Femi Odugbemi, the Executive Director/Festival Director of iREPRESENT International Documentary Film Festival (iREP) has said that the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, will declare this year’s edition open on Thursday, March 22 at Freedom Park, Lagos. He revealed this in an exclusive interview he granted thisislagos.ng.
“We will hopefully be hosting the honourable Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who will be opening the festival this year. We are excited to receive him because I think it does identify that government is taking seriously the film industry and the documentary film format itself,” Odugbemi said.
Speaking on what shape the biggest Docu-Film festival in West Africa, which will be holding the eighth edition would take, the filmmaker said a lot is different this year.
“We are very excited. We are doing iREP this year as a continuation of a conversation we began last year on Archiving Africa. We are calling this one Archiving Africa II: New Narratives and Frontiers. Last year we looked at how we preserve the images and history of Africa in visual forms in written forms, how we re-access those archives that have gone bad. How we take the ones we are able to safe and digitise so that technology preserves what we have and how we reintroduced our new generation of storytellers and audiences to some of the stories that might have been lost because they shape our future goals. It was a very exciting conversation last year,” he recalled.
Speaking further, he said that this year, the conversation will continue into the future.
“We are looking at how, with the power of technology, do we ensure that we are preserving, archiving, connecting dots in terms of the stories of our lives, and our times, whether they be political, cultural or social. And part of that this year is that we are having the book launch by Jonathan Haynes, one of the foremost scholars on Nollywood. He has written a book about Nollywood and the new genres that are emerging,” he said.
Odugbemi, who explained that Haynes was already in the country, said the launch is an archiving moment because the author is someone who has managed to document for the world the beginning of Nollywood and the meaning of its explications dramatically.
“I did an article once where I asked the question, is Nollywood documentary? And I made the case that in fact, Nollywood is. Before Nollywood came, the only voices about the experiences of being African were foreign people to Africa. So, however imperfect Nollywood might have been even in its beginning, it has become a representation, it stood out as a chance for people to see that we were modern and we shared emotional complexities that are common to every human settlement,” Odugbemi stated.
The keynote, he said, will be by Professor Paul Ugor, who is one of the new voices in academia for Nollywood in the world.
“He is a brilliant man and we are very happy to bring him from the University of Illinois to come and speak. We will also be hosting Jean Marie Teno, one of Africa’s greatest filmmakers. His film, Chosen, is being premiered here in Lagos and that is a big thing. But what is even bigger at the cocktail on Wednesday, March 21, Akin Omotoso, a Nigerian filmmaker, born and bred in Nigeria, who lives and works in South Africa, whom I think has represented Nigeria incredibly well everywhere is also doing a world premiere of his new documentary titled, Colour of Wine. And we are very excited to host him, have an incredible session to premiere the film,” he said.
He said the festival will screen 38 films in the three days it will take place from March 22 – 25, host panel conversations, a CORA stampede, where a new book by scholars from Lagos State University (LASU) will be launched.
“But the two big important things are that we are also showcasing two important artistes. One is Tunde Kelani, who is celebrating 70 years this year. This showcase is to basically pay tribute to a man who was truly the face of Nigerian cinema for a long time to the world. Tunde Kelani carried the Nigerian film industry on his back, showcasing culture, showcasing an incredible insight into who we are to the world and doing it with practically no support but being always positive and supportive of young filmmakers.
“He is one of the people I consider my mentors. So we will be celebrating him, we will be looking at his new work and some of his old works. We will also be celebrating a lesser-known filmmaker, academic, scholar, theatre doyen, who has worked across the US, South Africa, across Africa, Professor Niyi Coker. He has been the chair of African World Documentary Film Forum for years. And in that time he has constantly celebrated Africa by distributing African documentary films to the world. He has ensured that African documentary filmmakers receive support, receive openings everywhere and has supported this festival greatly. He has created films, theatre, installation work. It gives us an opportunity as well to celebrate him and to show people more of what he is doing. Representing not just Nigeria but Africa as a whole out there,” Odugbemi stated.
Also coming to the festival this year to premiere their films are young filmmakers including Ishaya Bako, Kunle Afolayan, and many of them still unknown to the general public.
“On Wednesday, March 21, we will wrap up the workshop, Masterclass on storytelling, which is being done by Yinka Ogun, who is one of the leading screenwriters in the country with more than 50 participants,” said Odugbemi, who added the filmmakers will be attending from Germany, England, UK, US, Ghana, Burkina Faso and a host of other countries.
Produced by the Foundation for the Development of Documentary Film Festival in Africa, the festival began in 2010.