May 8, 2017

TAFF premieres a brand new trophy inspired by the World Cup

The brand new trophy was inspired by TAFF Executive Director's love for sports.
The African Film Festival is at its second inception this year. There will be at least 25 countries participating and 40 forty films according to the festival’s executive director, Mr. Kelechi Eke. Planning a film festival in not without it’s unique challenges, even more so, planning a festival that uniquely caters to films made by African independent filmmakers or filmmakers of the African decent. Be it as it may, Mr. Eke is beating the odds. Response has been outstanding across the continent of Africa as well as the USA, Europe and Australia. The film festival is now attracting the likes of Academy Award nominee Angela Bassett who Executive produced and narrated a film to be screened during the closing night on July 3, 2017 at Dallas City Performance Hall (DCPH). Oscar caliber films have also been selected to be screened during the festival. African Film Legend, Richard Mofe Damijo is slated to host this years festival awards gala.

The highlight of this year’s festival is the brand new trophy that filmmakers will covet, inspired by Mr. Eke’s love for soccer. The golden masterpiece is born out of the need to inspire African independent filmmakers to continue pursue cinematic excellence. To demonstrate just how they are doing that, award categories include “Best Poster” and “Best Trailer” to encourage putting more thought to the overall finished work. TAFF has opened a world stage for quality African films and now, the world is watching. In a recent interview, Mr. Eke shed some light on the making of the new trophy and what’s in store for this year’s festival.
Academy Award nominee and Golden Globe Winner Angela Bassett's film Remand will screen on the closing night on July 3, 2017 at DCPH, Dallas Texas.

The African Film Festival is gaining momentum this year, how do you feel about that?
Great. Feels good. The excitement, the anticipation by filmmakers and film lovers is quite encouraging. All the work that we put in last year is paying off going into the second year—the quality of films, the caliber of filmmakers that we’re able to attract this year, makes it even more exciting.

This year, you have a brand new trophy, what’s the inspiration behind it?
Well, the direction we’re going with TAFF is to make it one of the biggest, (pure) African film festivals in the United States and in that effort, what comes to mind as the biggest and the best, as a sports aficionado is the World Cup or the Super Bowl. I dubbed the trophy as the World Cup of African films. As a soccer player, what really inspired that trophy is looking at the World Cup itself, I spent quite some time, lots of nights thinking of how to bring out Africa and film at the same time in that trophy, you know—like the World Cup. I was able to do that with a film strip at the base of the cup, then springing out the map of Africa. It was quite a unique concept. Finally, when the vision came to me, I drew it out back and forth with the manufacturers to make sure they got my design exactly as I envisioned it. After 2 months of trial and error, they got it right and once they got it I said “Yes, this is it. This is what I designed, this is what I was looking for” and you know, something to encourage filmmakers to work hard and anticipate lifting one of those trophies. That’s really the inspiration. 

Did you experience any challenges in the making of this year’s trophy?
One of the challenges is actually accepting the weight of the trophy, as the winners will find out. It’s weight is just like a dumbbell, you know, but Africans are strong and picking up a 5kg dumbbell wouldn’t be a big deal to them and of course when they’re holding on to it, they feel like they’re holding something. But, 5kg is roughly 10 pounds. It was kind of a challenge on whether to reduce the size or leave it as is. Its about 14 inches tall, so a little over a foot, you know, so it’s something that you wouldn’t put in your back pocket and move on. Once [filmmakers] fly into Dallas and take that trophy across the airport, everybody that sees them will stop and say “hey where did you get that trophy?” That was part of the motivation and will be, for the filmmakers to feel the same way and carry that good-sized trophy home. The challenge was the size decision and I don’t think I want to make it any smaller than it is.

Amazing story! So, what has been the response to this new trophy?
Overwhelmingly great, and I welcome constructive criticism but I’ve had none. A poll out of a thousand people and one hundred percent responded with two thumbs up. All the feedback has been positive, everybody is excited to see it. It was pretty much the same design as last year, but the difference was trying to bring out the cultural African roots, we actually had a sculptor carve each of those trophies by hand so those were pretty unique. This time around, in manufacturing this design, people actually said that we’ve upped our game, that’s the best film trophy that they’ve ever seen and that’s actually what I want out of it. So, it’s not about the trophy, it’s just one of the motivating factors for filmmakers to want to win one and when I heard one of the seasoned filmmakers actually make that comment that “hey, this trophy will motivate me to want to make a good film to get one” I said “yes, that’s exactly the purpose of this trophy.”


Very interesting. We can’t all wait to see who takes this trophy home this year. So tell me, what are the plans for this year’s festival, do you have any special guests or events?
Yes, we have a special guest, Richard Mofe Damijo will be hosting the show and we have filmmakers such as Lancelot Imasuen coming, and quite a few filmmakers from across the globe: Ghana. Gambia, Senegal, South Africa, Nigeria etc. There are American filmmakers as well that are making African films that will be in the house. We have a couple of them here in Dallas, the makers of Cornerstone, for example with be here. The makers of Massai: 10th Tribe of Israel, a Kenyan story plan to be here. They are all Americans telling African stories, so we call them African filmmakers (laughs), so they’ll be here. There’s so much diversity, we have films from the Cape coast, South Africa to Cairo, Egypt. We have films from Senegal all the way to the horn of Africa—Tanzania. So, it cuts across the continent and that’s exactly our mission—to bring these films together and unite people and bridge cultures. It’s exciting, it’s hard to pinpoint any one of the filmmakers without mentioning the others because all of them are equally important to the organization. So we look forward to having a great time with those that finally get to make it.  

Any special events?
For the first time in film festivals history (I can boldly claim), instead of a workshop this year, we will actually do practical workshop to shoot a film. So, we’re looking forward to that from June 24th, before the festival opens to the general public on June 30th, we will be shooting a short film called “4” and “4” is only four minutes, and it dubs the question “what will you do if the world where to end in four minutes?” So, we’ll be carrying out an audition for that starting May 20th, that’s exactly 2 weeks from today and then on June 24th, we will shoot the short film leading to the festival. The short film covers our networking, seminars, workshop where seasoned filmmakers will be there early to actually guide budding filmmakers to accomplish this task and if we’re able to do that, that would be quite a feat. Now we’re taking it from just film screenings to practical filmmaking, so it’s a revolutionary effort in our second year, a great vision and we’re looking forward to pulling it off.

This is all amazing! And, I have say that now I can’t wait for this festival, we’re all anticipating it at this point. So how can one purchase tickets to this year’s festival?
The tickets are available at Ticket DFW. It is also available on our website. Another exciting thing coming up on the closing night is the showing of Remand, a short film executive produced and narrated by Academy Award nominee and Golden Globe winner Angela Bassett. We’re hoping she can join us on the closing night to kind of see people’s excitement or reaction on the film the she was part of. That’s how far we’ve gone, when we’re getting the attention of the likes of Angela Bassett whom we all respect in the film world, it says a lot about the direction of where The African Film Festival is going. We’re quite excited.

And we are excited for you! We’re proud of what you’ve accomplished and we say keep it up! We look forward to what unfolds int he near future.
Thank you.


The African Film Festival is slated for June 30-July 3 2017. Don’t miss it. Get your tickets now.
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