In its sixth year running, IREP Documentary Film Festival is undoubtedly emerging as the biggest film festival in sub-Saharan Africa. The widely acclaimed artistic fair is pivoted on the thrust “Africa in Self Conversation”, a phenomenon that seeks to represent the African cinematic experience to a global audience, while also translating and provoking a pragmatic discourse to invigorate the needed appetite for the hungered positivism on the continent.
“The wonderful thing about the documentary film art form is that primarily, it causes you to think. Whatever the subject matter of any documentary you watch; it changes you”, says Femi Odugbemi – the multiple-awarding film-maker who doubles as the Executive director of the festival.
This assertion must have inspired the theme of this year’s festival, themed # Change: Documentary Film as Agent Provocateur. Perhaps, on sighting the theme many would have thought it was a puppetry of politicking. But it turned out not to be so. Rather, it was set to put the minds of audience, especially Africans, in the right perspective for the mental revolution that would evoke the right change across the continent in the face of the present economic malady, political upheavals and religious subversion.
Over thirty films were screened at four different venues, namely: Freedom Park (Lagos Island), Afrinolly Space (Oregun), Goethe Institut (City Hall) and the Nigerian Film Society (Ikoyi), as a way to effectually avail all and sundry a feel of the festival irrespective of time and space.
Each of the films was painstakingly selected to exemplify the intricacy of the thematic value. Amongst the selected films are: Negritude: A Dialogue between Soyinka and Senghor by Prof. Manthia Diawara, which cross-examined the conceived ideas of these two doyens of Pan-Africanism in relation to the struggle for Independence that vogued the 50s and 60s vis-a-vis the cobwebs of multiculturalism and religious intolerance that plagues the African community today.
Ota Benga, a film by Prof Niyi Coker, expressed shock over the trails of the white supremacists’ aversion to a kidnapped black man whose name doubles as the title and insidiously placing him amongst the lesser mammals in a bid to establish Darwin’s theory of evolution. The tragic epic also explores the continuous imperialist manacle of low esteem of the African race.
Faaji Agba by Remi Vaughan Richards and The Revolution will not be televised by Kim Bartley, Donnacha O’Briain are amongst the screened films.
The official launching of the Irep Film Foundation by Lagos Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, who himself is an art enthusiast, added a feather to the festival’s resolve at qualitative film delivery and professionalism, believing in the power of apt synergy.
The three day of glitz and glamour, sights and sounds ended with an art stampede by the Committee for Relevant Arts (CORA), where the prospects and challenges experienced by artists were broadly expounded citing possible panacea to the highlighted pitfalls which inter-alia include: Lack of political will, insecurity of the artists in the face of conflicting interests, restricted freedom, low patronage by the teeming masses, lack of coordinated direction due to absence of working cultural policy.
On a final note, the 2016 iREP film festival may have come and gone but not without achieving the aim of the organizers which was to bring to the notice of the world, the capability of Nigerians and indeed Africans to write our story and document our history in the most acceptable manner for everyone who cares to know.
- Babatunde Odubanwo