Mike Omoriegbe as Oba Ovonrawmen in 'Invasion 1897'
Mike Omoriegbe as Oba Ovonrawmen in 'Invasion 1897'

The Toronto African Film and Music Festival runs from August 27 to 31, 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. Click here for Part 1.

What are some of the challenges that you face putting this event together each year?

Oh boy. You hit a big nail on the head with that one … Well, like any and all  festivals no matter what they are, it comes down to money. Nothing more, nothing less. The problem with festivals is that they are all decided with the same frame of mind, they are instructed by all sides to be the non-profit, or charitable company, and then they would be able to look at the tiniest funding from government grants or forgivable loans. People who start out doing a festival are told if you can pay the rent late, like no more than two months behind, then your festival is a success.

The trouble is we are way way behind in the fact that cultural events like films festivals, a music festival, or even the art gallery, we need the funds to showcase what we want to showcase. And in that way we are told not to make money. If you want to make money then don’t do a festival. You see you are basically forced to be a non-profit, in order to get money from government or big corporations … What government should be doing is showing how to make money, and how to be self reliant, so you don’t have to keep going after the really bad small amount of money that is available for festivals or events for the community. For me, we are not non-profit, nor charitable. I have designed the festival to act on its own to become self reliant and make money, not to just hide it, but to make a living at it, and enjoy what we are doing while we do it. Each part of my festival will begin to out reach into areas that will generate funding into itself. This way I can run my company that way it should and make money like a real business festival should.

How do you see the audience for African movies and culture? Is it changing/evolving?

Yes and no. In the beginning African films were made because someone had a cargo full of blank video cassettes, and instead of just trying to sell them like that, this person picked up a camcorder and started filming stories of his family, and from there, African films have become some of the most watched in the world.

Five to seven years ago, filmmakers in Nigeria and Ghana were shooting a film for like US$10,000 US and it took 1-2 weeks to make, and now they shoot films on average for like $70,000-$100,000 and take 3-4 weeks, because actors have become more popular, and cost more, and things get more and more expensive when they know you are shooting a film. And now we have Lancelot [Imasuen]’s new film [Invasion 1897] taking over three years to make and over US$1 million to finish.

Ultimately, where would you like to see the festival go and what would you like to see it become?

The goal I have set out for the festival is to become a mecca festival that not only celebrates the art and culture of Africa, but its people internationally, and doing it in all aspects such as bringing the different African communities together and showcasing the richness that is Africa. Bring a little piece of home, and show Canada, and the world, what is Africa.

Too many times we mostly hear about child labour, slavery, conflict diamonds, religious battles and in-fighting. Too long we have looked at this without looking at the rich culture, and the impact that the people of Africa have had on the world. Too long we look at Africa as a visual punching bag and I think we need to look deeper than that.

For more information on the Toronto African Film & Music Festival, check out their website. The 2014 edition of TAFMF runs from August 27 to 31, with the selected films screening at Toronto’s Royal Cinema.