Edo State is set to host the world as arrangements are in top gear for the maiden International Film Festival in Benin City, the state capital, in which 94 countries are participating, and 1,551 movie entries have so far been received. The Edo State International Film Festival, ESIFF, which holds from September 1st to 4th, 2022, will feature three special categories with cash prices of $2,000 each. These are: the Best Student’s Film; Best Use of technology in a film; and the Best film shot with cell phone or tablet.
Veteran film maker, Lancelot Oduwa-Imasuen, is the chairman of the festival being organised by the Edo State Government in collaboration with private sector partners, and it is aimed at spurring the state’s booming creative industry.
Unveiling the festival’s logo and brand ambassadors – Nollywood actor and film producer, Nosa Rex Okunzuwa, and actress and television host, Linda Osifo, both from Edo State – the state commissioner for arts, culture and tourism, Bamidele Obaitan, underscores the significance and benefits of the festival, especially to Edo State, and participants. He noted that “This is not a film festival just for the sake of having a film festival. We are just embarking on a journey that we could take control of our narratives; we tell our story to the world, and we, especially Edo, sell our rich culture. We take control of the narrative as it should be”.
According to Obaitan, we need to sell the positives of our state, of our culture to the world like America, India, China and other countries are doing. He said one of the responsibilities of his ministry is to provide guidelines and policies about how these would be shared to the world, stressing that “That would put out the positives. We know ourselves, what our challenges are; we address them. But for us to be able to attract investments to Edo State, we need to sell Edo State as the beautiful place that it is, and we cannot mince words; we put our films out that showcase our economy, our education, entertainment, that promote the rich heritage of Edo State”.
Commending the governor, Godwin Obaseki, for his achievements, the commissioner, who was headhunted from the Diaspora, said for over the past 15 years that he had been observing happenings in Edo State, “what I have noticed was there was a deficit of trust with past administrations because they had these tendencies to make promises that were not kept”, adding that now with Governor Obaseki “we could see, not only through words, but through his actions that he was coming to Edo to make a positive difference.
“And as you can see, we are making efforts to remove that deficit of trust between the citizens and the government of Edo State, and this is another initiative to deliver on the promises that the governor has made to the people of Edo State”.
Co-chairman of the festival, and Managing Director of Edo State Skills Development Agency, EdoJobs, Ukinebo Dare, explained that the interest shown by many countries of the world in the festival prompted the “adding of ‘international’ to the name because originally, it was Edo State Film Festival”. Dare said the film fiesta is aimed at boosting the film industry and repositioning the state as a choice location for film and television productions.
She said as part of the festival, over 200 movies would be shown at different locations in the state, providing an opportunity for networking and developing talents in the state’s creative sector.
According to her, “Edo State International Film Festival has received 1,551 movies as entries for the festival from 94 different countries. We have an international jury, including film professors and filmmakers from around the world that will watch all these films and select the best movie from these entries that will be shown during the festival”.
The EdoJobs MD further stated that “We are going to have 200 movies showing for four days at three different locations in the state as it will create opportunities for film critics, content producers, and movie celebrities to interact and build a strong network to improve the art and craft of film making in the state. We will be partnering with some reputable organisations to ensure the film festival is a success.” Benedicta Oboh, representative of Trevor Pillay, managing director of Kada Cinemas, one of the partners, said “as part of our sponsorship towards the Edo State international film festival, we’ll be offering two of our cinema halls, and each of these cinema halls is about 159 and 123 seats respectively. We will also be offering 50 percent discount on prices for items purchased at Kada Cinemas during the film festival”.
Also speaking, the Festival Director, Davidson Izegaegbe, further shed light on special features and attractions, as well as opportunities to look forward to at the festival. “We know that the continent is taking the centre stage around the world in film-making, and here in Nigeria, and we don’t want to be left out; and that is exactly what we set to achieve. And in doing that, we are also bringing in international filmmakers who will be having various classes with would-be film-makers. So, we will be having master classes in film directing, in acting, business in film-making, amongst others. This is not the era of film-making for films sake; it is show business, and when you are talking about show business, it’s talking about the business of the film or the show. So, there are going to be special classes looking at the business of the film, or the show. Film makers will be taught how to apply technology in making movies. We will be having master classes teaching these film-makers, how to use this technology and apply them to come out with very beautiful productions.
“We will advise that we make these classes public as much as we can so that our persons here in Edo State would enjoy this opportunity of availing themselves these trainings with these international trainers. It will also expose film makers here to international markets. The film festival is not just for fun or showing movies because its screening life; and don’t be surprised, some filmmakers, no matter how short their films are, they attract investors from outside the country who might want to do business with these film makers. So the master classes are going to prepare them for that so they can then negotiate these deals with these international investors”.