By BENJMAIN NJOKU
In a year where there was a slowdown of activities in all the facets of life due to COVID-19, pulling off a film festival that set the sleepy city of Owerri, the capital of Imo State agog for three days was the height of projecting the African film sector to the global market.
Dallas-based creative technologist and film maker, Kelech Eke’s resolve to etch his name in the sands of time was again witnessed in the successful hosting of the maiden edition of the Village Arts and Film Festival, VILLAFFEST. The festival held from December 16 to 18, at the Imo state’s centre for Arts and Culture.
The festival, which climaxed with a colourful awards night held at Beland Hotel, signalled a revival of the moribund cultural activities in the heartland state.
In fact, before the hosting of the event, Owerri was rarely known to be a vibrant home of entertainment. The ancient town usually go to sleep early, but the festival in the state changed the story while it lasted as many natives, film makers and visual artistes thronged the event venue in their numbers, displaying their paintings, rendered in different mediums and sculpting.
Expectedly, the festival opened with the screening of films from eight countries including Cameroon, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, and the United States. The event also witnessed art exhibition, workshop, networking and master classes. It continued the following day with many aspiring film makers and stars taking advantage of the event to sharpen their crafts. There was also an art exhibition, as a side attraction which spiced up the event and helped to discover some of the untapped artists at the grass roots who were begging for a space to showcase what stuff they are made of.
The likes of Francis Duru, Andy Boyo among other tested hands in the industry took turns to train the participants on script writing, editing and directing.
The festival climaxed with awards night, which left many memories in the minds of those who graced the occasion. The night was stolen by the beauty queens in the state, who stormed the venue in their blaze of glories. Taking turns to present awards, the beauty queens bestrode the venue like ‘a colossus.’
Speaking with us after the show, the founder of the festival, Kelechi Eke revealed that preparation for this year’s edition has commenced in earnest.
Eke, who’s also the founder of the annual The African Film Festival,TAFF, in Dallas,Texas, the United States expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the festival.
He described the festival a great success, adding that “It came with great challenges, but every day for three days, we had great turn out of the young people, participating in art , exhibition and in the film screenings.” Speaking further, Eke said due to the ravaging COVID-19, many film makers who would have wanted to attend the event couldn’t make it because of the impediments.”
“We have started working ahead of this year’s edition. I had limited assistance in terms of organizing 2020 edition,” he added.
According to the founder, VILLAFFEST seeks to celebrate Africa’s cultural vibrancy through indigenous Arts and Films for the preservation of the people’s culture.