Serge Noukoue Dreams Big For Nollywoodweek In Paris
Usually, by this time annually, preparations for NollywoodWeek in Paris, the yearly film festival that showcases the best of the Nigerian film industry to the European audience gets underway. Films curated and those submitted to the organisers—the Paris based Okada Media headed by Serge Noukoué and Nadira Shakur are sent to a panel to review and advise on which of the films should grace the screen when the festival opens in France in June 2016.
This years edition of the festival has been fixed for June 2nd to 5th 2016 and its artistic director Serge Noukoue confirmed that the festival will hold at its traditional venue which is at The Cinéma l’Arlequin located at 76 rue de Rennes. He also confirmed that a total of 10 Nigerian films will be selected out of the many films that have been curated and submitted to be screened at this edition of festival.
For Noukoue who revealed that his first contact with Nollywood was over 15 years ago while in the United States says he and the team at Okada Media are satisfied with how the festival has evolved into a major event within a short while. In his words ‘’ this is exactly what we wanted to achieve in terms of bringing quality content from Nigeria and with the last edition from Ghana for a real showcase here in France. I also know that it can grow bigger. This is going to be the fourth edition and I know it can get bigger in terms of the people we reach. You know a lot of people come and they say that they just heard or read about the festival and didn’t know that this festival ever existed. This gives you an idea of how much further this festival can go. So I think there is still challenges for us ahead but at the same time what we have achieved in such a short time is important’’.
So far, over 20 films have been screened since the festival debuted in 2012 and observers say that nearly all the films that have graced the festival screen including Tunde Kelani’s Dazzling Mirage, Maami, Mahmood Ali Balogun’s Tango With Me, Kunle Afolayan’s Phone Swap and October 1, Mildred Okwo’s The Meeting and Kenneth Gyang’s Confusion Na wah represent some of the best movies that have been made in Nigeria. So how films selected for the festival. ‘’We try to stick to the years of production because we want to be current’’ Noukoue replied and adds ‘’we try to have the best of the year and the year before. We also try to have a fair representation of different genres, representative of what is going on Nigeria.
We want to have comedy, drama, thrillers and what have you. We want to have a fair representation of all that. For instance we don’t want to have 10 comedies. That will not make sense for all. We should be able to serve varieties. Also we look at major festivals and award shows like the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) and see what has been selected and awarded. We follow very closely what is released in Nigeria in major cinemas. We read the critique and we go after the films. We ask filmmakers to submit and we do a pre-selection based on that then we narrow it step by step to arrive to about 10 films’’.
Even though the festival has somewhat become a major event in the cultural calender of the city of Paris, Noukoue admits that the key challenge for the Okada Media crew is to get the word on the festival out especially in mainstream media. He says ‘’we have partnership with Africa related media mainly here in France and outside of France—a lot of African channels and African radio stations and they are really supporting us. And we appreciate that obviously but I also think that the mainstream media and the mainstream population will be interested in discovering these films. At least I want them to have the ability to know about it so that they can make up their minds to come or not’’.
However Noukoue applauded the effort the crew at Okada Media has made so far in changing perceptions and correcting misconceptions about Nollywood through the festival. He said ‘’there is a still a lot of misconception about what Nollywood is. To a lot of people Nollywood is still equivalent to cheap, low quality movies and so what we are doing with the festival is trying to change that image and perception but we are aware that you don’t change perception in a day or in a week but this is the fourth edition and when the people leave after watching a film, their perception changes but it will take more of this kind of our festival globally for the perception of Nollywood to change’’.
Also he said ‘’I think a lot of the misconception is based on ignorance and based on preconceived ideas and what we have been able to do with the Nollywoodweek Paris is to challenge that preconception that people have. We have people walk in here to watch films and they are completely surprised with what they saw because what they had in mind about Nollywood films was completely different from what they have seen. And that is one of the main objectives of the festival —to show those quality films that are made by Africans for Africans.
We need a platform to be able to differentiate the good movies from the bad ones that have made people from outside of Nigeria to deny completely the Nollywood industry. I always believe that Nollywood has valuable contents that should be seen so I just always thought that these valuable films deserved a certain treatment. They deserve to be marketed and distributed and exposed. So I just wanted a change in that and all of that formed the genesis for this festival—to bring those films here to fill that space’’.
On plans to take the festivals to other cities in Europe, Noukoue confirmed that they have received request to bring the festival to other cities, but that they are not in a haste to accede to the request. ‘’We have been thinking about taking it round for a while but it has to be done in collaboration with the local community and again we have to have it where we can get all the needed logistic support. It is not easy. But I think Paris will remain a base for NollywoodWeek for now’’.
Founded in 2012 with the aim of finding a larger audience and more sustainable distribution system for quality films from Nollywood, the usually well attended Nollywoodweek film festival in Paris has undoubtedly helped to popularize Nollywood films and it has also provided access for Nollywood films in mainstream France and in Europe.