The Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) closes the 8th Edition with its Globe Gala this evening. A night that promises glitz, glam, performances and most importantly, awards.
The week-long festival, which is one of the most vital weeks for the Nigerian film space opened with Jahmil X.T. Qubeka’s South African Western, ‘Sew the Winter To My Skin’ and closed with the $1million dollar, AT&T funded, ‘Nigerian Prince’ written and directed by Faraday Okoro. While the former received quite a lot of praise for its visuals, the latter left the festival divided by the lead’s distracting accent amongst other grievances. I personally agree about the lead, but I liked the story some of the performances and the film as a whole, though I most likely wouldn’t have picked it to close the festival.
This year, AFRIFF was a testament to collaboration, as partnerships were highlighted in different areas. From the alliance with stakeholders in theatre for Lagos Fringe, to that with stakeholders in the Animation, Comic Books and Video Game (ACG) space for discussions on development, then the UNICON and Comic Connect events, this year boasted a diversity of events for people with interests in the Nigerian Entertainment Space.
The hope is that the continuous development of Nollywood, as anything entertainment in Nigeria is unjustly grouped under, is significantly stimulated by the interesting workshops, masterclasses and trainings that were organized during the week. This includes the Journalism / Criticism Workshop with Christopher Vourlias, who writes about the African film space for Variety and The UNICON Industry Summit organized by BIAYA consulting which hopes to organize ACG stakeholders to explore where the Nigerian ACG industry sits within the global market and stimulate opportunities for growth. The expectation is that more collaborations are embarked on by the various stakeholders who gathered around Lagos to celebrate art, film, and culture.
Like any film festival anywhere, one can only experience a limited number of screenings and events in the face of the barrage of activities. Highlights for me included the screenings for The Tokoloshe, a South African Horror film directed by Jerome Pikwane which I would categorize as borderline Thriller/Horror than outright Horror, The Prophetess, a visually stunning and intense docu-film by Sylvie Weber that shines the light on the lives of a group of Congolese women who are braving very grim societal odds to build a community for themselves, and Hello Rain, C.J Obasi’s adaptation of Nnedi Okorafor’s Hello Moto, which has traveled quite successfully for festivals, doesn’t deviate too much from the source, and could have done with slightly better visuals.
Ema Edosio’s Kasala brought a rawness of filmmaking to bear as it takes the audience on a roller coaster ride with its young cast. The movie reminded me of the easy delight I experienced while watching Abba Makama’s Green White Green and is my favorite feature of the entire festival. Other notable screenings were Adekunle ‘Nodash’ Adejuyigbe’s Delivery Boy, a film I enjoyed more on my second watch, that tackles the sensitive subject of terrorism in Nigeria; which could explain why Nigerian Cinemas have not jumped at commercial release. Nonetheless, I am of the opinion that Nigerians should have a chance to engage this subject on the screen as Nodash does a very good job of balancing the narrative with a strong cast, dialogue, action and a cinematography that holds it all together.
Short films are not left out with This Is Lagos, Closed, Coat of Harm, The Right Choice, and A Single Story reminding me why I love film festivals – the diversity of content, especially content with intent. I’m also sure that I missed out on a good number of gems as I was unable to make the screenings for the short films premiered in the second edition of the Accelerate Film Project (looking forward to them being released later), I also hear people really loved T-Junction and the opening film, Sew the Winter to my Skin which I was unable to catch.
With any luck, during the Globe Awards tonight, deserving winners will be announced for the various competition categories as another AFRIFF week comes to an end. I definitely commend the organizers ably led by Chioma Ude for how much work they constantly put in to make the event worthwhile and for just being consistent over the years. Cheers to AFRIFF 2018, looking forward to 2019.