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Sunday, 17 November 2013 09:21

Nigeria: Tinapa Hosts Africa International Film Festival in Grand Style


LAGOS, Nigeria, NOVEMBER 17, 2013 (The Leadership) -- In what can be described as the biggest festival ever in recent times the ongoing Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) taking place in Tinapa, Calabar. the popular Tinapa Business Resort, where the 224 rooms at the Lakeside Hotel were overrun by guests of the festival, with a heavy spill to other hotels in the city centre.

Between Tinapa and The Marina, another resort centre in town, which houses the popular Film house, the busy traffic of film enthusiasts portrays what many described as a visible success of a festival which started three years ago. Wife of the governor of Cross River State, Mrs. Obioma Imoke, who welcomed the delegates after a dazzling red carpet show which kick started the week-long event on Sunday night, could not curtail her excitement: "I'm excited to be here and we are most honoured to host this event," said Mrs Imoke, who apologised for her husband's absence.

Governor Liyel Imoke, she noted, had led the victorious Golden Eaglets to a national reception in Abuja. "You haven't been to Nigeria if you haven't been to Calabar," an elated Mrs Imoke told her guests during the cocktail reception that preceded the screening of the festival's opening movie, Of A Good Report. "Here is the place to be really", she stated with emphasis, beaming with smiles. "Please get something to eat because we are known for our cuisine and I want to assure you we are going to have a blast. Cross River is the home of Tinapa, Obudu, and the 32-day long festival which climaxes with our famous Carnival Calabar. Please have fun."

With such unusual brief remark by a government functionary, and bankroller of a huge budget event like AFRIFF 2013, the mood was set for real business of filmmaking devoid of the usual show-off activities by government-sponsored events.

If there was any best way to start a film festival, the choice of an opening film is a factor. AFRIFF appeared to have chosen right by screening the controversial Of A Good Report, which was banned initially in its country of origin, for what the censorship board described as its marks of child pornography. Thus, the debate started among filmmakers at the event on where to draw the line between classification and an outright ban of a work of art.

The movie which has been to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) among others sharply divided opinion because of its theme, graphic nature and sexually explicit scenes. Of A Good Report revolves round a teacher who has an immoral relationship with his 16-year-old female student, puts her in the family way and procures an illegal abortion for her to cover his tracks.

"WHO says artists don't know how to unwind?" a South African filmmaker retorted, as he and other participants, including media men, enjoyed in one of the evenings at the AFRIFF Village Hangout behind Tinapa Lakeside Hotel.

This night, as he crouched in the dark, and hooded in the veils of the evening, the delegate displayed a remarkable dance skills. No song was too hard for him as he effortlessly grooved all kinds of music --- old and new schools.

With a coterie of drinks to guzzle, it was fun, fun and fun, as the wind gurgled through the lakeside. Anybody at the ongoing Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) will not be disappointed that he or she is there. And for many reasons: the fantastic organisation, quality programming, noticeable presence of actors, directors and producers from over eight African countries, the US, Canada and the UK, and don't mention, the fun and excitement.

Rita Dominic and Lynn Whitfield (AFRIFF ambassadors), Andy Amenechi, Mahmood Ali-Balogun, Fidelis Duker, Lancelot Imasuen Oduwa, Desmond Elliot, Segun Arinze, Kunle Afolayan,Ugezu J. Ugezu, Omoni Oboli, Chinedu Ikedieze, Uche Jombo, Chioma Chukwuka-Akpotha, Madu C. Chikwendu, Iyen Agbonifo, Bharia Mcwizu, Kemi Lala-Akindoju and OC Ukeje are participating in the festival.

Also, in the mix are Nigerian actors and producers based in the Diaspora. They include Jude Idada, Gbenga Akinnagbe and the boxer and actor, Ngoli Ngor Onyeka Okafor.

They were all at the Marina Resort, Calabar, for the opening night on Sunday, where wife of the state governor, Mrs. Obioma Liyel Imoke, stood in for her husband, who was unavoidably absent because he had to be in Abuja for the reception of members of the all-conquering Golden Eaglets by President Jonathan.

"I'm excited to be here and we are most honoured to host this event," revelled Mrs. Imoke, amidst chattering and songs from the delegates.

While apologising for her husband's absence, she stressed why Calabar is Nigeria's most important tourist destination. Jokingly, she stated an obvious impression in the minds of many Nigerians: "You haven't been to Nigeria, if you haven't been to Calabar. Here is the place to be, really. Please, get something to eat because we are known for our cuisine and I want to assure you we are going to have a blast. Cross River is the home of Tinapa, Obudu, and the 32-day long festival, which climaxes with our famous Carnival Calabar. Please have fun."

In the last few days, the Chioma Ude-organised festival has been a great advertisement for African cinema. A lot of good movies have been screened at the Film house Cinemas, Marina Resort. In the same vein, an abundance of feature films, documentaries, short films and student short films have angled for attention of those, who have shunned moments at the riverside where watching the frothy waves of the Cross River roll in rivulets is a common past time.

Interesting movies that have been screened or would be shown include I number, Hoodrush, Daughters of the Niger Delta, Clouds over Conakry, B for Boy, Hillside Crowd, Drama Consult, Thousand Suns and The Man Who Wanted to Move a Mountain. There is also A Mile from Home, The Virgin, the Copts and Me, Africa Shafted, The Flower Girl, Durban Poison and Creation in Exile.

The earlier advertised festival's opening film, the movie adaptation of Chimamanda Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun wouldn't have created the kind of buzz that the South African film, Of Good A Report, did. It was a vintage announcement to the world that indeed, as Shakira noted in her song, Waka Waka, 'this is time for Africa'.

The movie, which showed at the Toronto International Film Festival and London Film Festival, largely elicited comments, both positive and negative, because of its theme and creative use of shots. Though you are likely to be taken aback by the violence in the film than the sex, it is the sex that attracts attention and comments. It is not pornography, but a fine, serious and well-crafted piece of paper. This is part of the logic of the director: to shock sensibilities of watchers with sex scenes that are short, tame, and almost lasting eternity in the mind.

Just imagine this: two dressed people looking into the eyes of each other, and one of them probing deeper into the private regions with the zest of an explorer or the famous Eureka (I have found it) expression of Archimedes. And then this jolting scene, where a woman's corpse is sprung up by its feet and left to dangle like a yo-yo.

But the scenes are not confirmation of violence or pornography. They are a bold and courageous way of keeping the audience wondering what happens next. Through a stream of consciousness, the director (Jahmil Qubeka) initiates a conversation about 'sugar daddies', a common trend in the world over. Making creative use of silence, the director tells a story that is not only visually appealing, but aesthetically appealing. However, in an attempt to introduce the conversation, he opens up a complex relationship between the 'powerful and the powerless'.

The film revolves round a teacher, Parker Sithole (Mothusi Magano), who has an immoral relationship with his 16-year-old female student, Nolitha (Petrnella Tshuma), puts her in the family way, and procures an illegal abortion for her to cover his tracks.

Sithole, in spite of speechless state, gives a convincing account of a man struggling with his desire, a man who is alienated from reality. The dumb metaphor, boldly, tells you this happening everywhere and nobody is going to say anything.

Nolitha, the perceived powerless, who in fact is 23, but plays a 16 year-old girl, is the source of her own pains. Though she is the person, who approaches Sithole, the powerful character, in a tavern, Nolitha is the victim of her desire. In the words of Rita Dominic, the director went inside, "to the depth of human mind, to splash the evils thereof."

For the actor, producer and director, Afolayan, "the film is not only brilliant, but pays attention to details."

Whitfield, a Hollywood actress, said the film is absolutely brilliant. "I love it for many reasons, especially the fact that the theme is contemporary and not based on traditional issues such as colonialism and slavery." She continued, "the movie did not give anything away. It looks at paedophilia, which is the real issue now in the world over."



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