Again, Nollywood misses out at Cannes Filmfest
One of the world’s most prestigious and essential events for the film industry, the Cannes Film Festival, will open in Cannes, south of France on May 11. The usual ten-day long festival which is in its 69th edition and which attracts over half a million people – mainly tourists, filmmakers, financiers and journalists is certainly the world’s biggest and well attended filmic feast. People and movie producing nations always desire to be in Cannes every year because of the immense benefits derivable from participating in such a big feast. For countries, the festival and others such as Berlinale, Toronto International Film Festival, Sundance International Film Festival, FESPACO in Burkina Faso and the Nigerian based African International Film Festival (AFRIFF) provide them ample opportunity to showcase their finest cinematic output and potentials.
Countries like India, Kenya, South Africa and Morocco have always exploited their participation in Cannes for the benefit of their filmmakers and respective industries. On yearly basis, they mount huge pavilions at the International Village in Cannes, which feature their countries finest cinematic outputs including films, locations, production facilities and networking sessions for filmmakers who are usually sponsored to Cannes as delegates.
Nigeria through the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) has a history of participation in Cannes. The NFC under the leadership of the former Managing Director, Afolabi Adesanya had an unbroken participation at Cannes from 2006 to 2010 but missed out in the 2011 owning to the lack of funds and other editions afterwards. Although Nigeria has always participated without a film, either in or out of competition, officials of the NFC have always returned with their note pads filled with enquiries from foreign filmmakers and investors about production and co-production opportunities in Nollywood as the Nigerian movie industry is roundly dubbed.
But Nigeria will not be in Cannes this year and the NFC has not offered any satisfactory reason onwhy the corporation has failed to attend the prestigious festival since Dr. Danjuma Dadu succeeded Afolabi Adesanya in 2012, as Managing Director. The current leadership of the NFC has always blamed it on the ‘lack of funds’ but observers say the inability of the NFC to get the industry to be part of such prestigious movie meets has a lot to do with the inability of the leadership to convince government about the desirability of attending such filmic events. “If they are able to convince government as the former MD Afolabi (Adesanya) did in the years when he was MD, there is no way government will not provide for it in the budget,’’ a notable filmmaker and a member of the moribund advisory committee set up by Dadu on his assumption of office in 2012 said. “I don’t think the current MD has it as a priority and I don’t think he considers it desirable,’’ he added.
But notable filmmaker Kunle Afolayan who looked forward to having his new film ‘CEO’ screen in Cannes ‘even if out of competition’ says it is desirable to be at film festivals as “individuals and as a nation.” According to him, “with the height that Nigeria has attained in motion picture production, it needs to be at almost every significant international film festival. No country talks about providing a good platform to foster the growth and development of film business without providing access for the filmmakers and the industry.’’
For Afolayan who is planning a grand premiere for his new film which stars Angela Kidjo, Wale Ojo, Hilda Dokubo and Jimi Jean-Louis in lead roles, “apart from exposing local filmmakers to new developments especially in the area of producing quality films that will attract international distribution and co-production, film festivals help to increase the mileage and patronage of our local movies in the global village and they allow movie aficionados to converge and have one to one interactions, which give room for synergy, co-productions and collaborations.’’
Also, notable film director and founder of Abuja International Film Festival (AIFF), Fidelis Duker noted that Nigeria has a lot to gain from attending international filmic events because of their impact on the filmmaker and the economy of the nation. “At every film festival including AIFF, there is a film market where movies are traded and where people close production deals. These deals are also closed at the pavilions. I have seen people come to the Nigeria pavilion in Cannes to ask for some filmmakers they will want to do business with.
“The discussions for an international production that was shot a few years ago in Nigeria started from the Nigerian pavilion. Of course, you know the implication for the Nigerian economy. So it is desirable to attend these festivals and it is also desirable for the Nigerian government to support local festivals like AIFF because participants pay for hotel accommodations, transportations and other services, thus contributing to the economy of the states and countries that host them,’’ he said.
However, the festival will open on May 11 with Woody Allen’s film Café Society. Australian Director George Miller has been named as President of the Jury for the main competition while Naomi Kawase would serve as the Jury President for the Cinefoundation and Short film selection of the festival. The task of the George Miller-led jury will be to decide between the 21 films in competition in order to select the winners – to be announced on stage at the closing ceremony on Sunday, May 22.
There is no film from Africa in the official selection, but Eshtebak, a film by Egyptian filmmaker Mohammed Diab will screen in the UnCertain Regard, a non-competitive section of the festival. Also, there will be a special screening of HISSEIN HABRÉ, a Chadian Tragedy, the documentary film by Chadian filmmaker, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun.