It was indeed heart-warming for all the participants at a three-day conference with the theme, "Celebrating the Ife Film School" last week in Ife where all the film industry graduates of Obafemi Awolowo University gathered for the third Ife International Film Festival. The Festival was organised in recognition of the contribution of the alumni of the school to the movie industry and a platform for sharing ideas and opinions on how the industry can be driven beyond being just a mere movie factory to a competitive stance with global perspective.
Established in 1975, the Department of Dramatic Arts is a phenomenon and had functioned as an artistic nursery for the industry's champions such as Yemi Solade, Yemi Sodimu, Late Funsho Alabi, Kola Oyewo, Clarion Chukwura, Segun Arinze, Bayo Bankole, Toyin Ogundeji, Akin Lewis and host of others. Still, the department grapple with inadequate funding and poor infrastructural facilities. For instance, a Coaster Deluxe Bus was bought in 1981 under the signature of Professor Wole Soyinka for the Awo Varsity Theatre. The bus had transported the students and staff of the department to performance venues such as Togo, Ghana, Nsukka, Maiduguri and beyond and had finally become grounded in February 2011. The Awo Varsity theatre, which is the brand name for the group of performers at the department, has been a source of mentorship for many who had found their place in the movie industry today. Despite these challenges, the Department had produced award-winning graduates who have set records in the movie sphere.
The Vice Chancellor, Professor Bamitale Omole described the department as 'a worthy ambassador both at national and international levels. Obafemi Awolowo University has made a great impact on the film industry in Africa. Films were produced by Frank Speed in the 70s with the themes of performance and entertainment. Professor Wole Soyinka also made his very important film, Blues for A Prodigal in I984 while he was lecturing at the University.
In her welcome speech, the Festival Director, Professor Foluke Ogunleye on November 30, 2012 in reference to the late Prof Ola Rotimi remarked that "playing in the round gives us a sense of continuity and a sense of oneness. We are determined that the circle will remain unbroken in our own time."
THISDAY spoke with some of the members of the Ife Film School who presented their works for exhibition at the close of the festival last Saturday. Bayo Bankole, popularly referred to as Boy Alinco, a 1999 graduate of the department spoke on the initiative.
"I think it is a very good idea in that it has helped to bring together the alumni of the school who are in the film industry together to share their experience. The sessions that I witnessed provided for the exchange of ideas between the past and the present film makers in order to make the future of the industry better. The event has been an eye-opener. Hopefully, next year is going to be better and all-encompassing because we are already coming up with ideas now and we are looking forward to a week-long affair in the subsequent edition where we will have more movies screened and a more relaxed social atmosphere perhaps to include an award night or a night of fun. As early as January next year, a team will be set up for the planning. I am so proud that I finished from this Great University and this wonderful department. I know we will be the envy of other alumni of other universities having been first to come up with this initiative. I screened Oloja Ere, which was released in 2012."
Victor Fatoki, a post-graduate student of the department who screened Baba Landlord at the film festival also rated the event against the previous ones.
"It has been an interesting one but in my own view, the Ife Film School is at an emerging stage as at now. The department needs to put a lot more equipments in place to build capacity so that what comes out from here will serve as a school for the industry. I think this is better organized than the previous ones and more movies were screened, more papers were presented and participation has been more encouraging."
Lanre Olupona from Dyworks Studios expressed satisfaction over the festival in a chat with THISDAY.
"I think the effort is quite visionary. It is quite pro-active. We have often heard Nollywood being praised for quantity and not for quality. One of the things that had been advocated for over time is the need for a forum for knowledge exchange where upcoming film makers can tap from. It is a good effort in the right direction, bringing all the industry's bulwark back home. We screened Abobaku and Maroko. Abobaku was commissioned by MNET and that explains the choice of the use of language in the movie."
The Ife Film School was instituted to foster a sense of history through the exhibition of films of different periods and to bridge the gap between the theory and practice of film making in Nigeria and abroad.