it appears, great parties. Indeed pictures on my timeline seem to suggest it is the place to be, just on the heels of the annual Calabar Christmas carnival.
Now, while all the above are great features of a film festival, there is one central piece missing, the distributors. Yes, Kene Mkparu’s African Film House, a local film distributor, is a sponsor of AFRIFF and even makes an appearance teaching one of the workshops. But, I believe AFRIFF needs even more credible film distributors outside Nigeria that are present at its Pan-African film festival.
Nigerians love to party like it’s 1999. However, in the final analysis the film industry is about the business of film. Therefore, a strong presence of distributors is crucial and important for the credibility of AFRIFF.
Let me make my point even clearer through an analogy looking at the fashion industry.
In fashion, you’ve got strong fashion productions/shows by African fashion producers in the diaspora and on the continent. But, what is and has been sorely lacking are buyers.
So what if the big name press houses comes to your shows, so what if you have the hot models sashaying down the runway, so what if the celebrities are seated front row, so what if you have great parties? So what if designers can talk about design inspirations till they are blue in the face. Where are the fashion buyers to get the product to market i.e. into retail stores? That’s the bottom line.
A fashion event producer who figures this out has a winning formula that increases revenues in the pocket of all and gains the respect of the industry. For example, indeed it is no surprise that key western fashion markets are now paying attention to Lagos Fashion & Design Week (LFDW). Why? LFDW figured they need to get credible buyers on those front row seats. The organizers have been able to do so and to translate that to Nigerian designers retailing in stores in the UK and Italy.
So, back to the film industry. Chioma Ude is or should be enjoying a high from producing what happens to be a great event with her team. However, four years later, she needs to have AFRIFF report back with a showing of the credible distributors who attend her event; and how their attendance has translated to actual deals brokered to move the film industry and its professionals forward.
That’s my 50kobo for all its worth. I’d like to know yours.
What are your thoughts about film events (AMAA, AFRIFF and AMVCA) in Nigeria and their credibility?
Where do you believe improvement is needed, if at all?
2013 AFRIFF Festival Event
Some of Our Achievements