BY ‘SEGUN ODEJIMI
Last night was the premiere of Genevieve Nnaji’s new film, Road to Yesterday. Most importantly, though, it was supposed to be the closing film of what has turned out to be a largely successful 2015 Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF).
As expected from the premiere of a movie by one of Nollywood’s biggest actresses, the red carpet that preceded the event was full of glamour. Celebrities who had erstwhile ignored arguably the largest film festival this part of the Sahara, all turned up with extravagant costumes, heavily made-up faces, worrying accents and confusing scents. Cocktails and small chops flew around, with over-zealous waiters shoving them in your faces – but only if, like me, you had a VIP access to the event. Or better still, a VVIP access.
For a film that was supposed to serve as AFRIFF closing film, there was too much discrimination for one to ignore. Unlike what transpired when Mediterranean screened on the opening day of the festival, yesterday was an evident show of lack of exposure and regard for fellow creative artists by Genevieve Nnaji and her team. They simply turned last night to a discrimination party. And discrimination in Nollywood should be frowned at. Discrimination anywhere should be frowned at.
In case Genevieve Nnaji needs to be reminded, AFRIFF initially wanted Mo Abudu’s Fifty for the closing film. Due to Aunty Mo’s “reluctance,” Ayanda the South African film that features OC Ukeje was considered next. Then, you and your team came in, literally begging AFRIFF. Then Road to Yesterday was chosen. But what does AFRIFF and filmmakers get in return? A situation where Genevieve Nnaji and her people decide that not everyone at AFRIFF is equal. She invites her guests and pushes the AFRIFF delegates, for whom the film should be screening in the first place, afar. All sorts of barricades were set up at Genesis Deluxe Cinema, The Palms last night. Industry delegates who paid to be part of the festival were asked to go and see the movie in a separate hall. They were not allowed anywhere near Genevieve and her guests. Bullshit!
The AFRIFF spirit has always been communal; don’t destroy it with your arrogance and ignorance. You invited your own guests, yes we know – they are special to you. But these people are AFRIFF’s guests also – and they are special to AFRIFF too. The main screening hall may not accommodate everyone, we’re aware of that as well. But how do you explain restricting access to the cocktail area to only your “guests.” Or was it only Road to Yesterday that PREMIERED at AFRIFF? So, filmmakers and Nollywood practitioners who had been present at the festival all week but who weren’t your “guests” have to be treated like scum just because you are premiering your film? Haba!
It was simply a disgrace, last night, seeing an industry practitioner discriminate so much against her fellow industry practitioner. Being present at the event last night, it was obvious that the spirit was somewhat dampened. You can’t ruin the AFRIFF spirit. You shouldn’t even attempt to.
One of Nollywood’s respected filmmakers said of Genevieve’s action, “Even if you were born in the ghetto, now that you’ve left the ghetto, you should start behaving differently. Not with the ‘ghetto’ mentality.” A friend and colleague of mine who was a festival delegate said to me, “This is why the industry has refused to grow. Such acts as these which are a reflection of low self-esteem.“
And it’s true, who discriminates against others if not someone who suffers from low self-esteem?
The screening room which hosted the so-called VIPs almost emptied as soon as the last scene of the movie ended. Many people didn’t wait for the question and answer session which Kene Mkparu – the FilmHouse boss – at the beginning, announced would hold. So, you see, Genny Baby, these VIPs don’t like you as much as you think. Na just eye-service many of dem dey do.
Finally, next time, try to start your events early. You even had the audacity to arrive well beyond 7 pm for an event advertised to start at 6 pm PROMPT.