It was another night of glamour and panache as this year’s edition of the prestigious Africa International Film Festival, AFRIFF, came to a glittering end Saturday in Calabar, the Cross River State capital. The grand finale of the festival, which kicked off amid gaiety on Sunday, November 9, held at the Cultural Centre, Calabar, with top Nollywood stars, producers, directors and stakeholders from Africa, Europe, America and other parts of the world in attendance.
Leading Nollywood stars at the event were Genevieve Nnaji, and Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde and they dazzled the red carpet with everything they had to showcase.
Others include Kate Henshaw, Rita Dominic, Segun Arinze, Ramsey Nouah, Kalu Ikeagwu, Fred Amata, and Uru Eke, who was co-anchor with Gideon Okeke.
Also, in attendance at what was arguably the most memorable event of the year as far as the calendar of Nollywood is concerned, were Kunle Afolayan, Andy Amenechi, Emem Isong, Nobert Ajaegbu, Tunde Kelani, Teco Benson, Mahmood Ali-Balogun, Charles Novia, amongst others. Governor Liyel Imoke of Cross River State and his wife, Obioma, were among the dignitaries that graced the event.
Chioma Ude, the founder and CEO of what is now known as the biggest film festival in Africa, set the tone for the night when she presented a passionate welcome address to the audience.
She expressed satisfaction that the objective of the festival was achieved this year as great films were screened, while young and emerging talents were trained and empowered during the week-long festival.
Ude commended this year’s AFRIFF ambassadors, including Rita Dominic and the South African actress, Xolile Tshabalala, for their contributions towards the success of the festival, as she invited them on stage.
The high point of the event, however, was the special recognition of five Nollywood stars, including Genevieve Nnaji, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Ramsey Nouah, Kate Henshaw and Rita Dominic as outstanding stars of the industry by the organizers.
The organizers also honoured 10 students who participated in the training scholarships to further their training in filmmaking in the United States of America.
Meanwhile, with three diadems, including the Best Feature Film award, Kunle Afolayan’s psychological thriller, October 1 proved the ‘alpha male’ among the over 75 films in competition at the just-concluded festival.
Although described as the poster boy of Nollywood, Afolayan’s feat took Africa by storm, having defeated strong contenders in the continent. The ovation was loudest as he returned to the stage a second time for the Best Feature Film award, having previously received the Best Actor prize on behalf of Sadiq Daba, who played Inspector Waziri in the film – In Between, Tunde Babalola, the writer of the October 1 script, had also clinched the Best Screenplay plaque.
Known for his business-mindedness, Afolayan, who held the plush plaque high up, asked if monetary prizes were attached to the awards, received the yes nod from the AFRIFF founder, Ms. Chioma Ude from the crowd. The filmmaker then narrated briefly, his usual ‘sweat and blood’ story to describe how the movie gulped N200 million of loans.
This was the first competitive award the film has won since its historic release in the cinemas on October 1st. It could be said that the film came with great promises, as, prior to its release, its trailer won the Best Fiction Film Trailer at the International Movie Trailers Festival in 2013, while Afolayan himself received two awards- the ‘Creative Entrepreneur in Filmmaking‘ and ‘Overall Creative Entrepreneur‘ by the British Council in Nigeria, early in the year.
The AFRIFF awards night at the Cultural Center, Calabar, offered the best of stage artistry, compelling performances and thought-provoking speeches, as the winners in different categories of the awards were unveiled intermittently.
Other awardees on the night are Andrew Dosunmu, Best Director for Mother of George; Bola Agbaje and Destiny Ekaragha, Viewers’ Choice Award for Gone Too Far; CJ Fiery Obasi, Best Nigerian Film for Ojuju; Thishiwe Ziqubu, Best Actress for South African film Hard To Get; Joanna Lipper, Best Documentary for The Supreme Price, a film on the late MKO Abiola; South Africa’s Samantha Nell, Best Short Film for Stiff; Naji Ismail, Special Jury Prize for the Egyptian film, Om Amira and Iquo Essien, Best Student Short Film for Aissa’s Story.
Delivering on her promise of further training for film students at an American university, Ude unveiled the 10 students who had shown the most aptitude during the festival’s training sessions- they are, Udoekpo Utibe Charles and Lekan Olarenwaju for Directing; Adeolu Adeniyi and Otobong Ekpeyong for Cinematography; Oluwabori Ijimakinde, Adelarin Awotedu and Lydia Gachuhi for Script writing and finally, Emeka Darlington, Hauwa Allahburh and Daniel Ezekiel for Acting.
Also, speaking at the glamorous event, the Special Adviser to the President on Research, Documentation and Strategy, Mr. Oronto Douglas, represented by his special assistant, Molara Wood, urged Nigerian and African filmmakers to take up the challenge of promoting irresistible images of our society on the screen to show that our stories are also important and valid.
According to him, “we need more biopics on heroes whose exploits have impacted on our societies. We need more films focusing on pivotal episodes in our history. We need more period dramas that examine the past, and more speculative films about the future. We need greater cross-pollination between the art forms…these are some of the issues I would like our filmmakers to consider, as this year’s festival comes to its glittering close.”
Noting that no successive government in the country has done so much for the industry, Douglas said President Goodluck Jonathan believed in the value that the film industry addedto the economic and cultural development of the country. As a result, he said the president had been walking the talk by providing concrete support through grants and the Nigerian Export-Import Bank, so that the industry could become bigger and better for the benefit of Nigeria, Africa and the world at large.
The event was graced by notable personalities, including the governor of Cross River State, Sen. Liyel Imoke, and his wife, Obioma, Nollywood stars Genevieve Nnaji, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Kate Henshaw, Rita Dominic, Ramsey Nouah, Segun Arinze and Kalu Ikeagwu among others.