A scene from 'Invasion 1897'
A scene from 'Invasion 1897'

The Toronto African Film and Music Festival runs from August 27 to 31 in the Canadian city, celebrating African culture and music and showcasing film and music from more than 50 countries. Organizers are aiming to make the 2014 edition of the festival the biggest yet, with all events — film, music and fashion — taking place over one weekend. FEVA TV spoke with Paris Roger, Executive Director of the Toronto African Film & Music Festival, about this year’s TAFMF festivities. (Part 2 of the Q&A is here.)

FEVA TV: How did the festival first come together? How has it grown since its inception?

PARIS ROGER: Yes. In the past we only had small events over the year, such as a film screening here or a night of music there, and even fashion shows. This has been around since 2007, but this is our fourth festival. The difference is it is going on all at once, instead of through out the year.

What has the support level been like from the local community?

Small, but great. Most want a festival like ours, but because we deal with over 50-plus African nations within our festival, it can be tight sometimes.

What about the reception within the African film and cultural community?

There is a big African community that loves their Nollywood films. Most watch like 3-7 films each week, because of the cheap knock-off films that are pirated people can buy for like $2 to $3 per film. But our audience is growing, and soon we will be able to show African films across Canada through our festival mandate. 

How much a part of the festival is film vs. music?

Right now, more music, but there is not only film and music but fashion and food and a marketplace. And then there is our African Ball on Sept 25, and then the Pan African Music Conference in late October Later this year we will announce our film screening plans in a number of local theatres in the GTA [Greater Toronto Area], and into next year. And into 2015, we will be getting into the Fashion Week for both Toronto Fashion Week and the African Fashion Week. On top of that we are doing a scholarship program that will be used for Media Arts, Fashion, Culinary, and Music.

This year’s opening-night film, Invasion 1897, is one of the more ambitious movies to come out of Nollywood in a long time — how did that deal come about?

Well, it’s all about connections really. I heard about the film and then asked, but got no response because I think it was one of those things where the filmmakers did not know when it would be ready. Then I get a call from a friend who wants me to talk to the director about doing a premiere of the film in Canada. We talked over two hours long distance with Lancelot the director, and over about 30 minutes after that call was finished, I got another call saying we got the World Premiere. So I was able to walk through with Lancelot on what we both wanted and we just clicked together.

What does it mean to have that movie opening the festival?

To have that film open the festival is a major feat. Because of the size and budget and that fact that Lancelot is one, of if not the biggest filmmaker coming out of West Africa, and showing his work of art, and showcasing a true and talented African storyteller is I think of great pride for us.

Click here for Part 2 of the Q&A. For more information on TAFMF, visit their website.