By Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Vanessa Obioha
Plans for a mutually beneficial working relationship in film production and distribution between Nigeria and France have reached an advanced stage.
This was disclosed at the French Day Roundtable — one of the industry sessions at the ongoing Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF).
Delegates from France and Nigerian filmmakers rubbed minds on how well they could leverage on several French platforms to distribute Nollywood films in France.
Though finer details of the treaty are being fine-tuned, however, Eric Garandeau, a former president of the French Government National Centre for Cinema and Moving Image (CNC), said that France is very open to co-productions with Nigeria.
With the over 5,000 screens available in the country, he noted that Nollywood films can be accommodated.
He pointed out that filmmakers must pay attention to the kind of stories they are telling, adding that: “Imagine the most original story with universal appeal that is rooted in culture. It is important that they tell a story that reflects your culture and has a universal appeal. You should never be shy of your culture; express it.”
Renowned filmmaker, Kunle Afolayan, who shared similar thoughts, told the audience how he was inspired to explore other shores after witnessing a film festival in France.
This, he said, led to the sponsorship of his ‘The CEO’ film by two French multinationals: Air France and Peugeot.
He encouraged young filmmakers to think or dream same, while ensuring that whatever project they are working on meets the standards.
“We have to meet the standards to put this movie on the available platforms,” he said.
It was generally accepted that international co-production is a good step in the right direction to promote Nollywood films.
Afolayan disclosed that he was already working on a film based on a book by Kenya’s prolific author Ngugi wa Thiong’O.
“The movie has been in the works since 2016 and it is a co-production of Kenya, South Africa, Congo and Nigeria,” he said.
A French film director Olivier Ayache Vidal, whose film ‘The Teacher’ was also screened, shared same sentiments, though his movie was shot in China.
During the ‘Content Circulation Between France and Nigeria’ session, Francis Nebot advised Nigerian filmmakers to ensure that they make an international version of their films if they aspire to distribute it in France.
He expressed optimism that there is a market for Nollywood films in France but it must meet the standards of the French.
In Nigeria however leading cinema houses are already acquiring film distribution rights for French films.
Silverbird Film Distribution Company recently signed a distribution deal with Les Film 26, a French production and distribution service company, to release three French films in Nigeria, while Genesis Cinemas will be opening a cinema house in French-speaking country, Cameroon.
Garandeau further urged filmmakers to look for French filmmakers they can collaborate with as well as attend film festivals in France, notably the Cannes Film Festival, and leverage on platforms like the World Cinema Fund which was created to stimulate international co-productions.
When the treaty is signed, Nollywood fillmmakers will be able to apply for grant to make films for audiences in both countries.