The 7th edition of Lights Camera AFRICA!! Film Festival recently concluded. Held from September 29 to October 1, an eclectic collection of films from African Filmmakers around the world were screened. Co-founded in 2011 by art curator Ugoma Adegoke, its intent is to stimulate discourse on issues and experiences that are rooted in the African experience; screening films by African filmmakers home and abroad.  The 3 day festival is one of the better known of the numerous which have risen in the last few years, focused on creating a platform for artists. In a country where the craft of filmmaking takes a back seat to the commerce of filmmaking, LCA is a place where cinephiles, filmmakers and the curious can watch the kind of films which are made for expression and art .

Over the three days, a diversity  of  films like A Hotel Called Memory (Dir Akin Omotoso), a poetic 49 minute piece with no dialogue, Bariga Sugar (Dir Ifeoma Chukwuogo) and Bad Market (Dir Paul Gaius) which tackled sex trade from different perspective, those who chose it and those who had no choice. Omode Meta Sere (Dir-Remi V Richards) which looked at how parents clip the wings of their children, Afia Attack (Dir-Ujuaku Nwakalor-Akukwe), a documentary looking at the women on the side of Biafra who struggled to survive and feed their families during the devastating civil war. Vaya, directed by Akin Omotoso, three separate stories weaved to create a gripping yet compassionate portrait of small-town characters immersed in the intimidating, alluring and dangerous world of big-city Johannesburg and Soweto. Shadeism(Dir-Nayani Thiyagarajah), exploring the issue of shadeism, the discrimination between lighter-skinned and darker-skinned members of the same community.  These and many others presented an interesting dichotomy.

I attended only two days of the three day festival but was reminded of the importance of platforms like it. Some of these films will never be seen in the mainstream. A film like A Hotel Called Memory was a risky move by the producer, Ego Boyo.  Projects like it raise questions from colleagues like, “How will it make money?” “People won’t understand it”, “People won’t like a film like this.” As a lover of art who for years who has searched for films like these from her home country she said in an interview, My new film is about me putting my money where my mouth is.”

Art for the sake of art, experimentation, exploration and unconventional filmmaking is largely dismissed in an industry which values commercial productions and demands uniformity.  Lovers of cinema and diverse films need a place where they can see films which may not get theatrical distribution, find filmmakers who tell different types of stories and have discussions on the craft.  

It’s admirable to see how far it’s come from its beginnings as a Film Club with 10 -15 people meeting in a yoga room.  As the industry grows, festivals like LCA are more important than ever, allowing a diversity of films, storytelling and discourse where films and filmmaker aren’t monochromatic but a kaleidoscope.