The 12th edition of the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) kicked off on Sunday, November 5th, 2023, showcasing an array of compelling films, celebrated talent, masterclasses, and networking sessions. From the moment the lights dimmed on the first screening to the final notes of the closing ceremony, AFRIFF proved once again why it has a great responsibility to portray cinematic brilliance on the African continent.
However, as with any event, there is always room for growth and improvement. Here is a review highlighting the strengths of the 12th AFRIFF edition and suggesting five ways it can be even better in the future.
Celebration of African Talent:
Its no lie that Nigeria dominates wherever it finds itself and at the AFRIFF it was no different. While it is aimed to be an African Film Festival, what can I say, the Nigerian Film market is the biggest on the continent, so it was no surprise to see a lot of our movies been showcased. AFRIFF excelled in recognizing and celebrating the exceptional talent within the African film industry. The awards ceremony acknowledged filmmakers, actors, and other industry professionals, providing a platform to showcase their contributions and encourage further excellence.
Industry Networking Opportunities:
The festival facilitated valuable networking opportunities. I must hand it to them, the panel sessions spanned from Funding, International Collaborations, Animation, Global Markets, Distribution and Marketing Strategies. The masterclasses were another highlight for bubbling filmmakers looking to take a short in the industry and learn from the masters, their techniques and how to develop their skill and style in filmmaking. This helped filmmakers connect with industry experts, potential collaborators, and investors, contributing to the growth of African cinema.
Cultural Exchange and Global Perspective:
AFRIFF continued to serve as a bridge for cultural exchange, welcoming international filmmakers, industry professionals, and audiences. This global perspective is essential for broadening the reach of African cinema and fostering collaborations that can elevate the industry to new heights.
Areas for Improvement:
As with all things, there is definitely room for improvement and growth. For a 12th edition, one thing constantly on my mind during the festival was “is their value at the end of this journey?” The gilts and glam will always be there and would always lure one in with a pretence that it’s the best festival since time memorial, but as a filmmaker, do you get the most out of it?
Here are some of the aspects I believe need to be worked on as it relates to the festival:
Enhanced Digital Presence:
AFRIFF could improve its digital presence by live-streaming certain events, posting updates round the clock on its social platforms while also working with certain film/entertainment platforms to provide virtual access to a global audience. This would not only increase the festival’s reach but also allow filmmakers and enthusiasts who are unable to attend physically to participate in discussions and further engage industry professionals.
Increased Support for Filmmakers Around the Continent:
While AFRIFF attempts to be for the continent, it is not false if people say it is Nigerian centric. Truth is, we are second in terms of film production after to India, so that will be a tough sell. The AFRIFF needs to take up the responsibility of being the bridge for Filmmakers on the continent. It needs to ensure that films from other countries on the content are featured, starting with at least 25% and then building it up as much as possible. That way, we know it place an active role in nurturing filmmakers as well as the next generation of African filmmakers.
More International Media Coverage:
The festival can explore more international Media Coverage. We might feel like we don’t need it, but at this edition and what we know about streaming platforms and their need for more African content, the AFRIFF needs to explore this. Platforms such as The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Indiewire, IMDB, Screendaily.com, CNN, Al Jazeera, BBC, and its counter parts on the continent need to be invited to come cover/experience the festival while also showcasing the diverse filmmaking abilities from the continent.
With all intents and purposes, I cannot write the piece and not talk about having better co-ordination and structure during these events. Personally, I feel creatives need this and who better to show them how its done if not the AFRIFF. Change in venues, building of venues as the festival kicks off, lack of communication and direction is only but a few things I feel can be better at the festival. How can this be done, a partnership between corporate and creative Nigeria and if you want to know what I mean, then AFRIFF can hit me up. 😊
This is one of the biggest gaff of the festival and I know because I monitor or rather Xplore the industry. Once the festival ends, we don’t hear and seem to hear from the AFRIFF again and ‘yes’, I understand it takes funding to manage activities, but it shouldn’t actually be the case. To maintain a continuous presence and engagement with the film community, AFRIFF could expand its activities throughout the year. This could include news and information from the new and upcoming filmmakers, filmmakers who established partnerships or gained funding for their projects, smaller, focused events, workshops, and screenings, ensuring a sustained connection with filmmakers and industry stakeholders beyond the annual festival.
The 12th edition of AFRIFF might have come and gone and, we will still be reeling from its excitement especially for those who won awards and gained valuable experience from the sessions but by building on its strengths and addressing areas for improvement, AFRIFF has the potential to become an even more influential platform, further contributing to the growth and recognition of African cinema on the global stage.