The inaugural Edo State International Film Festival (ESIFF), which attracted participants from over 94 nations around the world, came to an end over the weekend with Mr. Godwin Obaseki, the governor of Edo State, presenting cash prizes totaling more than $50,000 to winners in various categories.
Obaseki advocated for expanded private sector participation during the four-day film festival's closing ceremony in Benin City in order to maintain the yearly event and the advancements made through reforms to expand the state's creative economy.
The production titled "Onaiwu," which was directed by Joseph Okhomina, who also took home the festival's best director prize, received the governor's award of $10,000 for the best overall picture.
The "Battle of the West" won for best use of technology, "Zara" won for best cellphone film, and "the Funeral" won for best student film. Each winner received a monetary prize of $2,000.00.
"On this mountain" won the award for best indigenous language film, which is intended to encourage the use of indigenous languages in filmmaking. "Omoatama" won the award for best film shot in Edo state, and each category winner received a $5,000 cash reward.
Winners of the rural photography award also went home with N375, 000. Other winners are Best Director, Joseph Okhomina (Onaiwu); Best Actor (female), Victory Idahosa (Onaiwu); Best Actor (male), Ben Olaye (Onaiwu); Best Short Film, Tare: Best Documentary, Palm for Crude; Best Film Costume, Osayi Blessing (Onaiwu); Best Filmmaker, Ramon Abdulazeez and Best Cinematography, After a while (Egypt).
The governor, while expressing his satisfaction with the success of the festival said, “Edo people are perhaps the most creative people on the black continent.”
Obaseki noted, “Our history is there to show that we have created masterpieces in terms of arts throughout the centuries. Our people are the most creative Africans that have existed. The talents that we are celebrating here today come from a long line and strong heritage of creativity and heritage. Tonight, we are celebrating our best at the maiden Edo State International Film Festival.
“After today, the dates for next year’s festival will be announced. We are here to give out the award to the best overall film. I am sure the work and time that went into producing this film is worth more than what we are giving as a prize. This prize is just a token of our appreciation for the work put into telling our stories by utilizing our God-given talent.”
Noting that Edo people have thrived through their creativity in music and films and the capacity to preach the word of God to the rest of the world, Obaseki added, “We are successful in these two areas because of limited government intervention and involvement in your affairs, enabling you to express yourselves and sell your talent to the whole world.
“In our future film festival, you will witness the government pulling back and you’re doing more for yourself. We will continue to support you but will allow the industry to take over as the government does not have the talent to do what you are doing.”
Head of festival jury, Prof. Osakue Omoera, while hailing the governor for the initiative, noted that the jury screened over 2,000 films from 94 countries.
Omoera advised, “We urge and encourage practitioners in the industry to up their games technically and in terms of storytelling. There is also the need to raise the bar in technical competency in the areas of production design, script play and sound design, amongst others.
“We encourage practitioners to avail themselves of the existing training programmes by the government and apply what has been taught to enable quality films emerging from Edo State.”