By Ogova Ondego in Nigeria
Published November 20, 2013
Bewitched by tempting cash prizes—in US Dollars—parties of a lifetime and most interesting film and skills-development programmes, festival-goers declared the third annual Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF)–held November 10-17, 2013 in the exclusive Tinapa Business and Leisure Resort and Marina Resort in Cross River State capital of Calabar in Nigeria–as the best festival this side of heaven.
“AFRIFF is fantastic. There is no festival that caters for all your needs like AFRIFF,” said Nollywood actress, screenwriter and producer Uche Jombo.
“I go to festivals for two reasons: to watch great films and to network,” said Cameroonian actress Eka Christa Assam. “I have met many people—directors, distributors, producers, actors, festival organizers, journalists—here from whom I have learnt a lot.”
The actress whose short film, BELEH, premiered at AFRIFF, commended the organisers on what she termed an ideal festival location.
“Calabar is calm, peaceful and takes you away from the hustles of daily life. Here, you vacation as you work. I particularly found the closing event quite interesting and mesmerising. Workshops and discussion panels, too, were as informative as they were empowering,” Assam observed.
Godwin Otwoma of Kenya, whose short film, HAUNTED SOULS, screened at AFRIFF, described the event as a ‘great initiative’. Saying the continent needs more ‘African’ festivals, particularly in English-speaking Africa, Otwoma observed that “AFRIFF made effort to bring Africa together.”
Besides film shows, parties and conferences, AFRIFF also held hands-on training workshops in acting, script-writing, sound production and cinematography.
Subjects relevant to filmmaking in Africa—from emerging talents and trends to adaptation of literature, financing, international theatrical release, online platforms for distribution as well as master classes on cinematography and sound design—were held to acclaim.
That winning films and filmmakers collected cash prizes in US Dollars ranging between $2,000 and $6,000 was perhaps one of the most attractive aspects of AFRIFF, thanks to United Bank for Africa (UBA) and Federal President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan.
The jurors that Zimbabwe-born Festival Programmer, Keith Shiri, put together to assess the quality of films and award them included Balufu Bakupa-Kanyinda from Congo-Kinshasa, Wale Ojo from Nigeria and Mahen Bonetti from USA (Feature Films); Shaibu Husseini and Kunle Afolayan from Nigeria and Hans-Christian Mahnke from Namibia/Germany (Documentary Films); and Femi Kayode of Nigeria and Berni Goldblat from Burkina Faso/Sweden (Short Films).
The Short Films Jury was the first to make its statement on the Gala Night, November 16, 2013.
“This year we have had the pleasure of watching an amazing amount of quality films coming from all over the continent. Short filmmaking is an art form within itself. We encourage African filmmakers to strive for excellence,” Bernie Goldblat read out the statement co-signed with Femi Kayode. “We as jury members have the honour of awarding the best of the best, which will give us visibility and availability and credibility to the AFRIFF brand worldwide.”
They went on to award the Best Student Film trophy to SODIQ by Michael Adeyemi of United Kingdom/Nigeria. The film also walked away with the President’s Award from Federal President Goodluck Jonathan.
Adeyemi, whose parents moved with him to UK when he was just two years old, said it was his first time in Nigeria in 26 years.
“I am looking at the possibilities of bringing documentary filmmaking genre to Nigeria,” he said. “I work on documentaries that provoke and move people. I believe that if what I make grips me, it shall grip others too.”
They gave the Best Short Film Award to ADAMT by Zelalem Woldemariam of Ethiopia. But the Ethiopian was not present to receive his award in person.
The Documentary Jury gave Special Mention to AFRICA SHAFTED by Ingrid Martens of South Africa ‘for its beautifully crafted pan-African story, dealing poetically with a universal subject, bringing the human aspect of migration to light.’
The Best Documentary Award went to THE VIRGIN, THE COPTS AND ME by Namir Abdel Messeeh of Egypt ‘for its innovative, inspiring way of telling a story in a compelling and interesting way, adding deep insight to the subjects of filmmaking and historical narratives’.
“We are all united by a common purpose. We met here with the new generation of filmmakers fueled by a common purpose to show this great continent Africa in all her beauty and splendor,” Bakupa-Kanyinda, President of the Feature Film Jury.
While VIRGIN MARGARIDA by Lucinio Azevedo of Mozambique received the Jury’s Special Award and Special Mention went to B FOR BOY by Chika Anadu of Nigeria, the Best Nigerianb Film—which also received the President’s Award for Original Nigerian Best Film given by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan—went to THE MEETING by Mildred Okwo of Nigeria.
INUMBER NUMBER by Donovan Marsh of South Africa won the Best Screenplay Award as the Best Director’s prize went to South African Roberta Durrant for her work on FELIX KING OF SAX.
The Jury gave Special Recognition to actresses Rita Dominic and Omoni Oboli for their roles in THE MEETING and BROTHER’S KEEPER, respectively.
For their acting in LIES MEN TELL, Uche Jombo and Desmond Elliot were, respectively, declared the Best Actress and the Best Actor.
The Best Feature Film Award, complete with a US$6000 cash prize, went to OF GOOD REPORT by Jahmil XT Qubeka of South Africa.
First held in Port Harcourt in Rivers State in 2010 with participants from eight African countries and in Lagos in 2011 with participants drawn from 10 African countries, the third edition of AFRIFF was held in Cross River State in which the founder and Executive Director of the initiative, Chioma Ude, said the festival has now found a permanent home. And Governor Liyel Imoke appeared to agree during the various times he interacted with festival-goers at press conferences, parties and other ceremonies that had more than 500 delegates from 20 countries.
“I am a strong believer in Africa. AFRIFF is focusing on us, Africans, here. We should focus on ourselves. Others aren’t interested in us,” Ude told press corps. “We are focusing on growing AFRIFF organically starting from Nigeria and expanding outwards.”
“A week isn’t enough,” Ude said of the festival that has grown from three days in 2010 to seven days in 2013. “However, holding the festival for longer than a week would call for enormous amounts of resources.”