iRep Film Festival opens in Lagos

The festival hopes to promote awareness on the power of documentary films

The 4th edition of the iRepresent International Documentary Film Festival began in Lagos, Thursday, with film screenings and panel discussions.

The 2014 iRep, a forum designed to promote awareness on the power of documentary films, is exploring the theme, Rhythms of Identity – Africa in Self-Conversation.

“It’s a self conversation – Africa need to talk within Africa. We have more dialogue outside Africa than in Africa,” said Jahman Anikulapo, one of the trio who produced the festival.

Addressing the audience, Niyi Coker, a Professor of Dance, Theatre and Media Studies at the University of Missouri, said that filmmakers are discouraged from documentaries because of the poor returns usually associated with it.

“A documentary film doesn’t pay you money. You have to be passionate to keep something like this going,” said Mr. Coker, who applauded the efforts of Mr. Anikulapo and his co-producers Femi Odugbemi and Makin Soyinka.

“This is not a money maker. This is helping Africa tell its story. People in Africa don’t wanna do documentaries. Even though we have Nollywood, how many people tell the stories in documentaries?” he added.

The opening day’s session began with a screening of British Nigeria Me, a nine-minute documentary produced by Dayo Adeneye about the difficulties faced by Nigerians born in the U.K. when it comes to speaking their native languages.

The session was followed by a panel discussion on the theme, Rhythms of Amalgamation; Fashioning a Nigerian Identity. The discussants included Sophie Oluwole, a Professor of Philosophy; Ed Keazor, lawyer and historian; Francis Onwochei, a film maker; Yacouba Sangare, Ivorien journalist and film critic; and Adegboyega Arulogun, film producer and TV manager.

Ms. Oluwole said that intellectual identity was necessary to properly define the identity of an African. She noted that Western philosophers reduced the discovery of one’s true identity to two facets – matter and mind.

“The mentality of the African is that when you think that matter and mind are not oppositional but complementary, you are already thinking ahead of the West,” said Ms. Oluwole, noting that democracy in the West was nothing but male chauvinism.

“The philosophy of the Yorubas is that anybody that wants to do anything without including a woman will definitely fail,” she added.

Ms. Oluwole disagreed with the notion that African men are inherently polygamous, noting that the Yoruba philosophy insisted on a policy of “one man, one wife.”

“Difference does not mean inferiority. We don’t even know why we are different,” Ms. Oluwole said. “The film we just watched, talking about Nigerians who cannot speak their native languages… I challenge any professor here, including myself, to deliver his or her paper in his native language. We are talking about African identity and I’m delivering my paper in English. Shame on me.”

Another discussant, Mr. Arulogun, described Fredrick Lugard as a mercenary who did a lot of bad work in amalgamating Nigeria.

“The amalgamation was a mistake. Lugard had been in the north since 1900… He toured the west and the east but never discussed with them that they were going to be amalgamated,” said Mr. Arulogun, who was a TV producer with the Nigerian Television Authority in the 1980s.

“The problems they will have at the (ongoing) national conference will make or mar Nigeria,” he stated.

Mr. Arulogun narrated how he was almost arrested by the Nigerian government in 1982 after he produced a BBC-NTA documentary titled, Nigeria: A Squandering of Riches. That year, the film, which highlighted street trading and poverty in the country, came first at the Geneva Film Festival, according to Mr. Arulogun.

“The offending section was the sequence when we did interviews with the street people at the Bar Beach and one of the soldiers we interviewed said that if (Shehu) Shagari was not careful, they will take over from him because of the way he was running the country. We put the boy on silhouette,” Mr. Arulogun said.

Among those who attended the opening day’s event included Afolabi Adesanya, former Director of Nigeria Film Corporation; Tam Fiofori, film maker; Mahmood Ali-Balogun, former President, National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners; and Tunde Kelani, veteran film maker.

The festival will end on Sunday.

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