The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has commended the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF’s) initiative to use cinema to revolutionise Africa’s social and economic life.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that AFRIFF kicked off its sixth year of cinematic celebration on Sunday with the unveiling of a new movie, “Birth of a Nation”.
The star-studded event held at the Filmhouse, IMAX Cinema, Lekki, Lagos.
In his opening speech, Mohammed, assured stakeholders of the Federal Government’s commitment to the growth of the industry.
“I congratulate the organisers of the Africa International Film Festival on what promises to be another successful event.
“I want you all to help me celebrate their commitment to the industry and laudable investment in Nigeria, year after year.
“This is the sixth one, and I am here to assure all the practitioners in the industry and the ever-growing customer base of this industry that the best days are here.
“Before now, maybe the Nigerian Government threw crumbs at the Nigerian movie industry in terms of infrastructure and human capital investment.
“However with the steady growth in the population, we have no choice than to turn to the creative industry,” the minister said.
He added that the current administration would ensure that Nigeria would no longer depend only on oil revenues.
“If that is the case, which industry do we turn our attention to? The creative industry, of course,” he said.
On employment, Mohammed said that the creative industry had provided a veritable platform for talented youths and entrepreneurs to ply their trade.
“The movie industry has fully accepted to be not just a great employer of labour, especially young people, but also a potential high foreign exchange earner because of its international appeal and demand.
“We are taking the bull by the horn. You have all done a fantastic job with all the support of government and partnership.
“Mr. President has formally put his weight behind the creative industry and has promised to do everything that will make it possible for us to transit from a creative industry to a creative economy.”
The minister gave the assurance that the government was taking proactive measures to provide necessary infrastructure for the development of the industry.
“To this end, we are already in talks with state governments and investors to build studio facilities that would equal those in Mexico, India and the U.S. to make filmmaking easier and increase the quality of our films.
“To make this industry a great success and attract investors and the best human skills, we are going to see not only to the expansion of distribution, but formalising it,“ he said.
The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Film One Distribution, Kene Mkparu, expressed delight at the large turnout of guests for the event.
“2015 was great, but in order to make 2016, bigger and continental, it is going to open the biggest silver-screen in the whole of Africa.
“In trying to find the right title to open this amazing film festival with, we spoke to our partners, 20th Century Fox.
“We met them just under two years ago, and they got this amazing plan and desire to work with Africa and play a part in what happens in the continental film industry.
“When we reached out to 20th Century Fox to say we wanted this particular title which happens to be an African story, a huge African story, written and directed by Nate Parker, they turned said yes, we will do it,” Mkparu said.
He hailed the Senior Executive Vice President of 20th Century Fox in Europe and Middle-East, Mr. Paul Higginson, for the partnership.
“He is the most important person as far as distribution and marketing are concerned.
“We wanted the stars of this film to come for the opening, but because of timing and schedules, we couldn’t get Nate Parker, Gabriel Union and whole bunch of them.
“But there is somebody who played a part in this film and happed to be one of our own; I will like to introduce Mr Chike Okonkwo,“ he said.
In his remarks, Higginson praised Film-house and all those involved, for putting up a great show.
“The best way to see film is in the cinema, and the only way you are going to distinguish it from the mobile and home viewing is having great films in great environments.
“If I can borrow the last line of your national anthem, what this film does is it re-enforces why we must be a world that is bound together with freedom peace and unity,“ he said.