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Real-Time, Light Camera Africa Film Festivals resonate with social issues

By Florence Utor and Ekene Muo
16 October 2016   |   1:45 am
Enthusiasts across the country and the globe converged on Lagos, last week, to witness the maiden edition of Real-Time Film Festival, which showcased an array of films.
A scene from Ohikhuare’s movie, Behind the Wheel

A scene from Ohikhuare’s movie, Behind the Wheel

Enthusiasts across the country and the globe converged on Lagos, last week, to witness the maiden edition of Real-Time Film Festival, which showcased an array of films. The four-day event, held both on the mainland and in the island began on September 29 and was rounded off on October 3. Founded by and for independent filmmakers, the festival served as platform for independent filmmakers to express themselves and showcase their films. It also brought together cinema enthusiasts, filmmakers and artists f to discover Nigeria’s rich culture and tourism.

The vision of the festival, according to organisers, is to build a truly internationally accessible film festival in Africa. Apart from featuring free master classes by industry giants, discussion panels, short films and animations that showscase Africa’s diverse culture, the festival also served as an avenue to celebrate Nigeria’s veteran filmmakers with awards.

Students, aspiring filmmakers, enthusiasts and actors were presented with the opportunity to acquire skills in directing, cinematography, lighting design and acting from some of the industry’s best hands. The mentors included Teco Benson, Yinka Edward, Uzo Okpechi and Iretiola Doyle. Participants also had the chance to interact with directors and producers of films that were screened in a question and answer session after each screening.

The festival’s Artistic Director and multiple award winning filmmaker, Mr. Stanlee Ohikhuare, confirmed that 800 films were submitted for consideration for the festival from 60 different countries, but that 55 were shortlisted for screening.

The use of modern technology was hyped, as it enabled some filmmakers and resource persons who were not physically present during the master classes to interface with participants via Skype.

Opening film for screening was Slow Country at Silverbird Cinema, Ikeja. The film, directed by Eric Aghimien, is about a homeless teenage mother, who, in an attempt to provide a safe haven for her son, engaged in prostitution and drug trafficking. Trouble, however, erupts the moment she decides to quit the illicit trade. Her boss, a ruthless and a notorious underworld lord, won’t let her go. Other films shown included; Stanlee Ohikhuare’s controversial movie, Behind The Wheels and Saving Dreams, among others.

Heading this year’s festival jury panel was Mr. Bayo Awala, who brought his experience of film festivals to play. Other jurors on the panel were animator, Michael Loeck (U.S.); lighting designer and director of photography, Christian Epps (U.S.); filmmaker and festival organiser, Jef Gray (U.S.); documentary filmmaker, Mr. Femi Odugbemi (Nigeria); music composer, Aaron Latina (U.S.); filmmaker, Jannel Meager (Australia) and ace photographer, Mr. Phllip Trimnell (Nigeria).

Meanwhile, as Real-Time Film Festival was entertaining guests on both the mainland and island for three days’ running, festivalgoers, practitioners and film enthusiasts also besieged Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island Lagos, for the sixth edition of the yearly Lights, Camera, Africa! Film Festival (LCA).

The festival, held under the broad theme, ‘Music Makes The People.’ opened on Friday, September 30 and closed on Sunday, October 2. Festival Director, Mrs. Ugoma Adegoke, had explained at the start that she and the LCA crew were inspired to explore the festival theme because of their interest in the impact of ‘complementary multi-disciplinary story telling.’

As she put it: “Following on from some ideas espoused during the Art for Art panel held as part of the 2015 edition of the festival, it seemed a natural progression to show through film, the links and universality in the language of expression within the arts and among artists.

“It is my hope that ‘Music Makes The People’ will showcase and instill a sense of camaraderie and simpatico in the styles and intentions of storytelling, such that we will all go away with an understanding that perhaps music, art, film, poetry, dance, theatre and design could be considered more to be complementary and, sometimes interchangeably used to portray one cohesive and compelling story; our story, the story told by us and not of others.”

Showcasing over 20 films from 14 countries with many of the films having their world and Nigerian premieres, the festival opened on a grand note with the Nigerian premiere of Abba Makama’s jubilant film Green White Green. The film had earlier premiered at Toronto International Film Festival that ended recently. It was one of the eight films that were selected for the special focus on Nollywood, which was dubbed ‘City to City.’ Green White Green was well received by festivalgoers, who attended the opening night.

Though slow paced and wordy, the film provided moments of excitement and laughter for the audience some of whom described the movie as a breath of fresh air.

Other days of the festival featured a delightful selection of features, shorts films and documentaries. Mr. Femi Odugbemi’s film Gidi Blues, which is about love, sorrow, despair and hope, had its day; Onyeka Nwelue’s insightful documentary on the notable female writer, Flora Nwapa, titled House of Nwapa, Isabelle Boni Claverie’s film Too Black To Be French and Tam Fiofori’s revealing documentary on the art of Abiodun Olaku titled Biodun Olaku had their screen time at the festival and they were all well received. Fiofori said, after his documentary film on Biodun Olaku was screened, “It is my contribution towards the much-needed interdisciplinary conversation within the arts community in Nigeria. It reflects my sense of duty and social responsibility as a Nigerian filmmaker.”

Fiofori has two other documentaries on Olu Amoda and J. D Ojeikere to his credit.

But beyond the films, there were the regular question and answer sessions with filmmakers, music time-outs and full music sessions, as well as, festival panel discussions.

The festival also featured its regular interdisciplinary showcases of literature, visual art and live music. However, the festival’s main panel, held on the last day, had notable and accomplished artistes and programmers, including Mr. Lemi Ghariokwu, Gloria Rhodes, Ray Onanuga, Onyeka Nwelue and Debbie Williams in focus. Moderated by culture journalist, Mr. Shaibu Husseini, the panel agreed that music is life and that it is as important as the air people breathe, saying music makes people human and allows them to transcend time and space. The panel was also in agreement that music is therapeutic and that it has helped to define and shape people’s emotional compass.

Although the panel observed the decline in revolutionary-type of music, particularly music that stirs the memory and make people think, it suggested that there should be balance between music meant for the brain and music for mere entertainment.

In all, LCAF was yet another opportunity for filmmakers to address societal issues through their products. The filmmakers were undoubtedly successful in their portrayal of said issues, which formed subjects of discussion at the festival.

The movie, No Good Turn, directed by Mr. Udoka Onyeka, portrays the effects of terrorist attacks, using two main characters, a police inspector and a medical doctor, Dr. Gbenga Jakonde. Mr. Udoka is of the opinion that Nigerians are too detached from the effects of terrorist attacks, especially those who are yet to be affected by such attacks. Through the use of the police inspector, who loses his co-workers and his son-in-law, and the doctor who also loses a co-habitant, Mr. Udoka brings closer home real life issues of losses felt by victims of the senseless acts of violence. His use of a police official also drives home the point that everybody can be affected.

New York I Love You takes on the issue of blacks living in the diaspora. The filmmaker, who was called via Skype, spoke extensively on the songs used in the short movie and their significance. She stated that the songs are a rich mix of different influences in Vivianne’s (the protagonist) life. She also mentioned that the story of Vivianne is that of a traveller who’s been to a lot of places and is looking forward to a new adventure.

One of the highlights was Odugbemi’s Gidi Blues. It brought up the main issues for discussion. The audience, despite the resounding applause, was eager to identify and discuss issues observed in the film. One of such issues was the portrayal of Lagos. For Odugbemi, different people see Lagos in different ways, adding that it is the duty of a filmmaker to portray any location, as clearly as he can. An upcoming filmmaker raised the issues of the filmmaker’s use of a large crowd, to which Odugbemi emphasized the importance of seeking aid from street urchins in any film locale. He accredited the success of directing such scenes to the ‘Area Boys’.

Participants also discussed the seeming independent portrayal of the adult female characters. This spurned a brief but educative discussion on feminism, which was punctuated by a related topic – selecting a wife. In fact, the last topic centred on the non-challant attitude of men with regards to selecting a wife. The lead male character, Akinola, despite bonking his Bishop’s daughter more than once, decides she is not wife material and invariably leaves her before the end of the play.

However, participants felt satisfied with both movies and the issues they raise, and expressed eagerness for the next edition of the festival.