By Tajudeen Sowole
In defence of the positive and undying Nigerian spirit as against the stereotype usually depicted in movie, a warning has been echoed, this time from a foreigner.
At the ongoing 2nd Ife International Film Festival, holding at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife Osun State, renowned Ghanaian filmmaker, Kwaw Ansah who presented a paper on the history of cinema in Ghana argued that the Nigerian character his country is used to over the ages before the coming of Nigerian home video is a hardworking and enterprising person and not fraudster and ritualists being portrayed in the home video industry.
Ansah recalled that the honesty of Nigerians in Ghana has yielded fruits in such area as commercial activities. He explained that names like alata (pepper seller) is popular in Ghana as a result of the industrious nature of an average Nigerian.
"The Nigerian we know is that man or woman who, through selling pepper, alata, is able to make bigger business. Today, in Ghana one of the leading markets is called Mokola, a Nigerian name."
Meanwhile, the prospect of the nation’s film industry as a reliable source of income has been emphasized. The Honourable Minister of Culture and Tourism, Senator Bello Gada who was the Special Guest of Honour of the event stated that Nollywood could be a huge source of wealth for the country.
During his remark presented by his representative to the occasion, Mr Seyi Womiloju, the minister while noting that the theme of the festival is timely to address issues affecting the industry, assured stakeholders that the government is willing to offer necessary assistance to ensure the development of the sector.
The theme of the festival is African Film: Looking Back and Looking Forward.
Film festivals, he explained, are expected to contribute to the development of the industry and renew determination of the industry home and abroad. The government, he added, will not relent in its fight against piracy.
He stated: “While government will continue to support the industry, especially in the fight against piracy, I want to call on the private sector not to give up the fight.”
And as quality of the output from the industry keeps generating concerns, the minister urged said “we need to improve a great deal on the quality of works produced to face the challenges of the future/ I have no doubt in my mind that Nollywood will soon be one of the leading sources of the nation’s revenue.”
Among the participants at the event were about ten delegates from across Africa and in the Diaspora. Countries represented included Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, USA, South Africa, among others.
In his welcome address, the Vice Chancellor of the university, Professor Micheal Faborede noted that it is not by accident that the university is hosting such an event of wide cultural dimension. OAU, he argued is well positioned to be leading voice in Africa’s movie world.
He said: “Indeed for god measure, Obafemi Awolowo University has made a great impact on the film industry in Africa/ Right from the days of the old Institute of African Studies, film had played a very prominent role in the university. Films were produced by Frank Speed in the 1970s, with the themes focusing on performance and management. Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka also made a very important film, Blues for the Prodigal in 1984, while he was lecturing in the university.”
He used the occasion to inform the gathering that the Department of Dramatic Arts is now training students in camera, non-linear editing, modern equipment, “preparing them for a challenging future of self employment as movie makers without running after non-exisisting salaried jobs.”
In her address, the director of the festival, Dr, Foluke Ogunleye while explaining that the theme of the day deals with the nature of the film profession, added that “it is hoped that a new vision of filmmaking will arise from the this workshop”
The chairman of the occasion, Ambasador Segun Olusola attempted to trace the link between TV and film and recalled that back in his active days as actor and producer it was very difficult to differentiate between TV and film. He therefore used the occasion to remind the audience that TV in the whole of Africa started with the establishment of WNTV in Ibadan, 1959. That landmark, he added, will be 50 years old and celebrated in September this year.
At a gathering of this nature, the past cannot escape. This was witnessed when the first paper of the event presented by Professor of Comparative Literature, Manthia Diawara of the University of New York woke up the spirit of late Senegalese statesman and poet, Leopold Senghou. Diawara argued that the vision of the late controversial literary giant was not shared by most leaders of African cultural revival, hence the continue dominance of Western culture in the continent.
For the Ghanaian film legend, Ansah, whose paper was based on the history of film in Ghana, the commonality shared between great leaders like Kwame Nkrumah, Obafemi Awolowo and Nnamidi Azikiwe should be enacted today through film, to reduce Western influence. Ansah recalled that the coming together of the three leaders led to the eventual independence of Ghana in 1967 and Nigeria later in 1960.
According to Ansah, the position of Ghana as a leading spot in filmmaking during and after the colonial days, is however not commensurate with the current situation in the country. Today, Nigerian home video, he said, has “over ran” the emerging Ghanaian industry. While commending the role of Nigerian video in reducing the influence of Western films across the African continent, Ansah wanted more positive portrayal.
Other sessions at the event included workshop on Voice and Speech, presided over by Prof. Wendy Cleman of Albany University State University, Georgia, US. Lead paper for the session was presented by the managing director of Nigerian Film Corporation, NFC, Afolabi Adesanya.
Another session called Masterclass, featured Busola Holloway and Jetta Amata.