Film festivals might not be a big deal to many people, but to people who love film and those who are working for a future in the entertainment industry, and see all the possibilities therein, they might represent everything at any one moment in time.
With the tight, sometimes unrewarding industries we have across different African countries from Nollywood (Nigerian film industry), Ghollywood (Ghanian film industry), Cinema of Kenya and so many others, things can sometimes get a little depressing, especially when we put in the picture, considerations of other budding industries in other continents, this is where film festivals come in.
A film festival is basically an organized, extended presentation of films across cinemas or screening venues, which usually occurs in a single city. Films viewed are more often than not recently produced and can include both international and domestic releases. The film viewing fests in some festivals are often interspersed by industry talks or classes.
Film festivals are mostly annual events and although some historians do not characterize film festival viewings as official releases of a film, it is where most budding film makers make their debuts and get the push or funds needed to take on the wider market. The most well known film festivals in the world are the Venice Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, the Toronto Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival (which was just concluded on Sunday, making smashing successes of some films), and the Berlin Film Festival. Africa’s film festivals have been getting bigger and better over the years and we will consider some right now that every African filmmaker should know about.
DURBAN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
The Durban International Film Festival is arguably the continent’s largest film events. It’s already done its 36th edition which ran from 16th to 26th July, 2015, in the east coast city of Durban, South Africa. Its been described as a ten-day celebration of world-class cinema which screens new feature, documentary and short films from around the globe with a special focus on African films. Offering film workshops, industry seminars, forum discussions and screenings in township areas where cinemas are non-existent, the festival is a rich experience for any lover of film. It also offers a number of competition sections with cash prizes and has since 2006 via the Durban Amnesty Group, had Amnesty International sponsor a cash prize called the Amnesty International Durban Human Rights Award.
AFRICA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL (AFRIFF)
The Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) is an annual film festival that takes place in Nigeria. Founded in 2010 by Chioma Ude, it is an event which usually spans a week and includes film training classes, industry sessions and an award show that crowns it all. It receives film selections in different categories from all around the world and runs screening sessions in different cinemas in its chosen city. AFRIFF held her 5th edition from the 8th to 15th of November, 2015 in the bustling city of Lagos. For two successive years, the festival has selected the top students from the various training classes to be sponsored on a trip to the United States for practical training in different aspects of film making.
CAIRO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
The Cairo International Film Festival is an annual film festival held in Cairo, Egypt. It was established as far back as 1976 and was the first international film festival to hold in the Arab world. It’s taken place every year since, having only to be cancelled in 2011 and 2013, due to budget limitations and political instability. It held its 37th edition on November 11th to 20th 2015. It is the only international competitive feature film festival recognized by the FIAPF in the Arab world and Africa, as well as the oldest in this category.
Film festivals are a great way to mix with other film lovers and industry people and they go a long way to stepping up our art as we see examples of new innovations and angles from which we can attack film. These are only three out of the dozens of film festivals available in the continent and every filmmaker would do well to avail themselves of the opportunities to network and learn from all that are inherent in the makeup of these film festivals.