Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fidelis Duker Versus Nigerian Film Corporation

Fidelis Duker

Regulator versus operator: A ‘no support’ claim that splits moviedom

~ By Shaibu Husseini

AN interview that the founder and festival director of the yearly Abuja International Film Festival Fidelis Duker granted The Guardian and was published penultimate Sunday has generated a rejoinder from the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC).

Duker had, in the interview published in the moviedom section, alleged that the Abuja International Film Festival (AIFF) has held in the last nine years without any form of institutional support from any government agency including the NFC.

Asked by the reporter on why he should make such a claim since the reporter was aware that every year these agencies are listed as institutional supporters of the festival which berthed in 2004 and has held in Abuja since then, Duker charged out and reiterated that there has not been any form of support from the NFC and indeed other government agencies responsible to the film industry.

Duker had said in that interview: “Don’t be deceived by the names of supporters on our event brochure. I repeat with emphasis that there is no form of institutional support from any government agencies. The NFC, as constituted, to say the least, is bent on destroying the motion picture industry and I make bold to say it. I even have the feeling that it is because of the Zuma Film Festival, which it organizers and which I do not even see as a competitor.

“NFC is out to kill all other film festivals, as it’s only a few film festivals such as AIFF that are still surviving and it is rather unfortunate. The present management whose function is developmental has unfortunately not been performing its statutory function, which is sad. Nollywood today is at its lowest ebb, but NFC would not revamp it, rather it is wasting millions of tax payers money in attending film festivals abroad with empty stand; no films to show, not even in the market or short film corner.”

It is these remarks by Duker that infuriated officials of the NFC. The NFC in a rejoinder signed by the Head of Public Affiars, Brian Etuk dismissed Duker’s claims as mere ‘ranting’. Etuk said it was ironical that the same Duker who in an email to the NFC dated September 19, 2012 and signed by Temitope Duker commended the NFC for its previous contributions and support to the growth of the Abuja International Film Festival (AIFF) would turn around and accuse the NFC of not supporting the festival and for trying to kill other film festivals.

The letter by the AIFF, which Etuk referenced in the rejoinder, reads: “I refer to your mail on the above subject (Re: Report on Support and Assistance 2008) dated 12th December, 2008 and received in our office on 8th January, 2009. I will start by expressing our appreciation to the corporation and its Managing Director since we started the Abuja International Film Festival in 2004 who have consistently supported the festival in the past (sic) five (5) years.

“It is also important to mention that the Abuja International Film Festival is arguably the first independent film festival in Nigeria apart from the government owned National Film Festival which became Zuma Film Festival.” signed Temitope Duker, Festival Coordinator, for Abuja International Film Festival, and dated 9th January 2009’

However the rejoinder by the NFC reads in part: “As mentioned earlier, we have in the past hosted NFC initiatives, a good example was the 2011 Babylon workshop which was held during the 8th AIFF at the Silverbird Cinemas in September 2011. The letter from his wife, Temitope Duker, Festival Coordinator, Abuja International Film Festival, dated 9th January 2009, and cited above; and his own e-mail quoted above disprove Fidelis Duker’s blatant lies, conscious denials, libel and deliberate misinformation.

“The NFC has cross-checked her records and we wish to place on record the corporation’s financial support/assistance to the organizers of AIFF as follows: 2011 (N250,000); 2010 (N100,000); 2009 (N100,000); 2008 (N500,000); 2007 (N400,000). NFC’s acknowledgement and logo published in the festival brochures and publicity materials of AIFF are obviously well earned. Do not be deceived!

“Apart from financial support, the corporation has also through its programme, the NFC/EU Babylon International workshop held in 2010 and 2011 in Abuja, led a delegation of her foreign partners (Scenario Films, UK, and Scripthouse, Germany), international resource persons and participants from Europe and Africa to the AIFF 2010 and 2011 editions, thereby providing AIFF institutional government support, and content.

“The Managing Director of NFC, Afolabi Adesanya, had always obliged AIFF goodwill messages (published in AIFF’s brochures) and honoured AIFF’s invitations (and non-invitations!), including participating in panel discussions. Photographs of his participation in AIFF’s programmes published in its festival brochures were definitely not photo-shopped. Do not be deceived.

“The 1992 maiden edition of the National Film Festival (which, indeed, became Zuma Film Festival) marked a milestone in NFC’s efforts to promote and develop the Nigerian motion picture using the film festival platform through her own film festival, and international film festivals. At our booths/pavilions, we screen trailers of Nigerian movies (including those of Nigerians in the Diaspora), and other nationalities; we host workshops and seminars. As the pioneer film festival organiser in Nigeria, we are certainly not the competitors. We are the leader.

“For the avoidance of doubt, we make bold to say it is not the job of the NFC to enter films she did not produce, or independent films (shorts, documentaries and features) in film festivals. That is the sole responsibility of the producer/production company.

“The second edition of the annual Lights, Camera, AFRICA!!!, a film festival aimed at stimulating discourse on issues and experiences that are rooted in the African experience, will run from September 28 to Monday, October 1, 2012, in Lagos. The opening date coincides with the closing date of AIFF. Is this another NFC strategy to, “kill all other film festivals”? in existence alongside AIFF, are independent film festivals/markets such as BOB-TV, LIFF, AMAA, FIAF, GOFEST, iRep, etc. The list is still growing. Do not be deceived!

“Further to her mandate to develop, and build human resource capacity for the Nigerian motion picture industry, NFC, in 1995, established the National Film Institute (NFI), the first of its kind in Nigeria. Between 2010 and 2011, the present management secured National Universities Commission (NUC) approval for her BFA degree programme in affiliation with UniJos; and NBTE approval for her National Diploma programme (vocational skills acquisition). NFI remains the only tertiary institution that offers training and capacity building at both levels. For the retraining of professionals on the job, the present management in 2005 introduced SHOOT!, which has boosted the careers of many professionals in both private and public employment. In partnership with the Katsina State government, NFC/NFI, have, in the past three years, been training and building capacity in the Katsina State Skill and Vocational Village’.

“NFC, in tandem with her local and international partners, such SMEDAN, NEXIM, FIRS, The Quartet (NBC, NFVCB, NCC and NFC), federal government agencies, state governments, the private sector, Scenario Films, Scripthouse, embassies, et al, will continue to provide all necessary support for the holistic growth of the Nigerian movie industry. That is our firm commitment. We remain resolved. Our enviable track record speak for itself.’

But reacting to the rejoinder, Duker explained that the monies the NFC is claiming it has spent on supporting the AIFF was for “services rendered the NFC during the festival” and not as “support for the AIFF” which Duker still insists has never come from the Afolabi led NFC for the 9 year old festival. Duker in a telephone chat clarified that the “commendation email the NFC has been citing as endorsement of their support was a generic email the AIFF sent round to even industry practitioners as a way of luring them to support and or notifying them of this edition of the festival.”

He added: “there is nothing so special about that letter. I even sent a copy to you (Shaibu Husseini) via email and it is the same wordings, what we do is to change the address and initial compliments and so there is nothing ironical about it. I challenge the MD of NFC (Afolabi Adesanya) to provide proof of support and I promise to call a press conference to disgrace and embarrass him and the entire NFC. In fact, I am going to scan several emails to you and letters confirming their inability to support the festival in the last four years.”

Duker, one time President of the Directors’ Guild of Nigeria reiterated repeatedly that the AIFF has never received any institutional support from the NFC. He said: “I repeat that they have never supported the AIFF rather what they have done which they are shamelessly calling support is to pay for and negotiate as if we are selling rice and beans, the cost of placing adverts and getting space for making the presence of the NFC felt at the festival.

“When he pays 17000 Euros for the Cannes exhibition booth and advertises the NFC in the Cannes programme, is he supporting them? The NFC, I maintain has never supported AIFF and I have letters and emails to that effect. Go and ask organisers of other festivals and awards. I know of case of 150,000 that caused a quarrel between them and an award organiser and the award organiser returned the money to them. In fact, the MD actually sent an email to all film festivals that government would not support them again! Should that be coming from a developmental agency like the NFC? May be this is the time to expose all the ills going on there and I am ready for them.”

Reminded that the NFC claimed it paid the sum of N250, 000 in 2011; and paid N100,000 in 2010; and had doled out N400,000, N500,000, and N100,000 between 2007 and 2009, Duker chuckled and said: “These NFC officials are funny. Imagine that an exhibition booth is N150k and you appeal to pay 100k to exhibit and promote your agency, is that the kind of support they should be celebrating as institutional support?

“Look, the last time they came to the festival and exhibited was over four years ago and last year at the festival, we offered them the Hall free to organise their Babylon event and they did cocktail for their over 100 guests and participants with the 250k they are calling support. Look! I repeat again, again, and again that they have never supported AIFF in the manner that government should support a structure of development of the industry like a film festival. Go round and ask other event organizers in Nollywood. It’s not about tabulating figures of services we rendered like their having to spend the same N250,000 they are calling support for cocktail for their guests during the Babylon event which was held as part of our festival.

“Let them show their proof and I will call a press conference to show ours. The last time they came as NFC to AIFF was in 2008. It was the same year that they wrote us and other practitioners that they would never support any industry event again. I have the letters.”

Duker threatened to mobilise other stakeholders for a press conference after the Abuja International Film festival which ends today, “so that we can state the true position of things as it concerns our relationship with the NFC.”

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