Interview with Film Festival Director Emmanuel Anyiam-Osigwe (British Urban Film Festival)

BUFF wants to change the face of British film. They want it to reflect all of us, not just some of us. They have made great strides in the right direction for over a decade. There’s no reason why that shouldn’t continue for a decade more. Across the film & TV industry, Britain’s filmmakers are much less diverse than Britain itself. And that can sometimes mean it’s much more of an effort to make films and TV programmes diverse, because they have to make an effort. This, in turn, is understandable.

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Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Emmanuel Anyiam-Osigwe: In the last few years, over 20 filmmakers have won an award through having their work showcased by the festival. Also, since 2012, over 20 festival films have been acquired for broadcast on Channel 4, BBC i-player, Community Channel and London Live.

What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2017)?

We’re only as good as our last festival and so for this year we have really pushed the boat out for filmmakers and audiences in general. For the first time ever, BUFF will be in attendance at Cannes to announce details about this year’s film festival and awards. Once again, the festival will run for a whole week in Central London in September. In terms of what to expect experience wise – we are planning the most audacious and memorable experience yet.

What are the qualifications for the selected films?

We don’t have specific qualifications for the films which get selected for the festival. When i’m asked what an urban film is, my response remains the same: it’s whatever you perceive the word ‘urban’ to be. It’s important that writers and directors retain the one power that they have over all of us – telling us a story that we’ll give a damn about – and not the other way round.

Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

It depends on what you mean by fair shake. For a film festival like BUFF, the main work starts after the premiere as we believe in extending the commercial and PR shelf life for a film for as long as possible. It’s the primary reason why we established the BUFF Awards to provide further incentive for filmmakers to enter their films into our festival.

What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

For as long as I can remember, I have always cared about how I am represented. This is moreso in an industry which is rapidly having to deal with such an existential issue as diversity. Films are the lifeblood for any festival and with each passing year, me and my team, along with our esteemed patrons are able to see firsthand just how passionate other people are about diversity and representation. We have a duty to serve these filmmakers and audiences in general.

How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

We offer great value for money therefore we’re not surprised by the phenomenal response from filmmakers and scriptwriters since submissions opened last November, moreso than ever before. We have also seen a greater number of countries enter submissions to our festival. It is heartening to know that our brand of diversity is universally acknowledged in places like Canada, Germany, Russia, Australia, Israel and Taiwan.

Where do you see the festival by 2020?

As the leading film festival for diversity in the world, we would like to take our brand of diversity to other countries. From a national perspective, there’s work to be done across the UK also and this will become one of our key objectives by the time we host what would be our 15th annual festival and 5th annual awards.

What film have you seen the most times in your life?

I could give you 10 as it’s a close run thing. Men In Black.

In one sentence, what makes a great film?

Attention to detail, on-screen chemistry, psychologically tortured characters.

How is the film scene in your city?

I am passionate about my city as a home for creative talent to firmly establish themselves. London is home to the UK’s biggest film and TV companies and there’s a wide variety of film festivals for audiences to attend. Its’ iconic locations are the envy of the world and continues to attract film studios and production companies from far and wide.
 

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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