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Ewoma Luther-Abegunde: “Christian Filmmakers Need To Go Beyond YouTube And Church.”

Ebony Life Cinema, Lagos, to host the 2023 Kingdom Film Festival on Nov. 29 and 30.
August 1, 2023
2:00 pm

Before the digital revolution, Christian movies of yore resided in disks on the shelves of Christian bookstores. These films held a sacred place in the hearts of their viewers and were screened on special occasions in churches, fostering a strong sense of community and shared spiritual experiences.


However, as technology advanced, the film industry underwent a transformation that reshaped how audiences consumed movies. With the advent of better cinema houses, streaming platforms, and the rise of YouTube, the distribution landscape changed dramatically. This shift, while offering convenience and accessibility, has resulted in an unintended consequence: Christian movies are increasingly confined to the online realm, with little representation in traditional cinemas and mainstream streaming platforms.


With cinema houses focusing on mainstream blockbusters and streaming platforms catering to diverse genres, the market for Christian movies has narrowed significantly. The consequence is evident: finding a Christian movie in theaters is now a rarity, while mainstream streaming platforms offer no avenue for their exhibition. This limited exposure has led to a lack of diverse storytelling and lesser opportunities for talented Christian filmmakers to share their inspiring works with the world, especially in Nigeria. The Kingdom Film Festival attempts to correct this.


At its core, the Kingdom Film Festival stands as a beacon of hope and encouragement for Christian creatives and filmmakers. It serves as a much-needed voice for those whose stories, rooted in faith and inspiration, often struggle to find their way into the mainstream movie industry. The festival celebrates the diversity of these filmmakers’ works, providing them with a chance to showcase their creativity, talent, and dedication to the world.


Ewoma Luther-Abegunde, the founder of the festival, envisions a world where Christian movies transcend the limitations of traditional platforms. It is on this vision that she founded the Kingdom Film Festival. By hosting the Kingdom Film Festival, she aims to highlight the artistic brilliance of Christian filmmakers and inspire them to reach new heights in storytelling. The festival is a year old and is set for its 2023 edition on November 29 and 30 in Ebony Life Cinema, Lagos.


Ewoma Luther-Abegunde

TNR: Tell us a bit about you, your work in the film space.

ELA: I’m a marketing executive. I’ve been in the film industry for over a decade. I’ve been in the distribution and marketing aspects of film production. I have a background in film making. I went to the National Film Institute, where I studied production, script writing and editing.


From the National Film Institute, Jos, I came down to Lagos, I did Creative Arts at the University of Lagos. And in the course of these years of working in the film industry, I’ve also had to attend courses related to film marketing, production, and business courses.


In the course of my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work on movies such as the “Fast and Furious” franchise. I’ve also worked with Hollywood producers like Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures and Paramount Pictures. I have worked on blockbusters like James Bond, “Transformers.” Animations like “Smurfs and Angry Birds.” I had the opportunity to be part of the marketing and driving force for those movies.


Coming down to Nollywood, I worked on AY’s “30 Days in Atlanta” and Kunle Afolayan’s “The CEO” that had its premiere on Air France flight 149. It’s been an interesting journey. Basically, just working with filmmakers, both locally and internationally.



What a resume you’ve got there. The Kingdom Festival is a very “Christian” name and obviously suggests that it’s geared towards Christianity. What’s the story behind the concept?

So, in the course of all my years working as a film distributor and marketing executive in the film creative space, there are basically like two major faith-based movies that I worked with. A movie like “War Room,” that was a Sony production, and the Nollywood movie, “God Calling.” But yeah, you know, so I had the opportunity to work on those movies in terms of creating the marketing plans, and the promotions for them. And those are like the two faith-based movies that I’ve done in a span of all the years I’ve worked in this space.


And so, I realized that the film industry is quite large with different genres and there was nothing for faith-based people. And because I’m a faith-based person, I just saw that that space was not in the market space. So many festivals, awards, and outlets out there but there was really nothing for our faith-based creatives. There was really nothing for faith-based movie makers. And so, the name Kingdom Film Festival, as a festival for Christian filmmakers and creatives, came about.


When you say that space was not in the market, that means the Kingdom Film Festival wants to put Christian filmmakers in the market. How do you intend to realize that knowing that Christian filmmaking is not exactly mainstream?

Basically, this is a call. An awakening to the filmmakers that there is so much more we can do with the power of visualization and storytelling. Beyond just having our stories showcased on YouTube or at the churches, we need to begin to tell stories that are engaging culture, we need to begin to tell stories that you know people would be willing to pay for to go see at the cinema. We need to go beyond YouTube and church. We need to begin to create stories that you know, you’re preaching the gospel, you’re talking about God, but at the same time, it is done excellently and creatively.


One of the unique themes at the festival is a gathering for Christian filmmakers, wherein we talk about how we position ourselves in this ecosystem. How do we tell stories that people would, you know, were willing to pay for to see at the cinema?


We started the festival in 2022, and it was hosted by Silverbird cinema, and we had a turnout of Christian creatives who were seeing for the first time that there was a platform like this for them.


The excitement and the joy in the faces of those creatives was humbling, and the turnout was really encouraging. We had panel discussions. Discussions on content creations, budgeting and financing of production. We had people like Shawn Faqua, Doris Ariole, Femi Odugbemi, Bukola Ogunsola, Laju Iren, Damilola Bamiloye, Jay Bamiloye, Nodash and others come around. The Bamiloye’s premiered their movie, “30 Pieces” at the Festival.


Would you say Christian filmmakers are recognized as Nollywood seeing that there’s no category for them in the AMVCAs?

Yes. They recognize as Nollywood. You see, it’s hard to effect changes in something you were not a part of. Different sects in society have their agendas working out for them whether they’re recognized or not. Even the LGBTQ are championing their agenda.


Kingdom Film Festival is championing the agenda for Christian creatives to begin to tell stories that are not only meant for the church. Having this idea in mind will result in more global recognition. I’ll go scriptural now. The bible said, “Go ye into the world and make disciples of all nations”. What am I saying? We need to begin to make movies that the non-believer will look at and want to check it out because of the quality that is put into the storytelling, cinematography, and sound.


With the Kingdom Film Festival, we are encouraging Christian Filmmakers to begin to bring their movies into the cinema, not just showing it on YouTube. We need to bring Christian movies into the cinema market.


Nonetheless, we do recognize that there are Christians that have been called to be in the marketplace, others have been called to the church. However, we need more people in the marketplace though.


You’re really making a point about going to the cinema. I like that. What do you have to say about Christian filmmakers casting only “Christian” actors? Casting the “popular” faces seems to increase box office sales if Christian filmmakers were to capitalize on cinema.

The cast is also one of the strengths of a movie that sells a movie. Yes, I totally agree with you. There are the categories of Christian filmmakers that are willing to be daring enough to step into the mainstream and want to collaborate and make use of people that are well known and popular. That’s one category.


Now, there are the categories that are not daring enough or comfortable enough to cast actors that are not “born again”. Yeah, so my duty is working with both arms. Do they want to make use of the cast that are within the church? That is fine. Do they want to engage with culture and be in the mainstream? Fine, too.


I attended the African Indigenous Language Film Festival two weeks back. It was the first one that they had. They were promoting indigenous language films. So that is a market for films in Ibibio, Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, name it. And the audience for that market would go see those kinds of movies.


So, my duty is not to fight those that want to use the church. Our duty is to find the balance for both ends. And, at the same time, whether you’re using people that are in the mainstream, whatever you do, let it be an excellent production, engaging culture, while also preaching to show that you’re representing Christ well.


Participant registering at a previous Kingdom Festival

Do you think there’s a market for Christian movies on streaming platforms like Netflix and Prime video?

My darling, there is. We don’t have to compromise to fit in. So long as the movie ticks all the boxes and standards of an ideal blockbuster movie, what are we saying again? We’re going to push it to as many streaming platforms that are willing to bank on us. Do you understand? They cannot reject you so long as your work is top-notch.


What different thing are you bringing to the festival this year that wasn’t available last year?

We are partnering with Ebony Life. Ebony Life Creative Academy to be precise. So, with this year, we’ve opened it up a bit more. We’ll be having the smartphone film competition. And we’re also going to have the short film competition. And the interesting thing is that the winners would get admission into the Ebony Life Creative Academy for 2024. There will be other prizes we’re yet to reveal.


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