On Sunday, inside the Genesis Deluxe Cinema in Lagos, Access Bankâ€™s Chief Executive Officer, Herbert Wigwe, donning a dark, checkered tuxedo and a pink-coloured bow-tie, stood in front of a horde of eye-pairs, to talk about stories and how they shape the future.
Wigwe is an accomplished banker, a career path that demands more expertise in mathematics than language, precision over beauty. But, obviously, as he talked about storytelling via the camera at Genesis, the value of artâ€™s seeming randomness and narrative power is not lost on him. â€œI am excited about the great strides that have been made in the continentâ€™s film industry,â€ he said. Everywhere he goes across the world people ask him about personalities in the industry. And that, this positive acknowledgment of creative expression, makes him â€œproudâ€.
The occasion, of course, was the official opening of the seventh African International Film Festival, which is in its sixth day today and will culminate in a mouth-watering award ceremony tomorrow.
Wigwe is the Festivalâ€™s Patron and his bank, Access Bank, are one of AFRIFFâ€™s major sponsors. And, during his talk, he was explicit about why the bank was interested in films and those who make them.
â€œSomebody once said that if you do not take control of your narrative, somebody else will,â€ Wigwe said. â€œAnd Africa, in the western media, most times, is a story of poverty, disease, despair, corruption. But you and I know that we have so much more than all of that.
â€œIn the business that I do, I often share with people the need to take tomorrow. We have to take our destiny into our hands. We cannot continue to wait for people to redefine or create a future for us. And this is what the film industry is doing, recasting the image of the continent.â€
After Wigwe stepped off the podium to a chorus of claps, the evening was punctuated with more speeches from the French Consul General, Mr. Laurent Polonceaux, Lagos Stateâ€™s Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, the former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Senator Godswill Akpabio, and Nigeriaâ€™s Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed.
AFRIFF, apart from its numerous film master-classes, workshops and networking parties, is primarily a feast of movie screenings. So, the opening speeches were followed by two film screenings. One was a short film, â€˜Waiting for Hadassahâ€™, a spunky, narrator-driven production. The second was a satiric and humorous feature film from hugely talented Welsh-Zambian director, Rungano Nyoni, â€˜I Am Not a Witchâ€™, which got the audience reeling with laughter from the very first scene.
Since Sunday, the festival has played host to a plethora of more film screenings, workshops, industry meet-ups.
â€œAFRIFF gave me a wonderful platform to improve my skills,â€ a scriptwriter, Rachael Wanogho, told THISDAY. Wanogho attended one of the British Councilâ€™s Film Connections programmes at AFRIFF, Creative Hustle.
A professional cinematographer, Joshua Airende, who attended the Basic Canon DSLR Filmmaking workshop facilitated by Leke Alabi-Isama, was also enthusiastic. â€œThe workshop was amazing,â€ he said, â€œand this festival has captured my heart.â€