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iREP@5: Remodeling documentary filmmaking in digital age

The 2015 i-Represent International Documentary Film Festival which commenced on Thursday, March 19, ended on an encouraging note on Sunday with the traditional  Art stampede held at the Kongi’s Harvest, Freedom Park, old Broad Street Prison, Lagos.

moviesThis year’s edition which marked the 5th anniversary of the festival, explored the theme, Reinventing Documentary Filmmaking In A Digital Space.

The theme which though was conceived on the traditional iREP thematic framework of Africa in Self-conversation, was “premised on the reality that Digital media technology is expanding narrative possibilities and shaping audiences’ experiences of how realities are articulated.”

The festival is the brain child of the iRepresent Documentary Film Forum, an affiliate of the West African Documentary Film Forum (WDFF), and the Documentary Network Africa (DNA). It enjoyed the support of  partners such as Goethe Institut, British Council, Ford Foundation, Africa Magic, Afrinolly and Freedom Park.

Digital broadcasting

The festival attracted international guests from countries such as Germany, United States, United Kingdom, France, Cameroun, Gabon, South Africa and Kenya.

Dominating discussions
at the festival were conversations on how Africa can utilise digital broadcasting to tell her stories.

Over 40 films which include; award-winning works such as Chameleon (by Ryan Mullins/Canada); Love is All (by Kim Longinotto/UK); Poverty Inc (by Michael Matheson/US); Unforgiven (by Lucas Augustin/Rwanda-Germany); Katlehong (by Irene Loebell/South Africa); Olu Amoda: A Metallic Journey (by Tam Fiofori and Joel Benson/Nigeria), etc, were screened.

In addition to screenings, the festival also included producers roundtable, training sessions, seminars, workshops, conferences and networking platforms.

Proud of the successes recorded at the festival, Executive Director, Irep film Festival Femi Odugbemi said, “We have rekindled awareness of the power and possibilities of documentary to provoke debate, highlight issues, explicate human experiences and explore histories and cultures.”

MD of MultiChoice Nigeria, John Ugbe, in the festival’s first keynote stated that “The audience tells us what they want, it’s almost like the audience is developing the filmmaker now. There is a lot of emphasis on how much easier it is to create content and distribute it now, but if you don’t have a good story the audience will just move on more quickly. Habits are changing, it used to be if you had a 13-part documentary people would watch it over 26 weeks on TV. Now we have them binge watching over one weekend. And how does that affect the monetization of the content?”

During the discussion on Digital Documentary and Citizen Journalism: the Security Imperative, which took place on day two,  Prof. Femi Shaka, Chair of the festival panel, declared that “The principal aim of Citizen Journalism is to democratise the process of documenting events-cum-history and not to compete with professional media people.” stressing that this makes it possible for people to tell their stories from their own point of view.” He however advocated that security agencies should as a matter of urgency, open up sections on the websites to enable citizens report crime directly.

Also, photographer and filmaker, Tam Fiofori advised citizens to apply courtesy while trying to pass on information stressing the need for citizen journalist to be trained so as to be able to “identify what is important, what could pass for news and items that are downright frivolous.”

Citizen journalism

Dr. Friday Nwankwo who observed that Citizen Journalism could otherwise be described as Guerrilla or Street Journalism, called for sensitivity and sensibility among citizen journalists. He however posited that Citizen Journalism especially when it has to do with video evidence, can help security operatives to carry out their duty.

The Art Stampede, an ‘arthouse parliamentary’ session, themed, Digital Broadcasting & Challenges of Artistic Freedom which held in collaboration between iREP Film Forum and the leading culture activist organisation, the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA), rapped up events for this year.

It featured keynote by Prof Awam Amkpa of New York university, USA, and panelists; Victor Okhai, Ropo Ewenla, Toni Khan and Prof. Niyi Coker (Jnr) of the University of Missouri, USA. Deji Toye, the lawyer-dramatist-poet, moderated the session. Prof. Amkpa stated that while “Digital broadcasting has come to stay… Universities, polytechnics should begin to focus on tapping from scenarios built by Nollywood” adding that Nigeria is a fantastic ground for promotion and development of this platform.  Prof. Amkpa averred that while artistic freedom is non-negotiable, how Africa uses the digital platform to diversify, makes a whole lot of difference.








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