The 6th Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) opened Sunday night at the newly commissioned Filmhouse-IMAX theatres in Lekki, Lagos. Filmmakers, guests, the media as well as dignitaries from all walks of life turned out for the festival’s opening presentation, the acclaimed Hollywood film, Birth of a Nation, written, directed by and starring Nate Parker, himself a previous AFRIFF participant.
The screening was preceded by a red carpet and open night party. AFRIFF ambassador Rita Dominic, Kate Henshaw, Richard Mofe-Damijo, OC Ukeje, Hilda Dokubo and Mary Remy Njoku were some of the stars spotted in their glam on the red carpet. Business/media executives Jason Njoku, Obi Asika and Adebola Williams also partied in the mix.
Showtime began with a welcome message from AFRIFF patron Herbert Wigwe. The Access Bank CEO pledged a continuous support for the film industry through the bank’s different interventions in the creative sector. He noted the importance of preserving Africa’s legacies via film and urged everyone to get involved in their own different ways.
Actress Lala Akindoju who served as the MC for the evening introduced the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed who gave a crisp address, reiterating government’s interest and support for Nollywood. Mohammed noted that as the nation weans itself off its dependence on oil, it has to look inwards for industries that have the potential of putting Nigeria on the business map, and the entertainment industry has been identified as such. He assured that government would do all in its power to make the business environment friendlier for the practitioners.
CEO of Filmhouse Cinemas/Film One Distribution, Kene Mkparu, introduced the opening film, Birth of a Nation, as an African story which every African should see because of its timeliness and relevance. He gave a brief account of Birth of a Nation’s journey from Las Vegas to Lagos and introduced Chike Okonkwo, a Nigerian actor who had an onscreen role in the film. Okonkwo gave a brief welcome message from director, Nate Parker, who expressed his excitement and gratitude for all the support the film has received so far from Africa.
AFRIFF is a week-long programme that runs from November 13 to 19, showcasing about 155 world-standard feature, short and documentary films. Its schedule also encompasses talent development classes, industry workshops and creative discussions.