Chioma Ude, founder of the African International Film Festival (AFRIFF), is marking the eighth edition of the festival. Over 138 films selected from 50 countries are being screened at different locations across the city of Lagos from November 11 to 17. The selection for this edition features films made by women as well as films that celebrate women. In this interview, she says it will be great to have a #MeToo movement in Nigeria…enjoy!
What is the focus of this year’s festival?
The focus is really on female producers, movies that are focused on women, especially those lifting them, empowering them, showing us what life could be if things were different. It doesn’t mean that the opening night movie will be female based but within the festival there is a lot of focus on women and what we do. There will be a major focus on women – which is where the world is going to now anyway.
What’s the theme of this year?
Many Faces of A Woman. You will see different movies; be it being battered or otherwise. There is this documentary and it is really, really nice just showing a female chief. You go through the whole process of being a female chief. There are different movies that were selected specially for that reason; to celebrate women.
Why the focus on women?
For me, it’s a passionate thing, but for the rest of the world everybody knows there is a strong focus on women. Whether the men like it or not, women are really the stronger of the two and so we are taking charge.
We have been relegated to the back for too long, I think it’s time for us to start coming out and do what we do best. With the #MeToo movement going on, it will be great to have that (#MeToo movement) in Nigeria. But we have to take very gentle steps to achieve that.
So, for me it’s about trying to achieve our focus on empowering women, showing that we could be as good. Eventually we will get there.
How many films are being screened this year?
The total films are over 135. From short films, documentary, to feature films and animation.
From how many countries?
And Afghanistan is one of the countries?
Yes! We still remain African International Film Festival but we have gotten so many letters and questions from other countries as how they can be part of us. So at some point, we decided that the focus was really going to be African but we create something where we can entertain other films coming into the festival.
Is this the first time you are doing that?
Actually, this is the second time, but this time it’s more, especially as many of the films from Nigeria didn’t scale through. Last year, our creative director chose only five movies from Nigeria; feature films. This year, we still have low turnout.
“Whether the men like it or not, women are really the stronger of the two and so we are taking charge. We have been relegated to the back for too long, I think it’s time for us to start coming out and do what we do best.”
Are you saying that we haven’t had good films in Nigeria this year?
No, it depends on what we are looking for exactly. We have made great movies here but we are looking at festival movies, typical movies, movies that when you watch a movie, you leave and you talk about it; ask questions.
There is a difference. Nigeria is very commercial and not very arty, so, you will find that less and less of our movies are chosen.
What is AFRIFF’s position in appreciation of African cinema narratives?
In other countries, AFRIFF is a huge deal. You will see people calling in asking if their films made it to the festival. But in Nigeria, they don’t even call.
They wait for the very last minute to find out. So, we have a different approach to film because we make commercial films. The Nigerians that are focused on festivals are really focused on festivals. You see them travelling and they do well and they understand co-production. Co-production is the way to go and that’s why there is a strong focus on that too this year.
It’s been eight years since you started this festival. How has it been for you particularly as a woman?
First of all, I love movies. Generally Sundays and Saturdays, I binge in films. I hardly go for events. So, every Saturday, Sunday I am watching movies. For me, I’d like to see us make a difference. If you noticed, I have the same team every year.
They know it is a labour of love for me. In fact, before Chika Chukwu got married and moved to England, she would come and say “Chioma, not this school fees, you can’t touch that account.” It gets so bad that I get to a point where I have to spend everything just to make it that good.
The good thing about it is that it’s been made very government free. Let’s say the government that support films goes, I will still survive because I have channeled it away from government. If they come onboard, that’s fantastic, if they don’t, we keep going.
It will really be nice to see embassies come onboard, appreciating it. It will be a better and easier. They see its importance and even suggest it before you think about it. They are different and so it’s getting better.
“We have made great movies here but we are looking at festival movies, typical movies, movies that when you watch a movie, you leave and you talk about it; ask questions. There is a difference. Nigeria is very commercial and not very arty, so, you will find that less and less of our movies are chosen.”
What are the expectations for 2018?
There are so many things. Variety Magazine is coming and they are covering the festival for seven days. They are looking for film reporters, they are looking for people like you to sit down and talk with. They want to have a forum; they want to discuss critiquing film and journalism in film. There is something for everyone.
Genevieve Nnaji’s movie was bought by Netflix. It is a first of its kind. What do you think?
The lady who cemented the acquisition, she was at the festival last year, she came with her chauffeur. She was talking to people and telling them what she expects from a film, before that time, she had been here before and she met Genevieve at the festival.
I remember someone asked us to use that ‘Lion Heart’ as a closing for the film festival, but our closing was a week away so we couldn’t change all that in one week. All I can say is that Genevieve is a smart lady. I am happy for her.