…speaks volume on collaboration across movie industries
For those who doubt the ‘Africa Rising’ phenomenon, the huge gathering of talents from across all genres of the creative industry at the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) 2023, is a reason to be proud of the continent.
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Again, the quality of movies that premiered at the festival further gives hope to the industry, and opens investment opportunities for more big-budget films.
From Queen of Adire, Funmilayo Ransom-Kuti, I Do Not Come to You by Chance, Breath of Life, ORAH, Rise, among others, there were enough movies for the visiting public to feast on and a huge challenge for the panel of judges because of the improvement in quality and storyline, as confessed by one of the judges.
However, Rise, a movie directed by Maritte Lee Go, a Filipino-American filmmaker, got many thinking and talking at Filmhouse Cinema, Landmark Centre, venue of AFRIFF 2023 and the movie premiere.
The story follows a Nigerian princess who infiltrates a Boko Haram slave camp to save her kidnapped sister following the murder of her family.
From tears, emotions and empathy, the movie took the audience back to the almost forgotten story of the Chibok Girls, kidnapped years ago by Boko Haram in Borno State.
It engaged the audience with its true life storyline, related tales amid calls on the girl-child across the world to take their fate in their hands.
These were sentiments shared by Ronya Man, an actress, producer, acting coach and a team member of the Rise movie at the premiere.
The Israeli-born movie Amazon, with special interest in the African film industry, was excited with the power of art, in further pushing boundaries when other means fail.
She noted that with the movie, Rise is sustaining the call for the release of other girls still held captive by Boko Haram.
On her part as the director, Maritte Lee Go noted that the movie was morally taking for her as there was no reason those girls should still be held captive by the Boko Haram, hence to sustain the campaign for their release inspired the movie as well as to encourage the girl-child to be strong and face her challenges as if help will never come.
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As well, McDaniels, the producer of the movie, who was in Nigeria for the first time, was excited. “This is my first film in Nigeria, the reaction from the audience was pretty nice and the discussions after the movie were good. The energy in the cinema was awesome and I hope the movie will make waves in the U.S cinemas,” he said.
Mahmood Ali-Balogun, a Nigerian filmmaker, was also excited to see the movie. “I commend you for this movie, it captures the true picture of the Chibok Girls’ story. I love the quality too, keep it up,” Ali-Balogun said.
But some stakeholders at the movie premiere countered Ali-Balogun’s view, faulting the movie on its shooting locations in Los Angeles in the US and Ghana.
“It is a Nigerian story, why did you not shoot in Nigeria,” Kate Henshaw, a veteran Nollywood actress asked.
“I did not see any Nigerian movie star, Monye Sam, another Nollywood production expert asked.
But Maritte Lee Go, the movie director, cleared the air, saying that three Nigerians were in the cast, though not lead stars. She also noted that location really don’t matter as long as the storyline is relatable, true and captures the message that needs to be passed, and in the case of Rise, courage for the girl-child to take her fate in her hands, be strong to face and conquer her challenges and above all rise to the occasion in life, work and in pursuing her dreams.
Peter Mensah, one of the lead actors, also shared the same sentiments, noting that the world has gone global and the fact that others are taking interest in telling African stories means that the continent has content that will move the global audience.
Riding on the successful premiere, Maritte Lee Go looks forward to more co-production opportunities with African filmmakers, starting with Nigerian movies and stakeholders at the AFRIFF 2023.
Victor Okhai, president, Directors Guild of Nigeria, (DGN), noted that AFRIFF has in its 12 years existence, provided a platform that has enabled African film industry to meet other global industries for better exchanges, collaborations, among other gains.
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Okhai, head judge of the eighth Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCAs), expressed confidence that the Nigerian movie industry will continue to improve and impact more with the sustainability of platforms such as AFRIFF.