With robust fanfare, razzmatazz and celebratory details that were second to none, ace movie producer, Kunle Afolayan blazed the trail again on Wednesday June 1, 2016 with a unique sky experience and perhaps the first-of-its-kind in Africa, as passengers joined the cast and crew and other celebrities to enjoy first-hand, the in-flight screening cum premiere of his latest film, The CEO, aboard Air France flight AF149 en-route Paris.
It all started with a red carpet at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport’s departure arena, where stars of the movie that converged from different parts of Africa, alighted from the elegant Peugeot 508 and walked into scores of camera flashes and waiting microphones.
Guests were shuttled from 6pm from the designated open field close to the airport car park; a section clearly marked ‘Peugeot Pick-up Point.’ While other airlines’ passengers might have been curious at the convergence of the army of stars and enormous branding of the airport area for the occasion, those flying Air France that night seemed to have fore knowledge of their participation in the historic premiere on the spectacular Airbus A340-300.
The passengers that had earlier checked in their luggage preceded by the usual immigration/customs procedures towards a pre-boarding cocktail, hobnobbing, photo-session and music from a standby Nigerian disc jockey.
During the flight, Afolayan, a brand ambassador of Air France, took the microphone to announce to all that it was time for them to see his movie, taking them through the screen’s navigation where the film was scheduled under World Class movie.
After the 105-minutes movie, the filmmaker also conducted the curtain call by taking cast and crew and Air France officials round each cabin where he introduced them to the passengers, some of who asked questions and gave commendations about the movie. An after party followed this at the in-flight lounge with more to eat and drink, until the plane’s descent into Charles De Gaulle International Airport, Thursday morning.
The second leg of what could be described as Kunle Afolayan’s moments of glory happened at the Cinema L’Arlequin, 76 rue de Rennes, Paris where The CEO opened the fourth edition of the fast-rising Nollywood Week Film Festival, which started on Thursday evening. It was an unprecedented crowd of French film enthusiasts at the cinema who apparently enjoyed one of the best offerings from Nigeria. More so, the crowd connected so well with the film, which not only has French-speaking actors, but which was also fully sub-titled in French. Interestingly, news of The CEO was all over the media in France.
The cast who graced the event include Grammy award-winning singer, songwriter and entertainer from Benin Republic, Angélique Kidjo; Haitan actor and model Jimmy Jean-Louis; consummate actor, Wale Ojo; French-Ivorian actress and model, Aurelie Eliam; South African actor and presenter, Nicolaos Panagioto-poulos; Nigerian actress, Kemi Lala Akindoju; Moroccan star, Fatim Layachi as well as Nigerian singer, Adekunle Gold, who performed one of his hits in the film.
Other celebrities who attended the festival include Odunlade Adekola, Muyiwa Ademola, OC Ukeje, Adesua Etomi, Linda Ejiofor, Ijeoma Grace Agu, Ramsey Nouah, Ali Baba, Lola Maja and Kehinde Bankole.
Nollywood Week Film Festival Paris is an exclusive showcase of Nigerian movies to French audience and distributors. It is organised as an annual event by Okada Media, headed by France-based Serge Noukoué and Nadira Shakur.
“What is happening tonight has never happened before anywhere in the world,” Afolayan said of the in-flight premiere. “We decided to come up with this initiative to show the world that Africans are innovative, and that Nigerians are special people.”
He noted that The CEO is an experiment carried out in the hope that the film will cut across all African countries as a pan-African movie.
“The CEO is an experiment to develop value for African cinema. It is something that I am very passionate about. This all started as a kid, every time I see the pictures of my father and his contemporaries at film festivals. It became a concern, as I have not seen any film from neighbouring African countries brought to Nigeria for screening; hence there is a gap among African countries.
“The CEO is an experiment that I hope will do the magic. The original cast was Nigeria, Togo, Ghana and one Francophone. But after my trip to Egypt, it became an eye opener after meeting with colleagues, where we had a co-production meeting.” Continuing, Afolayan said; “With close to 500 cinemas in South Africa, if my films could screen in 200 cinemas, it would be great, as this is what cinema distribution can do to the success of a filmmaker. If we can lock down Africa, then we do not need Hollywood.”
The CEO tells the story of Trans Wire Communications, a global phone network with major operations in Nigeria. The CEO has retired and the global chairman decides to send five nominees among his most senior level staff across Africa on a leadership course in order to determine which one to appoint as the new CEO in Nigeria.
All five arrive from their respective destinations and check into the beach resort where the course is holding. Although, they all appear cordial and chummy with each other, they all know what is at stake – they each desperately want the CEO’s chair. And to this purpose, they attempt to covertly outdo one another throughout the duration of the course.