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Lagos takes Nollywood, 50th year party to Cannes film fest

By Shaibu Husseini (who is in Cannes, France, for the festival)   |   24 May 2017   |   1:30 am  

Publisher of Global Excellence, Mayor Akinpelu; Executive Secretary, Lagos State Film and Video Censors Board, Dele Balogun and filmmaker, Kunle Afolayan at the unveiling of Cinema in Lagos on Monday at Cannes International Film Festival, France


Lagos State Government has again come to the rescue of Nollywood. The state government, through its Ministry of Information and Strategy, mounted a pavilion at the Riveria area of the ongoing 70th edition of Cannes International Film Festival, Southern France. Although primarily meant to promote brand Lagos as a tourism and filmic destination of choice on the continent, Pavilion 0217, which is tucked beside countries like Sweden, Switzerland Australia, Canada, Turkey and South Africa, will eventually serve as melting point for Nollywood filmmakers attending the prestigious 10-day film festival, which opened last week Thursday.

This would be the second time the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode-led government would bail out Nollywood and take on a responsibility that is clearly that of the two Federal Government agencies responsible for film matters – Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) and National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB). The first time was at the 2016 edition at Toronto International Film Festival, Canada. But for Lagos, it would have been a ‘no-show’ for Nigeria outside the eight films that screened as part of the City-to-City project of the festival. Lagos State sponsored a delegation, including filmmakers, journalists and guild heads in addition to paying for a pavilion that served as secretariat for the Nigerian delegation. The Lagos Pavilion, situated close to the Jamaican and Greece pavilions, served as convergence point for delegates from Nigeria, where they networked with other professionals around the world. The state also hosted an industry party for the delegates, with the state’s officials visible at every interactive session. Led by the Commissioner of Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, and the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Kazeem Adeniji, it assured of the continued support of the state government to the industry through the provision of the right policies and incentives.

This year, Nigeria and Nollywood would have been missing at the Cannes festival if Lagos did not take the initiative to be present at one of the world’s most prestigious events for filmmakers that attracts over two million people – mainly tourist, filmmakers, financiers and journalists.

Ayorinde said the decision to host a pavilion was to have a communication outpost at the Cannes, which is certainly one of the world’s biggest and well-attended filmic feasts and media events. Also, with Cannes celebrating its 70th edition in the same month that Lagos is celebrating 50th anniversary, Ayorinde remarked that the brand awareness impact would be huge for Lagos as a state and for motion picture practitioners operating from within and outside Lagos State.

“There is immense benefits derivable from participating in such a big feast for a state like Lagos, which is home to Nollywood industry and indeed the entire Nigerian motion picture industry,” Ayorinde said.

But it doesn’t look as if NFC and NFVCB appreciate and understand the benefits of participating at high-level feast. For most countries, the festival and others like Berlinale, Toronto International Film Festival, Sundance International Film Festival, FESPACO in Burkina Faso and Nigeria-based African International Film Festival (AFRIFF) provide ample opportunities to showcase the 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 related industries. These countries 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 film corporation, has a history of participating in Cannes, which seems to have been truncated in recent times. The NFC, under the leadership of its former Managing Director, Afolabi Adesanya, had an unbroken participation at Cannes from 2006 to 2010, but missed out in 2011 owning to lack of funds. Although Nigeria had always participated without a film, either in or out of competition, officials of NFC always returned with loads of enquiries from foreign filmmakers and investors about production and co-production opportunities in Nollywood.

But it is Lagos that will return this time with its visitor’s book filled with enquiries about the state and its filmic and tourism potentials. The festival has only run for a week, but filmmakers, tourists and festivalgoer’s have been thronging the Lagos pavilion.

Executive Secretary of Lagos State Film and Video Censors Board, Mr. Dele Balogun, said two days ago, the pavilion hosted the formal unveiling ceremony of the maiden edition of the annual review of the motion picture industry, Cinema in Lagos, edited by Mr. Olumide Iyanda and published by Lagos State Government. He also disclosed that the occasion of the unveiling ceremony would feature the screening of a clip from Wale Ojo’s new short film about surfing in Lagos, while a special networking cocktail aimed at promoting ‘Brand Lagos’ was held yesterday, May 23.

The Cannes Film Festival opened amidst tight security on Thursday with a screening of Arnaud Desplechin’s drama, Ismael’s Ghosts. It appears French authorities decided to pay extra attention to security on the Riviera after last year’s bloody Nice attack. But heavy security will not stop the fun of tourists, filmmakers and film enthusiasts, who have been forming long queues to see films that are in and out of competition.

This is also the election year for the Federation of International Producers otherwise known, as FIAPF and Nigeria’s Alex Eyengho (president of Association of Nollywood Core Producers – ANCOP) sought and won re-election as Vice President for Africa of the world producers’ body. This year’s festival jury is under the Presidency of Spanish director, screenwriter and producer, Pedro Almodovar. He will, along with eight other key film personalities, including German director, screenwriter and producer, Maren Ade, and actor, producer and musician, Will Smith, decide winners of the festival’s top awards that will be announced on Sunday, May 28.

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