INTERVIEW: Gospel Film Festival started out of passion for gospel films in Nigeria- Olaitan Faranpojo

Gospel Film Festival Also Known As GoFestival which started about ten years ago has been of great benefit and impact to the Gospel Films sector in Nigeria. GoFestival which has celebrated the Christian side of Nollywood will be celebrating her 10th anniversary from 5th to 8th of June this year. In an exclusive interview with Gospel Film News publisher, Oluwafemi Dosu, the Festival Director, Evangelist Olaitan Faranpojo disclosed how the festival started and what brought about the idea of the festival. He further revealed the lineup of activities for the anniversary and future projection of the festival. Excerpt:

GOSPEL FILM FESTIVAL IS TEN YEARS NOW, CAN YOU TELL US HOW THE JOURNEY HAS BEEN?

The journey has been a blessing because God has always been with us. We’ve seen every year as a success and God answered our prayers anytime we step out to arrange the festival. How it has been, it’s been nice, it’s been great. We’ve seen a lot of improvement in our movies; we’ve seen leaders being made, seen young actors become directors, seen aspiring ministers becoming productive in the Christian film industry. God has been very good to us and we’ve seen a lot of quality production.

I’ve met a lot of people who said it’s because they came to the festival in a particular year that was what inspired them. In fact, I met a cinematographer that told me that because of GoFestival producers now listen to them: when they say they need this, producers run up and down to get it. I’ve also met a producer who told me he doesn’t pay attention to costumes and props before until we started giving awards. We also have situation whereby we see that an Editor and a Visual Effect person were fighting on who owns the award because the Editor said he edited the film, the Visual Effect person said he was the visual Effect person. We’ve heard a lot of stories and we laughed.
We give glory to God for everything. We’ve also seen people who ventured into other areas of production; seen people venture into documentaries, Television Production in terms of forming content and the likes. I don’t want to say it’s tough because life itself is tough. God has said he would be with us and we enjoyed that grace.

WHAT ACTUALLY GAVE BITH TO GOSPEL FILM FESTIVAL?

I was the Assistant Director for Lagos International Film Festival for so many years, each time we request for entries, I realize that there is no entries from the Christian circle. So, the president of the Festival went for a festival in Abuja and he met uncle Mike Bamiloye, I think Fidelis Duka gave Evangelist Mike Bamiloye an award, so, the festival LIFF president now called me and said, I think we should consider this aspect of filming in this year’s festival and ask what do I think and I said yes, there are lot of them making movies that we can organize a Fora and see what they are doing that it’s an emerging industry. In fact, funny enough I only Mount Zion and the likes on TV, I never met them. I didn’t even know that there are so many ministries. I didn’t even know that they have a lot of movie like that. So, I now approached them, that was when they did is it ‘Esin Ajoji’ or so.

I collected films from Elvon Jarett, Toyin Esho, I just researched and got some films and we screened them. So when I was screening because I was also part of the coordinating team for the jury, as the assistant coordinator I also coordinate the entire department.  I now thought that this is an opportunity, I was planning to work on a documentary then and said let me do a documentary on this industry to lambast them, to make them see that they are doing rubbish, so by the time I show the documentary in a bigger forum people will be laughing at them, making jest of them and all those things, not knowing that God was planning to hijack me for this stuff.

The first thing I did was to enroll for the Mount Zion Institute. You know you have to be their friends when you want to do documentary to know what it is all about. I now started with uncle Mike Bamiloye, and working with the wife, talking to them, meeting different kind of people, interviewing them and now realized that these people are good people, they are intelligent, they are fantastic. I now said what actually is the problem. I went to ANCEDRAM, travelled to Minna at that time; ANCEDRAM was very interesting and so on.

I can’t forget the trip to Minna, we were like six that went to Minna: I just called friends asking them if they want to go to Minna. Thanks to Kamaja then, he was very accommodating, monitored me that I make sure I was at Minna. We did everything; I met everybody and I realized that they have good spirit, good intention. So, I started working on documentaries, interviewing people and as I was doing the documentary (I told you I went to Mount Zion Institute and understand what the ministry is all about) I now realized that the industry stand better chance but I think everything they’ve done are raw materials, they are an industry, a Christian Community, a industry on its own. So, the issue had always been comparing an industry with another industry. You can’t compare a fast food with a textile industry, they are different ideology, different thinking. I now realized that even they are not seeing themselves as an industry, even till now because some of them still don’t understand the peculiarity of that industry. So, i thought of what can we do, I started praying and I thought of organizing a seminar but the seminar will be tailored towards Olaitan Faranpojo want to organize a seminar for them, he wants to become a superstar, how old is he, when did he join us what gave him the audacity to want to say he want to train us.

I now said God what can we do, that was how God just dropped the idea of festival to us, to organize a festival and call it that festival. To God be the glory it has helped. I gave myself a target that this industry we are going to work tirelessly, to train and empower the Christian filmmakers, expose them to what they should be and what they are. The first three years we have target that we are going to bring people from outside since this thing is not rocket science, if you plan, do things right you are going to get it right. So, that was how the idea came up and we started the Gospel Film Festival, it’s like Go to the world and preach the gospel.

HAS THERE BEEN ANYTIME YOU FEEL LIKE GIVING UP ON THE FESTIVAL?

We’ve given up so many times. I personally have given up so many times, anytime we are approaching another year and people say how is Gofestival, I say God I wish that June will be moved forward but thanks for the encouragement, prayers. In fact, there was a time Sister Gloria Bamiloye called me and said, Bro. Olaitan we are praying for you and I was like you mean you are praying for the festival (laughs) and she said yes we are praying for the festival and I said that festival must be very important and another year, without inviting Evangelist Shola Mike Agboola he just showed up, I said what is this man looking for at this festival and he said he came for the festival and I was surprised, so, all those things encourages us and every year we see him, and each time we see him we know God is with us. We also see Evangelist Mike Bamiloye every year with his family and when they come he makes sure everybody register.

There was a year that Damilola did not register, he chased him out to go and register. It was very interesting and I was like God is so good to us. We’ve dropped off so many times but you when God is with you; he has sent people that will always be there to wake you up anytime you are asleep. In fact, when Evang. Bamilioye discuss with me on the festival I will be like who owns the vision because of the way he always talk passionately about the festival.

THERE WAS A PARTICULAR YEAR THAT THE FESTIVAL DID NOT HOLD AT ALL WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED?

You can see the reflection this year that there is a debate about if its ten years or tenth edition. The year that the festival did not hold was due to funding and some other issues because it was really tough. By the time we finished we were on debt, we need to pay some bills and the months are really counting and another one has entered, so we just decided to take it easy. We have been 10 years of vision but this is actually the 9th edition of the festival. According to the vision it is ten years.

WHAT IS THE LINE UP OF EVENT FOR THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY?

Like I told you that the issue of fund has always been there. We don’t really have any line up of event, what is lineup for us is that we want people to make movies that will glorify the name of God. Movies that people will say that it’s a gospel film made by this same called ANCEDRAM, that’s our dream.

Nothing serious but the point is every year is a special year to us, so we are not saying this is 10TH year because God has been very helpful to us. We are making our jury more robust, we are also giving some people awards, last year we did that too, we are presenting award to some notable people that have done well in the industry like Kay Technical; he’s going to be 25 years in the industry and a lot of people did not know that he started the so called Science Fiction then in Asiri Ireti and the likes. I met him that time and we discussed. A lot of people don’t really know the potential that he has. He also started the screening of Christian films in cinema. The issue raised that can you take your movies to the cinema, he took his movies to cinema that people pay to watch, so it’s not a debate if a Christian film had made money at the cinema or not. He had spearheaded a lot and he shot Mount Zion films; films that actually made them. So we will be picking notable people like that every year.

We also want to improve on capacity building, it is important to us, how to empower various departments to know what to do because if various departments don’t know what to do even if the producer has money it is a waste of resources, so those are the things that we’ve lined up by the glory of God and we believe that people will be blessed.

WHAT IS THE FUTURE PROJECTION OF GOFESTIVAL?

Future projection for the festival is that we want to mid wife because Gofestival is a platform. We want to see people doing great things, great movies, we want to see fantastic collaboration, we want to see great result in terms of production, we want to see landmark achievement in Nigeria, like the whole of Redeemed, Winners doing a collaboration movie together; a huge budget movie like we used to hear like 50 billion, 100 billion, collaborating with Hollywood, of course Nigeria is the heart of film making in Africa, so we want a situation whereby we will make a film and it will be a reference point all other African countries just like Fire Proof, War Room and the like, that’s what we want to see.

It’s not about revenue but it’s about exhibiting that professionalism, I believe we can do it, I’m so sure that we can do it. I tell my friends that if God blesses me today, if I have any fund I will make a gospel film because I believe they are good actors, good hands all we just need to do is to organize ourselves and just get serious.

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