By Cormeshia Carson Batty, The Dallas Weekly
Dallas Software Engineer, Kelechi Eke, has made a solid imprint in the African Film Industry with roles spanning from writer, director, producer, and star. With less than ten years in the industry he has also created an African Film production company and founded The African Film Festival.
His latest business venture, Rootflix is a unique movie streaming platform revolutionizing the distribution process for budding filmmakers, allowing fans and critics access to film festival-quality films from around the world.
Eke moved to Dallas from Nigeria and studied computer science and mathematics at East Texas Baptist University. He went on to graduate from the University of Texas at Dallas, where he attained a double Masters in Science Information Technology and Masters of Business Administration. He’s currently a family man with twenty -plus years of experience as a Computer Engineer.
Despite having a full plate of responsibilities, Eke dove into the film industry in 2011 establishing a production agency, BiGObi Productions and debuting his first film, “Lost In Abroad,” in Dallas, TX at the Majestic theater to an audience of more than 750. He has since produced, written, directed, or starred in more than ten films. He’s an award-winning producer whose films can be found at several ivy league universities including Harvard, Yale and Texas A&M.
“I have a lot of passion for film and storytelling. I’m from Nigeria. Storytelling is part of our culture. We grew up with it and that’s the foundation behind my filmmaking,” he said and also explained that, “Distribution has been a major issue for filmmakers, especially budding filmmakers. A lot of them make good films [and have] quality work both here in the United States and back home in Africa,” he said.
“Being a festival owner, I see a lot of great films that come to our festival that after each festival people that miss it,” he explained, “I said, ok, something has to be done, at least for my side. So, I’d like to start building that platform.”
The African Film Industry is also known as Nollywood (Nigerian Cinema). The colloquialism was first used in the early 2000’s, and, according to Forbes, had surpassed the once popular Bollywood (Hindi Cinema) by 2011, making it the second largest in the world. However, there were still distribution issues for novice and budding filmmakers.
In 2015, Eke founded, and is now the Executive Director of, The African Film Festival (TAFF). TAFF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization created to give back to the African Independent film community. It was made to “bridge cultures through films” by inviting a diverse audience to celebrate some of the best films about continental Africa. Once a film is qualified, TAFF requires the film to go through a judging process.
Eke began building Rootflix and in just under two years of development, it was launched. “I have a 9 to 5, I have a job and I also fun the African film festival. I’ve had a lot on my plate. It took a lot of effort and it took a lot of discipline to be consistent and doing it as a part time business,” he said.
“We saw the opportunity [and] that there are great films out there that don’t make it to Netflix. Rootflix holds a number of film festivals globally. Just imagine the festivals catching on that, Rootflix is becoming this collection of various films from various film festivals, the potential that it has. The vision is huge. We expect it to grow tremendously in five years.”
Rootflix requires festival standard films, and, unlike TAFF, does not require the films to be written about Africa or by a person of African decent.
“Rootflix is open, broad, it’s culture. Really anybody can put their film on Rootflix, it’s not limited,” Eke says. Thus providing budding filmmakers who make quality films an opportunity to showcase their work,” he said, then explained that,“This really will help us solve that [distribution] issue whereby we can now select more films, quality films and have online screening.
The opportunity there is unlimited, and then Rootflix, of course, when you look at it resonates with the motherland and then the culture focus of the films and, of course, for filmmakers, regardless of their background or origin, they can look back to their roots. Majority of the films are from the motherland and so forth, so there was really a lot of thought that went into calling it Rootflix.”
This year, 2019, TAFF will host the official launch of Rootflix and introduce it to the world. TAFF will also incorporate movie screenings on the Rootflix platform. Film fanatics and makers will no long miss out on films they have anxiously awaited to see due to previously viewing the trailer or miss films that are cut from the lineup do to time constraints. Eks has a goal to release an exclusive Rootflix series at the end of 2019.
Rootflix is available for online streaming with a monthly subscription of $5. Filmmakers, email firstname.lastname@example.org for submissions.