High hopes for Africa Int'l Film Festival


Nollywood's next move

Fresh off the success of December's ION International Film Festival in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, organizers are now setting their sights on an even more ambitious event. Indeed, given the continuing growth of Nigeria's burgeoning film sector, insiders say the time is right to create an annual event that shines a light on the vibrant, diverse culture throughout the African Diaspora.

Scheduled for December and once again setting down in Port Harcourt, the Africa International Film Festival is produced in collaboration with Omcomm Ltd. -- producers of the ION International Film Festival '09 -- Peace Anyiam-Osigwe, founder of Africa Academy Awards and the Rivers States Government Commission for Culture and Tourism, as well as a lineup of private sponsors.

Fest organizer Soledad Grognett says the event will offer representatives of the global film sector an opportunity to experience firsthand everything the African cultural landscape has to offer, and in the process hopefully dispel lingering misperceptions.

"We think Africa is a magnificent yet largely unknown world stage that generates a significant amount of entertainment content that is currently being consumed worldwide," she says. "However, global entertainment industry professional are not very familiar with 'who is who' in Africa and they are out of date with the vast potential and existing opportunities to develop partnerships and co-productions for original content -- not just for the African audience but for the global audience."

Grognett and her team are nothing if not ambitious: Adopting the theme "Africa Unites," they hope to create an environment that "reflects a common true African identity and re-establishes Africa as an original home to all."

Says fellow organizer Peace Anyiam-Osigwe: " 'Africa Unites' is a way of (forming) unification with the world; it is a reflection of Africa's desire to be a respected member of the world stage."

Additionally, organizers understand the need for an environment that fosters business opportunities, so the inaugural event will include a film market, labs, seminars and workshops designed to bring international dealmakers and local filmmakers together in ways that have never happened before.

Grognett hopes that the event can lead to partnerships and co-productions that will be crucial to sustaining Africa's film sector as globalization continues to remove the boarders between markets. The focus, she says, is primarily on developing the business side of the African entertainment industry while celebrating talent and promoting education.

"In order to really get the picture of what Africa offers, it is important that content producers, distributors, buyers and financiers come to Africa and experience and feel the vibrancy of this film market," she says. "This is the second-biggest and most vibrant movie industry in the world, with the potential to generate a powerful impact for all meeting parties. The opportunities that Africa offers are unmatched and to take advantage, people have to come and feel Africa for themselves."

-- Kevin Cassidy