In 2003 movie producer, Fidelis Duker decided to host a one of a kind movie festival in Nigeria. He chose the country’s capital to realise his dreams and called it Abuja International Film Festival (AIFF). Asides from the Nigerian Film Festival which held in 2001, Nigeria never knew what film festivals were. The movie scene in Nigeria was still young and there were only had a handful of good movies produced at the time. Today, the NFF is defunct and is still hosted today as the ZUMA movie festival after the popular Abuja rock.
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According to Fidelis Duker “The idea for the film festival just had to come. I had been privileged to have been sponsored to six movie festivals around the world in just two years. By then, I had seen how festivals are meant to be done, and I have seen the lapses from the Nigerian Film festival, so I decided to put heads together with like-minded people. Before you know it, we had started something. It all started like a roving festival. We were moving from place to place in Abuja. The idea was to celebrate the phenomenon called Nollywood. Like you see today, we have been able to achieve that. Abuja Film Festival is the most respected film festival in Nigeria today if you as people in the industry world-wide.”
Why a festival? Fidelis Duker over the year is an active participant at various movie festivals across the globe, and his presence is more common at the Cannes Film Festival which many Nigerian movie makers also attend. He had seen first-hand the opportunities that such events can hold and how movie makers around the world take advantage of such opportunities. The result was AIFF, which today is the biggest Anglophone film festival in Africa.
The AIFF though highly rated, had had seen some bad years since it’s existence. There were years where the event was hosted in a truly world class fashion while some year, it was a pieced together event, which held just to save face and not break the yearly tradition. The major challenge to the festival had always been funding. Though it is held in the country’s capital, the lack of commitment from the federal government to arts and entertainment meant that most times, the international event come and go year after year without the government glancing at it’s direction. This year though, there seem to be some commitment by the president and the Ministry of the Federal Capital Territory.
Talking about funding over the years Duker says, “Funding is the key challenge. Bringing to life such an event is cost effective, and you find out many bodies would want to support but have reservations. But I assure you that this year’s festival is going to be a very well attendend, well organised, and rich. The honourable minister for FCT has promised her support for the festival,” said Fidelis.
Asides from the expected financial support, the president is also expected to make an appearance at this year’s event. Also expected are Governor Babangida Aliyu, Senator Victor Ndoma Egba, Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi, Mrs. Onari Duke, Richard Mofe Damijo, Genevieve. Nnaji, Emeka Ossai, Zeb Ejiro, Abey Lanre, Sani Muazu and Antar Laniyan among several others.
Asides from the movie screenings and exhibitions, the festival also give awards to deserving works across the world. This year is no different. For the Best feature film(foreign) the nominees are, ‘Storm Warriors’(China), Agnus Dei (Kosovo), Andalusia my love (Morocco), Sunnyside (Bulgaria), and Sujet (Canada). For Best Short Film(NIG) Scandalous Thompson, Paradox, Survival, and Ogondah are in contention. In contention for Best Short Film(Foreign) are; Malice&Pencils (Uk) , Francois First Day (France), Dock of Destiny (Morocco), Growing Up (Abu Dhabi). In the Best Documentary Film are; Phoenicians (Malta),Court (Germany), Rolling Dolla (Nigeria)., Truth Be Told (Nigeria), Daughters of Niger Delta (Nigeria). The Best Experimental Film have as nominees, Jand Hustle, Dread, and Patroit Games
Other categories are; Best Animation Film, Best Feature Film (NIG), Outstanding Comic film, Outstanding Male Act, and the Outstanding Film in Directing. The Golden Jury award will be chosen from; Brothers Keeper(Nigeria), Next President(Nigeria), Malice & Pencils(UK), Storm Warriors(China) and The Phoenicians(Malta).
Also there will be a Special recognition award to ten Nollywood, media and corporate individuals who have done well for the industry, the festival and their careers. The awardees will only be revealed at the event.
The event itself is a four days event. The first day, September 23rd, is the opening Cocktail hosted by the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC). On day 2, there will be an evening with Kanayo O Kanayo (KOK) at Nanet. The awards and dinner holds on the third day 25th of September. The final day is the party day. The event is called the AIFF/AFRIF Disco Party. AFRIF is the (Association Française pour la Reconnaissance et l'Interprétation des Formes). For short, it is the French speaking version of AIFF. Through-out the four days, there will be daily screening of movies and short films, and there will also be
On the whole AIFF over the years have shown film makers the endless possibilities film festivals offer. Many producers use them as a viewing platform which allows them to enter their films for awards. Some premiere their movies there. Young movie makers also use the platform to display their short films. Today, seeing the success of AIFF, other film festival has sprung and are equally doing well. The number of foreign participation has also increased. This year alone, the number of foreign films received doubled those received last year.
All these shows how a dream can develop into a reality in just 10 years. For now, Nigerians especially the government needs to show support for a brand from Nigeria that is truly international. A festival that celebrates the works of Nigerians and the people who create them.