Ugoma Adegoke is the Festival Director of the annual Lights Camera Africa!!! film festival which is in its fourth year. Dedicated mostly to films about Africa and by Africans the Lights Camera Africa!!! Is unique in the sense that it is free and its multi-venue design ensures that people can attend where ever they please while its capacity building initiatives ensure that budding filmmakers can learn not just from the films but those who make them.
In this interview with Toni Kan, Ugoma Adegoke talks about the Lights Camera Africa!!! and what makes this year’s festival which runs from September 26 to October 1, unique.
TONI KAN: How did it all start and what is the mission for this festival?
UGOMA ADEGOKE: The Lights, Camera, AFRICA!!! Film Festival grew out of weekly film screenings that we held through a film club in Lagos, Nigeria. Our film club was made up of local film enthusiasts who wanted to share more alternative film with friends. In 2011, the idea to create a free, film festival showcasing diverse pieces of African cinema with a Lagos audience was developed. The idea was to share different types of film with African content to a local audience and to also create opportunities for local film makers to have their work seen by other Africans. We found that films from different parts of the continent were shared throughout the world, but they did not appear to circulate as freely within the continent. Our theory is that development can only occur through useful exchange because film is an effective medium for different parts of the continent to communicate. We work very hard to make the festival free to the public as we provide access to these very different and often educational pieces of work.
TK: How long has it been running now?
UA: The Lights, Camera, AFRICA!!! Film Festival is now in its fourth year and has been running since 2011.
TK: What were the initial challenges?
UA: As in all things, funding was and remains a challenge. We were new and people with the money needed to make sure they were putting their money into something worthwhile. Secondly, we needed to get the mix of films right. We didn’t want to be too arty and alienate those who don’t have a more discerning palate. Then venues were also a challenge but here we are four years later and still doing it. So, it’s kudos to our supporters and partners and collaborators and team.
TK: There is usually a festival theme. What is this year’s theme?
UA: This year’s theme is curated around the theme ‘Legacy’ and this year alone, more than 25 movies from 15 countries would be shown. They will all be screened at the Federal Palace Hotel, an establishment steeped in a history as old as independent Nigeria itself.
This year’s festival also stands out for its emphasis on television and the role it has played in documenting our journey. Meanwhile, the festival stays true to its tradition by including free film workshops, riveting panel discussions, hosting a colorful souk of African crafts and gifts items, live music, and a bevy of thrilling performances.
TK: What informed the choice of this year’s theme ‘Legacy?’
UA: Well the theme is connected to the on-going celebrations of the centenary of Nigeria’s creation. Our goal is to interrogate that a bit more rigorously and to consider what the legacy of that act means for us in terms of culture, art and film. We will be sharing works of Nigerian film masters like the late Ade Love and Ola Balogun right through to the more contemporary work of the late Amaka Igwe. We also intend to explore our strong tradition of storytelling through television. Our thesis is to show that there is a clear canon of film making in Nigeria and that frankly Nollywood is no mistake. If we are able to connect our film past to our film present, we hope to present a rich DNA of Nigerian film.
TK: You talked about 25 films. Can you talk about some of the very exciting ones?
UA: All our films are exciting because we invest time and effort in selecting the best for our audience but I am particularly excited by some of them like like Oya, the Rise of the Orisha (2014), Africa’s first superhero movie named for the Yoruba warrior goddess and The Supreme Price (2014), a documentary on Nigeria’s pro-democracy movement, we want to encourage our audience to reconsider our past with new eyes. Then there is “Who is William Onyeabor,” an intriguing and haunting documentary about a Nigerian musician who is the rave abroad but who has virtually vanished from public view and consciousness in Nigeria. We are also happy and privileged to be showing Kunle Afolayan’s October 1.
TK: Will this year’s edition hold in multiple locations around Lagos?
UA: Screenings will take place at the Federal Palace hotels only however workshops, talks and parties will hold at various venues.
TK: What are some of the exciting activities to look forward to?
UA: Well during the festival we usually infuse it with a learning component to support emerging film makers who get an opportunity to meet more established film professionals from all over the world and also from their peers. These usually take the form of a Masterclass with a film maker with a significant body of work like Tunde Kelani or panel workshops on film related areas like film financing.
TK: Who can attend the festival?
UA: What we love most about being able to put together this 5 day festival is that it’s absolutely free! This means that EVERYONE can attend, and that speaks to the core of the festival’s mission – to make an art form such as film accessible to so many and to promote exchange and learning.
TK: And what does Light Camera Africa contribute to the local economy?
UA: Well we’ve only been running for 4 years but we’d like to think that the opportunities that local film makers gain in being able to present their work to a local audience and also with a global audience through our partnerships with other festivals like the African Film Festival, New York goes towards supporting the film industry in Nigeria which is now included and acknowledged in the country’s rebased Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
TK: Share with us some highlights from previous years
UA: I spoke of our partnerships earlier. Last year a local film that we made a festival centrepiece – ‘Confusion Na Wa’ was invited to show at the African Film Festival in New York earlier this year, it was also screened at other festivals in Brazil and we like to think that Lights , Camera, Africa!!! has supported this well done piece of work by a young film maker, Kenneth Gyang. A particularly interesting highlight was in the very first year, when we found that there were enthusiasts of Chadian director, Mahamat Saleh Haroun living right here in Lagos! They had been looking forward to seeing his hilarious comedy, ‘Sex, Okra, Salted Butter’. That really confirmed for us that there was a need to hold events like this as there are people who are interested in consuming them.
TK: You’ve spoken about partners and sponsors, who are your partners and sponsors?
UA: Our main venue sponsors for this year are Federal Palace Hotels Lagos but we also have the usual support of The Wheatbaker, Southern Sun and The Moorhouse for location and logistics assistance. We also have the support of our sound and technical partners Woodstock Electronics. Other headline sponsors are Union Bank, Zircon Marine, Caverton Offshore Group & MOS Energy
TK: Are you still open to partnerships and sponsorhips?
UA: We are always open to opportunities to strengthen our production.
TK: Finally, what legacy do you want LCA to leave behind?
UA: We hope that LCA will contribute to a growing and eventually strong tradition of making the arts accessible to everyone in our communities.