Politics of alienation aside, Nollywood hopeful for a good FESPACO

| February 8, 2013 | 0 Comments

Nigerian motion picture practitioners are not enthusiastic about attending the 2013 edition of the Festival of Pan Africa Cinema in Ouagadougou otherwise called FESPACO, which runs from February 23 to March 3, 2013. They seem to be quietly protesting the fact that FESPACO, which is in its 23rd edition, would still not accept any entry from Nigeria or any other African countries for that matter, except it is shot on celluloid or blown up to that standard. FESPACO accepts only films produced on 35mm for its top prize.

It created the video and television category perhaps to accommodate movies made on lesser formats from within the continent especially from countries like Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Ghana and Kenya. FESPACO has insisted on that rule and will not bend it to accommodate entries from Nigeria, the acclaimed second biggest movie producing society in the world.

The other reason most Nigerian practitioners are not so keen about being in Ouagadougou for what is easily the biggest film festival in the continent is because no film by a core Nollywood practitioner will feature in official competition and compete for the festival top prize. Although, there is a Nigerian film listed in the main category of this edition of FESPACO, the film shot on celluloid is by a France-based Nigerian born filmmaker, Newton Aduaka.

Observers have lamented Nigeria’s poor representation at FESPACO. They have argued that their representation does not equal their feat as the continent’s leading film-producing nation. They think that ordinarily, Nollywood should dominate FESPACO because of the country’s body of works, but that has not been the case. Nollywood practitioners have complained about struggling to get their entries through and even when they succeed, FESPACO invokes the official regulation of excluding films not shot on the 35 mm. Films from Nollywood that are shot in digital format are thereafter relegated to the TV Video category.

But the practitioners need to be in Ouagadougou if for nothing to cheer on the two Nigerian entries that made the festival’s shortlist and to continue to impress on officials of FESPACO to move with global trend, a trend which top filmmaker, Mahmood Ali-Balogun described as ‘digital filmmaking’.

Observers say they must not miss the great networking opportunities that FESPACO provides because of the politics of production format. Nollywood practitioners, they say, must seek out and attend festival forums where they can join in the debate around the definition of cinema and the false contradiction between cinema and digital video production.

Observers think that it is at these forums that they challenge the perceived politics of alienation and can press for a paradigm shift from the tradition concept of African cinema to the cheaper digital alternative that is supported by new technology.

Foremost cinematographer Tunde Kelani who has severally challenged FESPACO’s definition of ‘film’ and who several years ago predicted that shooting on celluloid will become ‘old fashioned’ due to the availability of cheaper alternatives describes the new concept of filmmaking as the concept backed by new technology and that allows digital cameras to use film lenses that would produce works that are in most cases, higher in resolutions than films shot on celluloid. “That is the new trend now,” Ali-Balogun whose last feature Tango With Me was shot on celluloid said. “Yes, I agree that the beauty of the images is in shooting on celluloid, but you can still make films on digital format and it will still give you the same resolution like celluloid.

“I respect FESPACO’s position on accepting films on celluloid for official competition, but I think it is time they begin to consider films shot on digital because even the 35mm projectors are disappearing fast from our cinemas. They are becoming obsolete. Besides, where is the money to shoot on celluloid these days? It is convenient for our colleagues in francophone Africa to shoot on celluloid because of the many sources of funding at their disposal. But we are not that lucky in Anglophone Africa. So, is FESPACO asking us to close shops simply because we are not able to make films on celluloid? I think it is fair that they should accommodate our shortcoming which is basically lack of funding,’’ Ali Balogun said.

But reminded that there is an option for a ‘videographer’ as those who shoot on lesser formats are described even by FESPACO, to blow up their work to meet FESPACO 35 mm standard, Ali-Balogun said it still boils down to the issue of funding. “That in itself requires funding. You don’t finish shooting and then it is blown up. No, you go and start the process and it costs money. We don’t have that kind of funding and we don’t have the know-how because to blow up you have to travel to Europe and that alone is a cost on its own. The South African film in competition (How to Steal 2 Million) was blown up and that film was supported by the South African Film and Video Foundation. I knew the kind of impact Kunle Afolayan’s Figurine would have made the last time at FESPACO if it were blown up. That is the kind of support we need here but that is not what we get from our own government and our own agencies,’’ he lamented.

 

Nevertheless, the official list of films shortlisted for the 10-day festival indicates that Nigeria’s flag will fly at full mast at the festival which will hold with the theme “African Cinema and Public Policy in Africa”.  Two films – One Man Show and Heroes and Zeroes made by notable Nigerian born motion picture practitioners: France-based Nigerian born filmmaker, Newton Aduaka Ifeanyi (One Man Show); and Niji Akanni (Heroes and Zeroes) made the short list. However, while Aduaka’s No Man Show is in official competition for films shot on celluloid (35mm), Akanni’s Hereos and Zereos starring Nadia Buari will slug it out in the video category. If Akanni’s Heroes and Zeroes had been shot on celluloid or blown up to that standard, it could, perhaps, have made it beyond the video stage considering that films that make it to the video category are assessed with the same criteria that films in official competition are assessed.

Indeed, the issue of format of production is the reason no movie produced by a core Nollywood practitioner has been able to make it beyond the video stage in the last 20 years.

All the mention Nigeria has had at the main category of FESPACO in recent years has been films made by Europe based Nigerian filmmakers. The organizers have continually insisted that films that will compete for its Golden Tanit must be shot on celluloid. Which is why at the last edition in 2011, two Nigerian films on the shortlist: Champion of Our Times (which got second place prize in the video category) and Figurine featured in the video category.

Even when Tunde Kelani had his film Arugba shortlisted in 2009, it was in the video category. But Andrew Dosumu, a United States-based Nigerian born filmmaker had his film Restless City in main competition in 2011 likewise Newton Aduaka whose film, Ezra won the top prize, Etalon D’or de Yennenga in 2007.

Both films were shot on celluloid. In fact, Aduaka’s feat in 2007 marked the third time a film from ‘Anglophone’ Africa grabbed the festival’s most prestigious award after Ghanaian Kwa Ansah’s Heritage Africa and South African Zola Maseko’s Drum in 2005. Adauka will make it four for Anglophone Africa if he picks the Etalion D’or this time. There are 102 films in official competition for the festival this year. Twenty of the films will compete in the main category while 18 films have been shortlisted in the video category. There are 17 films for the documentary category while 8 films will slug it out in the television series category. These films will be shown across cinema halls and outdoor screening theatres scattered in and around Ouagadougou. South Africa has a film in main competition and it is the AMAA award winning film, How To Steal 2 Million by Charles Vundla.

Culled from :Here

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