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Festival Briefing with Manthia Diawara: “DOCUMENTARY ENABLES US TO TRY OUT NEW TECHNOLOGY’’

It was splendid meeting and speaking with foremost scholar of African cinema Prof. Manthia Diawara on the Wednesday March 23, 2016. It was an informal meeting and also present was another Nigerian scholar of African cinema Prof Awam Ampka of New York University. Manthia Diawara spoke within a brief moment about his impression of iREP and the tenacity of Femi Odugbemi as head of the organization, and how he has painstakingly been able to sustain the Festival for six years running. The eminent scholar and historian emphasized that one of the basic strengths of this kind of festival is the ‘’space’’ and ‘’location’’, which is essential to the various activities that will be a part of the entire festival. He opined that a place like Freedom Park has become “ideal for a festival, bringing people together so that they can sit around and talk to each other meet each other and talk about culture.” He personally believes the project is quite different from the kind of experience that he along with Prof. Awam Ampka and Jahman Anikulapo had, in Ghana a few years ago. The provision of space is of significant priority and this was lacking in Ghana for such a cultural engagement, and Diawara was of the opinion that “one of the reasons why that festival did not really proceed like that of iREP is because, we did not have a space for conviviality of welcoming a cultural environment”. He commended iREP for the foresight as he believes that the organization has done a lot in fostering and historizing the culture and tradition of documentary cinema, not only in Nigeria and Africa but also around the world, which speaks volumes about a Nigerian film company that has a vision that is extremely unparalleled and, hardly can one locate this kind of tenacity and practice among main stream Nigerian film companies. This practice can only be observed in various engagements IREP has been able to involve itself in, with various international film companies in Europe and elsewhere. It goes to say that issues of collaboration has succeeded is only a given today. We also sought Diawara opinion of the state of the practice of documentary in Nigeria which is still at the margins compared to the feature film genre. Although, he agreed that there is a sense in which the reality does not favour the genre in the present Nigeria filmmaking environment, but he believes that the future of Nigerian documentary is actually in good hands. This is so because, he sees in Femi Odugbemi a courageous drive and inner glow that translates to some kind of rigorous, and fearless passion, which also enables him to nurture a young generation of budding filmmakers who would also develop the potential of taking documentary to another level by telling their own original stories.  Odugbemi treats the documentary like an artistic work that also depends on researches. “The work they are doing in documentary is very important because ultimately that is what’s going to teach the young generation the art of documentary. Documentary enables us to try out New Technology”, says Diawara. For Nigeria the future of documentary is extremely bright, and perhaps we have nothing to worry about because with iREP, documentary is currently being driven towards a direction that we anticipate. With all due respect to the popular cinema, art cinema and so on, the documentary cinema brings something additional in some perspectives. And this is because documentary is not a cinema of reality but, that which questions reality. It is a cinema that asks the questions such as; what are the tools for production? How do you use the tools? Do the tools work for you or do you work for the tools? How does one use the tools to construct the effect of realism? If these tools can be used well enough then, there is a great potential for documentary to find its way into the mainstream film industry, and the hearts of the audience, which invariably makes it popular.

  • Tunde Onikoyi