The African International Film Festival (popularly known as AFRIFF) is arguably the biggest film festival in Africa. AFRIFF offers needed exposure for African Filmmakers to market their art to a diverse audience. It has also proven its relevance in contributing to the skills of young filmmakers by consistently offering scholarships for them to learn more skills at reputable film schools across the world. In collaboration with the French Embassy, the seventh season of AFRIFF will hold October 29 to November 4, 2017.
AFRIFF Founder/Executive Director Chioma Ude is focusing on putting African cinema at the fore. AFRIFF has consistently delivered a rich programme of films, keynote conversations and panels of discussion on issues affecting cinema on the continent and this is why we paid attention to the films screening on the seventh edition of the Festival.
Some of the films scheduled for screening spiked our interest and these are the films we are excited about;
- Waiting for Hassana: In 2014, 276 teenage girls came together for exams in Chibok, Nigeria — by dawn, nearly all had disappeared and their school was burnt. Jessica, an escapee, shares her haunting account of a friendship violently interrupted by Boko Haram.
The Chibok story caused rare confusion in Nigeria, in 2014. Girl-child education is forbidden for the Boko Haram sect and they decided to show their hate for it in the most agonizing way. The kidnap of 276 teenage girls offers inspiration for the opening film at AFRIFF. “Waiting for Hassana” was Directed by Ifunanya ‘Funa’ Maduka and produced by Uzodinma Iweala and Ifunanya Maduka. “The film was shot over the course of 2016, in Nigeria by acclaimed Nigerian cinematographer, Victor Okhai. Nnamdi Asomugha, a Nigerian- American fromer NFL comeback turned producer is the executive producer on the project.
It has enjoyed festival rounds, including at the Sundance International Film Festival on Jan. 20, 2017 and at the Toronto International Film Festival.
- I am not a Witch by Rungano Nyoni: Following a banal incident in her local village, 8-year old girl Shula is accused of witchcraft. After a short trial she is found guilty, taken into state custody and exiled to a witch camp in the middle of a desert. At the camp she takes part in an initiation ceremony where she is shown the rules surrounding her new life as a witch. Like the other residents, Shula is tied to a ribbon which is attached to a coil that perches in a large tree. She is told that should she ever cut the ribbon, she’ll be cursed and transformed into a goat.
This is also an opening film and is a product of French filmmaker Rungano Nyoni. My excitement for this feature is its ability to capture some of the issues not only relevant to Zambia, but to many African countries, including Nigeria. Reviews describe Rungano’s film as sharp, and an emotional roller coaster. This should expose the filmmaker to Nigerian audiences, it will be great to see the filmmakers release this in Nigerian cinemas too.
- Félicité by Alain Gomis: Félicité is by French-Senegalese filmmaker Alain Gomis and centers on a single mother, the titular Félicité, a singer in Kinshasa living with Samo, her 16-year-old son, who is at risk of losing his leg from an accident, unless she can come up with the money to pay for the operation. His leg will be amputated otherwise, sending Félicité on a city-wide quest to raise the necessary funds.
Of its many honors, Gomis’ vision has earned the best fiction feature film at the 14th edition of the African Film Festival of Tarifa and Tangier (FCAT 2017) – the festival’s highest prize – and the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival earlier this year
Félicité spiked my curiosity after its interesting win at the AMAA (Africa Movie Awards) 2017. The film is set for release on the 27th of October and made its debut at the CANNES film festival. It features Senegalese actors Véronique Beya Mputu, Gaetan Claudia and Mpaka Longi, in a story written by Gomis, Olivier Loustau and Delphine Zingg and is a potential Best Foreign Contender at the Oscars. Félicité is slated to close AFRIFF
- Visions – Abba T. Makama/C.J. Obasi/Michael Gouken Omonua:
Visions is an Anthology short by the surreal16 collective which comprises what I will refer as some of the boldest filmmakers we have in Nigeria. These filmmakers refuse to bend to mainstream hype and continue to create art that appeals to them. Not much is known about the synopsis of “Visions” but we expect Surrealistic filmmaking at its best. It is enough to trust the sweat of these filmmakers, and I am eager to see how the audience responds to it. Abba T. Makama (Green White Green), C.J Obasi (Ojuju, O- Town) Micheal Gouken Omonua (Brood, Bleed) will be debuting Visions at the AFRIFF film festival.
- Still Water Runs Deep by Abbesi Akhamie:
A father must withstand his emotions and preserve his pride when his estranged son goes missing. In this unsettling portrait of a man confined by his convictions about paternal duty, a father’s steely resolve to run his household with a firm hand is tested when his estranged son goes missing.
Depending on the type of pride the producers speak of, it is interesting enough that it focuses on a father’s pride while grieving a loss. Still Water gathers impressive producers such as Kemi Lala Akindoju, Melissa Adeyemo, Abbesi Akhami. Still Water has made some interesting festival rounds and it will be interesting to see how the Nigerian audience welcomes it.