Saturday, 21 November 2009

essons from Geneva — Chikwendu

BY SHAIBU HUSSEINI
Madu Chikwendu, a former President of the Association of Movie Producers (AMP), was in Geneva, Switzerland recently as a lead speaker at a conference that was partly dedicated to the film industry and economic development of less developed countries. Organised by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Chikwendu, informs that WIPO, an agency of the United Nations strongly believes that Nigeria still has a lot to teach the world ….

My presentation was well received

It was a very successful trip by all standards. My paper was well received, though for me there was a little disorientation because I was supposed to speak on the digital divide, by the time I arrived in Switzerland and there was a slight shift in focus, I now had to focus more on how the film industry can contribute to economic development in less developed countries.

Between WIPO and pervasiveness of Intellectual Property abuse in Nigeria
Oh! well, intellectual property still contributes to economic development. Recall that Nigeria is a global leader in direct to video production and has inspired other industries in places such as Kenya and Ghana, which started before us, but could not attain the massive industrial levels of Nollywood. There is also Uganda and Zimbabwe. Whilst the Nigerian government and her agents do not have respect for Nollywood, it is interesting to note that a specialised agency of the United Nations believes that we have something to teach the world.
Generally, I think the conference was designed to inspire other countries and also draw attention to the challenges, which include the total absence of any bilateral or multilateral treaty between Nigeria and other countries in the area of audio-visual products/services in the existing economic partnership agreement between West Africa and the European Union. Even back home, lack of coordination amongthe various agencies of government has not helped the industry. For instance why is the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), so slow, in implementing tax rebates and incentives that will attract local and foreign investments? The fact of ‘pervasive IP abuse’ is the more reason it has to be discussed and analyzed. I agree that the enforcement capacity of WIPO is limited, but we need national regulatory institutions such as the Nigerian Copyright Commission, the National Film and Video Censors Board, and the Nigerian Police Force to help out. For instance, do you propose that WIPO should come with a detachment of marines and close down Alaba? Within the ECOWAS sub-region, there is no single protocol on audiovisual. Even at the level of the African Union, there is none. Whereas the European countries since 1992 had the European Convention on Cinematographic Co-production. We must acknowledge that South Africa bilateral treaties and robust tax incentives have greatly contributed to its development.
I was able to exercise my mandate as Regional Secretary of FEPACI to open discussions with the Nigerian delegation to the UN, WIPO and other international agencies and specialist on online piracy, illegal broadcast around the world and counterfeiting.

So, what lessons for Nollywood
It has brought greater interest and respect internationally for Nollywood than locally. We must now migrate from our local thinking to a very global way of looking at things. That is why I have focused in certain structural issues, treaties, protocols and conventions. With the right structures, funding is very easy. We need to partner with the right people and not all these barracudas that litter the Nigerian scene.

Tackling piracy and distribution
With all sense of responsibility, I will like to say that government is what you make of it. If we think government has failed, then we have failed. Those heading the agencies responsible for our industry are our people. The Managing Director of the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) Afolabi Adesanya, for instance, has made films both on video and celluloid. Emeka Mba of the Censors Board was doing business with us when he was at Multi-choice. In fact, I have been eating from an on-line distribution project, he was planning when he left Multi-choice. This is how it works all over the world. Film administrators come from different places related to film production. This would mean that there is nothing wrong with the people there. Perhaps it’s time we interrogated ourselves. We cannot live our entire lives blaming other people for our problems. It is a fact that the Ministry of Information has never given the Lagos International Film Festival a kobo for nine years, yet I gather that ION Film Festival has received millions from the Ministry and other agencies. This does not make these agencies completely bad. The industry can say what is good for the goose is good for the gander and say we are boycotting all government activities till local events and festivals and the industry are properly funded. The point is that we must go beyond grabbing headlines and insulting government officials. The industry has power, only that we refuse to use it, rather we settle for filthy lucre.
Frankly, I do not see how we can make progress when professional groups compete against themselves instead of competing in services.

Nollywood is at its lowest ebbs
Of course, it is…. it will even get worse. The butterfly thinks himself a bird. Marketers left their business to become producers and directors. They say people duped them. How many people duped them? Were these dupes the only ones in the industry? How about those of us they duped serially. I believe the industry is like the phoenix. We will rise from the ashes of death like the plantain tress. This so called death is actually a form of rebirth.

What way forward
Well, cinema is a global business and has its conventions, which we need to study carefully and adapt. We don’t have respect for the intellectuals and never listen to them, so, I don’t see the point. We need to professionalise urgently and get everyone to do his or her jobs properly. This has to be within the context of prosperous and organised nation, where there is rule of law, an efficient police force, and effective dispensation of justice and so on. Once the industry is properly structured, you find out that the funding will be lying right beside you because an investor will know that a well made film will be properly distributed and if it fails, he will know why it failed. Not a situation where you make a good film and someone packs it under his bed because the movie didn’t talk about vultures turning into men or his girlfriend is not in the movie. So, he used a few copies of the movie to extract money he is owed by other distributors. Even when your film is successful, he refuses to pay you because he knows the sky will be your limit. So, he uses your money to import frozen fish, which is seized at the port. This is the story of our life.






Around and about Nollywood...


OPA 2009 to honour Aki and Paw Paw
The Association of Movie Journalist (AMJ) has concluded plans to hold the third edition of the yearly Nollywood Outstanding Personality Award (NOPA). Slated to hold on Friday, December 4, at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos; the award will see practitioners of the movie industry such as Adim Williams, the duo of Chinedu Ikedieze and Osita Iheme, Kate Henshaw, Dagogo Diminas and Jonathan Gbemuto being awarded. Also, a life time achievement awards will be conferred on Sir Mike Adenuga for his passionate interest in the entertainment industry and Sir Dr. Walter Ofonagoro for his contributions to Nollywood and arts in general as former DG of NTA and Minister of Information and Culture. The ex- deputy editor of Thisday Newspaper, Oji Onoko and Shuaibu Husseni of The Guardian Newspaper will also be honoured on that day with the Diamond Pen Merit Award for their outstanding contributions to Movie Journalism while Vanguard Newspaper will be honoured for its incisive coverage and reportage of Nollywood.
According to the CEO of NOPA and President of the Association of Movie Journalists, Stanley U. Okoronkwo, “this edition will be simply grand and exciting. The Director General of the National Lottery Commission, Dr. Peter Igho has indicated his willingness to chair NOPA 2009, while his Imperial Majesty Eze I. A. Ikonne, the Enyi 1 of Aba will be the royal father of the day”. The award with the theme ‘the seal of excellence in professionalism’ is an initiative of Stanword Media Group and hosted in partnership with the Association of Movie Journalists (AMJ). NOPA is actively supported by Nollywood, and Nigeria Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB), National Film Corporation (NFC), corporate bodies and the media. It has also enjoyed sponsorship from LIFF, Gold Angel, Orbit Audiovisual Studio, CLOUT Media and Super Max (Fuel Savers).

London African Film Festival to discuss film distribution in Africa
The African Movie Academy organisers of the annual African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) says it will send a delegation to the special conference on distribution and marketing of films in Africa, organised as part of the London African Film Festival. The festival will begin on Wednesday, November 25 and end on December 3. But the special conference will hold on Sunday, November 29. The conference, according to statement from AMAA, will enlighten filmmakers on the steps taken, so far, to guarantee the success of one of the Academy’s major events; the yearly African Movie Academy Awards (UBA/AMAA). Aside this presentation by AMAA, the 2009 London film festival will entirely be devoted to new currents in narrative forms. The organisers announced that they are showcasing debuts by a wide range of talents and the most creative of TV/film practitioners to celebrate the energy that young Africans from all corners of the continent have brought to drama as they embrace the digital age. The festival launches with the screening of a selection of feature films and documentaries.

Entries for AMAA 2010 still open
The Africa Film Academy invites filmmakers to submit their Feature, Short, and Documentary works for consideration by the 6th AMAA, the Premier Africa film Awards. Each completed entry form must be accompanied by all the supporting materials listed on the submission forms, including the synopsis of the film, the list of credits, marketing stills of the film, filmographies of the directors and producers, 10 DVD copies of the film and proof of the right to submit. Only films produced and released between December 2008 and December 2009 would be entered for the 2009 celebration of African Cinema to be held in 2010. All films must indicate year of copyright. The Africa Film Academy will not accept any film that exceeds the 120 min run as a feature or a short film that is longer than 50 minutes. The Africa Film Academy awards two major categories of short films and animation. This year the Academy announced a category for the Best Africa Film in the Diaspora and the Best Diaspora Short Film Awards. The deadline for all submissions is December 30, 2009; a late entry deadline is 7th January 2010. Nominations will be announced in Ghana in February 2010. AMAA will hold on April 10, 2010 and will be televised across the world. Submission forms are downloadable from the AMA-Awards website. For further information, please contact AMAA at info@ama-awards.com.

Waka pass…
Producer- Amebo A. Amebo
Director- Mr. Gossip
Actors- Nollywood Celebrities

What did they do to our Osoufia?
We hope those who reportedly ‘abducted’ popular actor Nkem Owoh released him in one piece and would not do anything more than requesting for ransom and keeping his car? Well, we hear Owoh, who is popular as Osuofia has been ‘behaving one-kind, one –kind’ (meaning: strangely) since he was released to re-unite with his family. They say the once jovial Owoh, hardly talks and jokes now and has blatantly refused to narrate his experience to people. The waka pass who filed this gist from Enugu said he thinks that Osuofia is still reflecting…. not because he was ‘abducted’, but because his family members and the abductors had to engage in some haggling ‘as if they were pricing spare parts’ before he was released. Meaning that had the abductors insisted on the original amount, his savings, plus his popularity wouldn’t have been able to guarantee his release…. .hmmmmmm. True, it is worth reflecting on….
Somebody should please warn Ajebo
How come no one has been able to call popular actor and producer Steve Eboh (aka Ajebo) to order. The actor last week said, he thinks something is wrong with the entire members of the Board of Trustees of the Actors Guild of Nigeria. ‘They need to have their heads examined’ Ajebo said last week in response to a declaration credited to a member of the Board of Trustees that the co-producer of the epic film, The Concubine, has been appointed the Vice President in-charge of North Central of the Actors Guild. Hear out Ajebo verbatim: ‘I think the BOT members are suffering from abject poverty, not of money, but of the mind. How can you appoint a man without consulting him? I think they are not sincere. On what basis are they appointing me Vice President? Are people appointed into AGN or elected? I think the BOT is trying to play game and I will help them score goals if they don’t take time. If they are not suffering from poverty of the mind, why can someone appoint me Vice President North Central, when I reside in Lagos? Why will they appoint Emeka Ike, Vice President South East, when he resides in Lagos? So, we will be traveling to the East and North Central to oversee the Guild because we are jobless. I think they are playing games and I think it’s time to tell them to leave. BOT is not a lifetime appointment. I think they have outlived their usefulness and should pack and go’ Ajebo surmised. This is enough to get the six-footer angry, abi?

We saw Tony Anih
We hope it is not as if something has happened to the Kia Picanto, we normally see AMAA director of administration Tony Anih in? Someone who is close to the President of the Nollywood Scriptwriters Guild said he saw the always calm and calculated Anih on a motor bike in Festac Town of Lagos. We gathered that before the fellow could spell AMAA, Anih jumped down from the bike around the NITEL area and raced into a supermarket. Not sure now if Anih’s madam has ‘downloaded’ because the waka pass thinks that it will take a man in hot need of say pampers for his baby to dash into a supermarket the way Uncle Tony did... so bros, na something you forget or you go buy something of importance… our lines are open.

Where is Chiege Alisigwe?
If you are close to the Enugu-based actress, Chiege Alisigwe, and you know how to reach her, please tell her to approach the bench. It’s been quite an age that her ‘fanz’ saw her; a reason they have set up commission of enquiry to be chaired by waka pass to find out where she is and what she is doing. The last time we heard from her was when she was trying very hard to explain what went wrong between her and the father of her only daughter. The gist now is that she has moved out of her trans-ekulu GRA residence into her family home because she has run out of funds to pay rent. We also gathered that ‘she is heavy’. Meaning: she get bele! She has a right to say it, ‘ho ha’ or else anything we hear and will continue to hear will be used against her in the court of waka passes. To God be the Glory!

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