The Film Festival That “Captured My Heart”

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Solomon Elusoji

On Sunday, inside the Genesis Deluxe Cinema in Lagos, Access Bank’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 art’s seeming randomness and narrative power is not lost on him. “I am excited about the great strides that have been made in the continent’s film industry,” 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 “proud”.

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 Festival’s Patron and his bank, Access Bank, are one of AFRIFF’s major sponsors. And, during his talk, he was explicit about why the bank was interested in films and those who make them.

“Somebody once said that if you do not take control of your narrative, somebody else will,” Wigwe said. “And 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.

“In 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.”

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 State’s Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, the former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Senator Godswill Akpabio, and Nigeria’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, ‘Waiting for Hadassah’, a spunky, narrator-driven production. The second was a satiric and humorous feature film from hugely talented Welsh-Zambian director, Rungano Nyoni, ‘I Am Not a Witch’, 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.
“AFRIFF gave me a wonderful platform to improve my skills,” a scriptwriter, Rachael Wanogho, told THISDAY. Wanogho attended one of the British Council’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. “The workshop was amazing,” he said, “and this festival has captured my heart.”