As the Toronto International Film Festival kicked off in Canada yesterday, the Lagos State Government took the stage to propagate the ideals of ‘Lagos Brand’ aimed at attracting foreign direct investments to the state, Gboyega Akinsanmi writes
Like his colleagues across the federation, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode came to power at a troubled time with economy distressing and investments fast shrinking. As a result, national income historically nosedived almost by 50 per cent, thus culminating in a situation whereby most state governments could no longer meet their obligations.
Amid this troubled time, Ambode came up with a clear mandate when he took up the mantle of leadership. Just after his inauguration, he announced his plan to deploy the state’s potential in arts, entertainment and tourism to propagate the ideals of ‘Lagos Brand’, an initiative his administration unveiled to attract foreign direct investments (FDIs) globally.
Ambode’s vision was in line with a definite assurance he gave to the business community and corporate Lagos in his inauguration speech. Specifically, he said, the ease of doing business in Lagos “will be improved upon earnestly. Lagos is open for greater business… We want you to fly into Lagos, start your business, find your way; live, work and enjoy in Lagos.”
Consequently, Ambode created office of Overseas Affairs and Investment (LAGOS GLOBAL), which since its establishment had attracted $43 billion investments to the state under one years. He, also, unveiled Lagos Brand, which the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde said, was designed to take Lagos global with its tourism potentials.
This was first demonstrated at the 50th edition of Notting Hill Carnival, London penultimate weekend. At Notting Hill, Lagos staged a three-day campaign under a theme, LoveLagosWeekend, which Ayorinde said, was put together to sell Lagos globally and unite its friends and lovers in the diaspora. Largely, the campaign was a huge success.
Beyond the glitz that attracted huge enthusiasts to Adelaja Street at the United Kingdom, Ayorinde said Nigerian Corner at Notting Hill Carnival was transformed “to Lagos Corner. It was a grand purpose for which the state’s branding project was put in place to draw the attention of the world to Lagos and its potentials in arts, entertainment and tourism.”
Like Notting Hill Carnival, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which kicked off yesterday in Canada, offered another platform for the Ambode administration to deepen its branding campaign. In April, the festival’s Artistic Director, Mr. Cameron Bailey announced that the 2016 city to city programme “will focus on Lagos, Nigeria.”
Bailey justified the need to focus on Lagos under the TIFF city to city programme. He said: “Vital, complex and inspiring, Lagos is entirely unique. The city of Fela Kuti’s music has also given birth to one of the world’s most vibrant film industries. The 1,000 low-budget features ‘Nollywood’ produces each year generate about $1 billion in box office.
“Now, from that commercial hotbed, a new generation of filmmakers is emerging to both advance and challenge Nollywood. Bigger budgets, greater artistic ambition – the new cinema of Lagos is bold, exciting, and ready to take its place on the global stage. We are excited to share the creativity of this city’s filmmakers with TIFF audiences.”
At its 41st edition, the TIFF disclosed that the eighth year for the City to City programme “will specifically showcase filmmakers living and working in a selected city, regardless of where their films are set.” Previously, London, Tel Aviv, Istanbul, Buenos Aires, Mumbai, Athens and Seoul had featured in the TIFF’s city to city section. Already, Bailey said, Lagos is lined up to feature in the 2016 edition of the city to city programme.
For Ayorinde, focusing on Lagos at the 2016 TIFF is indeed a dream come true. He said the state’s tourism and entertainment potentials “will take the centre stage at this year’s edition of the TIFF’s city to city programme for one significant reason, which he said, was Ambode’s drive to deploy the state’s potentials to attract foreign investments to critical sectors.
Ayorinde explained the significance of the TIFF in investment drive globally, especially in arts, entertainment and tourism. He said the development “will truly help project tourism potentials of Lagos to the team audience at the festival.” Besides, the commissioner disclosed that eight films produced in the state “have been selected to feature at the festival.”
He explained that the ideal of Lagos branding campaign was in line with Ambode’s electoral promises “to make the state a hub for tourism. Eight films selected do not necessarily have to be about Lagos. But the films are produced by directors based in the state. What is important is that the films selected are produced by film makers that are Lagos-based.
“It does not matter what subject matter you are dealing with; it is about the creativity, the talent you are exhibiting as a Lagos-based film maker that Toronto is interested in. The state government is fully involved in any collaboration to celebrate Lagos; market its potentials as well as appreciate the talent of the motion industry,” Ayorinde explained.
Likewise, the Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mr. Folorunsho Folarin-Coker, justified the new drive “to project Lagos through the weapon of tourism. It falls in line with the policy of the state government that arts and entertainment can be used to drive consumption to create wealth, generate employment and improve the revenue generation in the state.”
Beyond what the Toronto film festival readily offers, Folarin-Coker provided more insight into what the Ambode administration “has been doing to make Lagos Africa’s first investment destination. The new drive falls clearly in consonance with this administration mantra of THESE which stands for Tourism, Hospitality, Entertainment, and Sports for Excellence.”
He added that the long-term plan of the state government was“to take back dead public spaces such as under the bridges across the state and develop it for residents to exhibit and develop their talents. It, also, explains the decision of the state government to collaborate with Federal Government to build a car park at the new museum to help drive tourism.”
But Baily, the festival’s artistic director, explained the drive behind the Lagos and Toronto spotlight for the festival. He said much of the films Lagos produced“are not being showcased in Toronto. The idea is to seize the opportunity of the 2016 festival to begin a new dawn for Nigerian films,” which he said, could transform the fortune of a state in need of investments.
He acknowledged that eight films produced in Lagos “will feature prominently at the festival. We have had films like Tunde Kelani’s Abeni feature at the festival and Half of a Yellow Sun, which is a collaboration between Nigeria and the United Kingdom.” But the artistic director said the 2016 festival offered an opportunity “to do more and to go bigger.
“So, what we are doing in this edition is a spotlight on the film makers who live and work here in Lagos. We have been so impressed with the ingenuity and creativity of individual film makers who have made the Nigeria film industry one of the largest in the planet.” Like Los Angeles, Paris and Mumbai, Bailey said Lagos is one of the world’s big capitals of film.
He said films produced in Nollywood “have spread all over the world. Though Nigeria film business has gone global. The next step is to fully integrate it into global film industry.The films that are bought and sold at our festival, the films that are written about and reported on by the critics and film journalists, the audiences that embrace the films that go on to win the big prizes like the Oscars, those films should include the films from Lagos, the heart of this industry that has become so large and dominant around the world.”
He, thus, said this new drive “is what really projects the image of Lagos and Nigeria, the stories that are being told resonate with the people whether or not they set foot on this country.” In the same spirit, Ayorinde announced that two outstanding filmmakers, Kunle Afolayan and Genevieve Nnaji were selected to feature at a programme tagged “In Conversation With (ICW).
“As the birthplace of Nollywood and as one of the world’s most productive film locations, Lagos is the centre of attraction in Toronto, Canada. Lagos is the first African city to be so honoured at the festival. The focus on Lagos in Toronto confirms the arrival of Lagos State on the world stage and how the global creative community acknowledges the potential that is associated with professionals in the state’s motion picture industry.”
Ayorinde said the selected films “comprise 76 (directed by Izu Ojukwu), 93 Days (Steve Gukas), The Wedding Party (Kemi Adetiba), The Arbitration (Niyi Akinmolayan), Taxi Driver ( Daniel T. Oriahi), Okafor’s Law (Omoni Oboli), Just Not Married (Uduak-Obong Patrick), and Green White Green (directed by Abbah T. Makama).”
“While 76 revisits the political upheaval of 1976 that led to the assassination of the Head of State, General Murtala Muhammed, 93 Days examined the bravery of the late Doctor Stella Adadevoh and the Lagos State Government in combating the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease in 2014. “We are pleased that filmmakers are exploring themes that are strong enough to attract global attention to Lagos. The focus on Lagos State this year, therefore, signals the beginning of a rewarding global attention to our creative artists and the inherent potentials in the state as destination of choice for international filmmakers, visitors and investors.”