Monday, 9 November 2009

Okhai goes to Cairo

VICTOR Okhai, Director General of the International Film and Broadcast Academy, Lagos, is on his way to Cairo as President of Jury for the international digital competition for long feature films of the Cairo International Film Festival, the oldest and biggest film festival in the Arab world and Middle East holding from November10 to 20.

The filmmaker, teacher and resource person told Moviedom before he left for Cairo that the assignment would afford him the opportunity to project positively once again everything positive about Nigeria and Nollywood at an international forum and to the Middle East and Arab world…

How it came about
I will have to acknowledge the contributions of the Managing Director of the Nigeria Film Corporation, Mr Afolabi Adesanya, who has tirelessly given his all to the promotion of Nigerian film, film makers and the industry to the outside world. When they wanted a person of integrity and experience, Mr. Adesanya mentioned me, but the presidency of the Jury was entirely their choice. That came later and I was pleasantly surprised.

Any Nigerian movie in or out of competition
I don’t think so. Not really. Or better still, there is none as far as I know. This is recognition for the filmmaker and not for film. The reason is simple; people are spending more time talking than working. We should let our work speak for us. If we spent more time doing quality stuff and promoting it properly in festivals, the movies will generate enough buzz.

The International Film and Broadcast Academy
In the area of capacity building in the Nigerian film and broadcast industry, the International Film and Broadcast Academy has been a pioneer and a major force in lifting the standard of practice and practitioners.
A lot of people may not know this but it is actually Nigeria’s first private film school. It began in 1996 but was officially registered in 1997 with two Americans, Ernest Dunkley and Lloyd Weaver, as lecturers. Other pioneer lecturers include Jimi Odumosu, Lola Fani-Kayode, Paul Emema and Olu Jacobs.
Our ex-students have excelled wherever they are. Some include MNET new direction winners, Kemi Adesoye (Head Writer — Mnet’s Doctor’s Quarters, Tinsel, winner Pan Africa University international script writing competition, writer of the wave-making movie, Figurine, etc) and Oliver Aleoghena, Ehiz Ojesebholo (creator and first producer of Soundcity, Fola Iwajomo (winner, short film night competition of the Lagos Film Society and Goethe Institut with the student short film, Blood On My Hands). The list can go on and on.
We are trainers for organisations such as AIT, Imo State Television, Nigeria Film Corporation, National Film and Video Censors Board, etc. We are also training partners for Deutsche Welle Akademie, the training school of Germany’s national broadcaster. Since last year, in conjunction with them, we have run three courses for over 60 writers, producers and directors in Nollywood and the broadcast industry with resource persons from abroad.
We have done a lot of training with the guilds too including The Association of Movie Producers (AMP), Directors’ Guild of Nigeria (DGN) and the Screenwriters Guild of Nigeria (SWGN). Slowly but surely, the results are showing.
We are not a mass production school. Some have accused us of being elitist but this is not true. We are not in the business of issuing certificates; you must earn it to have it and you must have passion to be admitted. People in the industry know this and that’s why I am proud to say that our graduates are much sought after, even before graduation. They do not bother to look for employment because they are hot and do not even need to work for anyone.
Another thing they have going for them is character— you can be sure of professional excellence, commitment and integrity from them as it is an essential of their training, too. We have a lot of applicants from outside Nigeria applying for admission into the academy.

State of Nollywood

Nollywood is today like an overgrown baby - too big to be called a baby and too young to be called an adult. We grew too quickly and did not have time to go through puberty and adolescence — the period in every life where you learn the most important lessons. Now we have to settle down to go to night or adult school to learn the ropes.
Another thing that has destroyed the industry and this is purely my personal opinion — is the so-called new distribution framework. It is a monumental failure and has succeeded in setting the industry back by at least a decade. You cannot regulate a free market that is informal, whose workings you have no understanding of, and also that the government is not putting anything into.
Even the banks have no interest or understanding of the phenomenon called Nollywood and for anyone to come and impose or legislate how to buy and sell in a system like that beats me. You do not change a winning formula. For whatever it is worth, the success of Nollywood is in its unique homegrown distribution system. This is what people are coming to research from all over the world, not the quality of the films. It has taken us to number two, according to UN statistics; now watch what the figures will be by next year as very few movies are being produced right now as a result of this reckless policy.
All things must be considered when taking decisions like this: employment generation, for instance. Imagine how many unemployed youths we would have had on the streets but for Nollywood, imagine what it has done positively for our image across Africa and the Diaspora world! I think there is a need for all stakeholders to meet again and forge a way forward in the overall interest of the industry.

So when are you due back?
I am due back on November 22, but leave the next day for a one-week workshop for Camerounian filmmakers organised by Goethe Institute, Yaoundé. The workshop aims to promote the exchange and eventually initiate/intensify cooperation between Anglophone and Francophone filmmakers in Cameroun/Nigeria. The Goethe-Institut Yaoundé is organizing the workshop focussing on cooperation in inter-regional cinema industries and it will take place in Bamenda, one of the strongholds of Anglophone Camerounian cinema. I hope by the time I come back, I shall have sensitized more people about Nollywood, AMAA and other opportunities here.

Around and about Nollywood...

London African Film Festival beckons
NEW currents in narrative forms are the special focus of the London African Film Festival 2009, which opens on November 26 and closes on December 3. The organisers announced that they are showcasing debuts by a wide range of dynamic, young film-making talent 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 screening of a selection of feature films and documentaries including the UK Première of Tariq Teguia’s Inland, Abakar Chene Massar’s Captain Majid, a film that is a metaphor of the disenchanted youth in Chad and the Ethiopian director, Nega Tariku’s film Adera, a story of an Ethiopian refugee’s struggle to survive in Johannesburg.
A selection of the best of AMAA (the African Movie Academy Awards) that include the Nigerian documentary filmmaker, Sani Elhadj Magori’s seminal documentary, For The Best and for The Onion, about one man’s determination to get the best onion harvest in order to marry the love of his life; Wanuri Kahui’s From A Whisper, a superb drama based on the bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi in 1998.
Central to the festival is a major conference entitled, Producing and Distributing African Film in the Digital Era that will hold on Sunday, November 29, in partnership with the University of Westminster Africa Media Centre (AMC) and in association with the Communication and Media Research Institute.

V-1M set to challenge the status quo
V-1M Production, in its quest to promote the virtues of the Nigerian film industry, is coming up with the “development of skill” and creative idea on technological invention through production. The auditioning for the cast of this perfectly synchronised idea will come up on Wednesday, November 11 and the submission of entry closes on November 9.
The audition has Zack Orji as the chairman of its Jury and it will hold at the White House on Toyin Street, Ikeja, by 8:00am.
V-1M production says it is, “bringing sanity to our society, we’ll provide the necessary intelligence and build the required mindset that will transform the people into vibrant entrepreneurs; thus creating various products through the media to enlighten and educate the people and align them with the objectives of being a ‘Good People, Great Nation’.
V-1M production is the initiative of Wemimo Olugbemi, a product of PEFTI and remarkable fashion designer, who believes doing it right is the only alternative to a successful life. She has done well for herself in fashion business and the same she is prepared to inject into the film business.

Babylon Initiative for Nigerian filmmakers
IN a bid to bridge the gap between film cultures of the world, especially between Europe and Africa, Babylon International, in collaboration with the Nigerian Film Corporation, Jos, has launched a new initiative that is intended to link filmmakers across the continent, scheduled for 2010. However, countdown to the main event scheduled for next year has begun with call for (entries) from participants. Entry closes on November 27. Interested participants should visit: for details on how to apply.
The 2010 programme scheduled to hold in Jos, Abuja and Rotterdam includes, a five-day intensive development workshop for 14 selected projects (seven European, seven African) during the International Film Festival, Rotterdam (January 30 to February 4, 2010) with script consultancy, one-on-one production and marketing analysis, screenings, case studies and network forums.
Similarly, individual mentoring from Babylon experts during the script re-write and preparation phase is scheduled for February and March, 2010. This will be followed by a five-day production lab at the National Film Institute, Jos (April 27 to May 2, 2010) intended to consolidate the script development of each project and provide filmmaking teams the opportunity to workshop scenes from their films, or produce promotional short films based on their feature film materials.
The highpoint of the 2010 programme will be the presentation of projects and their promotional materials at the ZUMA Film Festival taking place in Abuja, the nation’s capital from May, to be followed by onward mentoring and promotion of all Babylon projects.
The Babylon project is funded by the European Union’s Media International and the Nigerian Film Corporation.
African filmmakers will have the opportunity to work with European colleagues on script and story development, production techniques and access to international market place through Babylon’s network of industry consultants, funders, international sales agents and distributors. The objective of this initiative is to provide producers/writers/directors and production teams the opportunity to broaden their access to the international film markets.

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