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Again, Nigeria Not In Cannes To Tell Her Filmic Stories

By Shaibu Husseini
17 May 2015   |   2:44 am
Again, Nigeria fails to put up a stand at the pavilion of Cinema of all Nation. Therefore, the country reputedly the most thriving movie industry is not officially represented at the ongoing Cannes International Film Festival which opened on Wednesday, May 13; it runs till May 24, 2015 in the South of France.

Former MD of Nigerian Film Corporation, Mr. Afolabi Adesanya; Malian filmmaker, Souleymane Cisse and Nigerian filmmaker, Mr. Mahmood Ali-Balogun at the Nigerian pavilion in a previous Cannes festival event

Again, Nigeria fails to put up a stand at the pavilion of Cinema of all Nation. Therefore, the country reputedly the most thriving movie industry is not officially represented at the ongoing Cannes International Film Festival which opened on Wednesday, May 13; it runs till May 24, 2015 in the South of France.

Nigeria had five times mounted a pavilion at the festival during the tenure of the former Managing Director of the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) Mr. Afolabi Adesanya.

The pavilion had served as a meeting point for Nigerian and black filmmakers attending the Cannes. The Nigeria pavilion had served to seal production and distribution deals and to hold strategic sessions.

But sadly, the NFC, which commendably initiated Nigeria’s annual participation at the festival in 2007 as part of its statutory mandate to facilitate and promote liaison between Nigerian movie practitioners and their counterparts from other parts of the world, has failed in three consecutive years to exploit the festival for the benefit of the industry and its practitioners.

Usually, filmmakers and countries interested in promoting liaison with other industries and institutions plan to attend Cannes annually. Outside the Berlin International Film Festival, Venice International Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival, the Cannes International Film Festival is easily one of the most prestigious film festivals regarded as a significant platform to network, raise funds for movie projects, acquire international distribution rights and market local films and locations.

“The last time they were here was in 2012 and it is so unfortunate that Nigeria that is believed to be the second largest film producing nation in the world and the first in Africa is not represented here officially,” lamented a Nigerian filmmaker Chris Ihezie who maintained that the NFC has no reason not to be in Cannes, “even if it means setting up a small stall in the market”.

According to the filmmaker, “Other countries that are not as buoyant as Nigeria such as Niger, Kenya and Morocco are here.

They all managed to set up something so that their filmmakers can have a place where they can hold meetings and showcase their works. So it is unacceptable for Nigeria not to be represented at such an important event as the Cannes”.

But officials of the NFC have blamed their inability to put up a stand and send a delegation to the Cannes on ‘lack of funds’.

A source at the NFC disclosed that the NFC got ‘zero capital allocation this year’ and that its ‘overhead allocation’ was slashed, a situation that made planning for such event difficult.

“I think we should appreciate the situation the NFC has found itself’,” said the source. “Funding has not been favourable since the current Managing Director Dr. Danjuma Dadu assumed office.

It costs about N10 million to effectively participate and there is no provision for such expenditure in the budget”. Though some filmmakers shared the sentiments of the official of the corporation, others like Chidi Mbadinuju, a regular at the Cannes, argued that the NFC ought to have been more proactive in sourcing funds to participate in such an international engagement than lament.

He stated, “It shows the commitment of people that regulate our industry. Why can’t they seek private support for our participation? I know organizations that will latch on the popularity of Nollywood to come to the Cannes.

And knowing that government was in front, they will queue behind. Everyone here is asking of the Nigerian pavilion. I just left the South African and the Egyptian pavilion.

They got private and government support to be here. Why must we wait for government all the time? Even among the government institutions, we can collaborate to raise funds.

Why is it difficult to do so?” A Nigerian-born American filmmaker Chris Odeleye expressed disappointment at Nigeria’s absence at the Cannes.

He stated that Nigeria had again lost the opportunity to correct so many negative impressions about the industry, saying, “How much does it cost to get a pavilion? Less than 15,000 Euros and this is chicken feed to some folks back home as we hear.

That pavilion would have served as a hub for some us to do business. I know so many people who have stopped me to ask about Nigerian pavilion just because I have Nigerian colours on my bag. People want to know more about the industry than they are reading on the Internet.

I think we should be thinking more of internationalizing the industry than playing local champs at home”. But South Africa and other African countries, including Kenya and Chad are at the Cannes.

Indeed, there is a rich South African delegation comprising of filmmakers, distributors and government officials. The delegation is led by the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), an agency of the Department of Arts and Culture and they are working in partnership with the KwaZulu Natal Film Commission (KZN Film Commission).

The NFVF is to South Africa what the NFC is to Nigerian film industry and they have put up a gorgeous pavilion that is situated at number 118 International Village Riviera.

The pavilion has become home and meeting point for blacks attending the film festival. “The South African delegates conduct business here and visitors come here to find information on filming activities in South Africa. They also inquire about films and SA locations,” a cheerful pavilion attendant stated on enquiry.

However, Chief Executive Officer of the NFVF Zama Mkosi had explained that the festival was one of the strategic platforms that the NFVF offers South African filmmakers to negotiate co-production deals with filmmakers from treaty countries.

She also explained that their participation at the festival provided the opportunity to hold strategic sessions, co-production fora and to engage other countries, including Algeria, Kenya, Ivory Coast and Nigeria as part of the effort to strengthen existing relations with other African countries.

Mkosi said, “This initiative extends beyond co-productions as we usually hold a roundtable discussion with the aim of telling a positive African story to the rest of the world. We also ensure that South Africa is positioned as the best filming destination”.

While speaking also about South African participation at the Cannes, the CEO of KZN Film Commission Carol Coetzee said, “We believe that our participation will create more opportunities for our local content, resulting in more partnerships, co-production projects and sales and distribution deals..

As we constantly promote South Africa, particularly KwaZulu Natal, as the best filming destination, we will continuously meet with co-production partners and further meet with key location and executives scouts to position our beautiful province”.

But apart from the strategic sessions and meetings, the NFVF, together with KZN Film Commission, have commenced screening of some selected South African films.

The screening schedule includes the market screening of two local films Ayanda, a coming-of-age story of a 22-year old Afro hipster produced by Terry Pheto and directed by Sara Blecher.

There’s also Stone Cold Jane Austen, a hilarious reality-styled comedy that is produced by radio presenter, musical director, singer and songwriter Jon Savage.

Interestingly, Ayanda features Nigeria notable and award winning actor OC Ukeje in lead role. Ukeje is current winner of the best actor award of the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Award (AMVCA) and he has won the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) and the Future Awards for acting previously.

Other South African films scheduled for market screening at the festival include Die Windpomp, The Man with the Heavy Leg, and Assignment.

The Cannes Film Festival, which opened with Emmanuel Bercot’s La TeTe Haute (Standing Tall) continues with regular screening both in and out of competition. However, there will be a special screening of Souleymane Cisse’s Oka (Our House) during the course of the festival.

A Malian director and writer, Cisse is one of Africa’s best known documentary and feature film directors. He is reputed as the first African to win a major award at the Cannes.

His 1987 feature Yeelen earned him the Jury Prize at the Cannes. A jury that is co-chaired by two significant screenwriters and producers Joel Coen and Ethan Coen will award prizes to winners of various categories at the closing ceremony.

They are joined on the jury this year by seven key figures in world cinema, including Rossy de Palma (Actress – Spain)

Sophie Marceau (Actress, Director – France), Sienna Miller (Actress – United Kingdom)
and Rokia Traoré (Composer, Singer-songwriter – Mali), to select prize winners among the films in Competition.