The last two days of the Africa International Film Festival have been what I term a ‘premonition’ into the good stuff 2017 holds for Nollywood.
I started Day 4 with a series of short films, and ended up experiencing ‘From Inside’ my best Short for the entire Festival. Directed by Egyptian filmmaker Ramy El Gabry, From Inside tackles disability, the awkwardness of human interaction with it, and uses the innocence of childhood to remind us how much barriers we build around ourselves as ‘experienced humans’. Due to some technical issues, the subtitles in the film did not show on screen, however, this seemed to enhance the the audience’s experience, as we were not distracted with trying to read subtitles and were able to connect with the simplicity of the narrative on a deep emotional level.
Next up was Ojukokoro (Greed), the feature debut of Director, Dare Olaitan. Filled with a star studded cast, I predict Ojukokoro to be one of Nollywood’s breakout box office successes of 2017. Ojukokoro tells the story of a cash strapped manager in a money laundering petrol station who decides to rob the petrol station where he works, unfortunately for him, he’s not the only one who’s got his eyes on stealing the cash.
Told in a filmmaking style that feels like a mixture of Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino, Ojukokoro has a circular plot featuring twists, turns and great humorous scenes. Most delightful for me was how true Ojukokoro stayed to its characters and setting, filling its dialogue with local slangs delivered by outstanding performances by actors Tope Tedela, Shawn Faqua and Seun Ajayi. The movie was a near perfect crime comedy that translates well and I hope the filmmakers go all out to build anticipation for its cinema release, as Ojukokoro has the potential to generate great word of mouth after viewing.
Coming from the high that was Ojukokoro, I started Friday off with another series of short films including Asurf Oluseyi’s Hell or High Water, a story that portrays just how close minded and lazy Nigerians can be to ‘uncomfortable’ issues, and how this usually leads to individual compromises to avoid societal backlash. Hell or High Water details this using the narrative of a young gay preacher, whose family’s solution to the revelation of his homosexuality is to first take him for a deliverance session then marry him off to an unsuspecting woman – I’m sure you know how that usually ends. It’s no news that ‘Homosexuality’ is a ticking bomb of a topic in Nigeria, and one which causes many Nigerians to lose their sense, I can therefore imagine the dilemma and challenges Asurf went through making this film. Unfortunately, I feel the narrative was too careful and took the easy way out by not condemning how we as a people lazily allow our prejudices contribute to the thriving of certain societal norms. Hopefully though, it still is able to stimulate conversation around the topic.
Another Short that blew me away was Bose Oshin and Tolu Ajayi’s Silence, a film that boldly lets the audience know just how complicit we are as a society to Rape and sexual violence. Told with great cinematography, fluid directing, impressive acting and minimal dialogue, Silence manages to stimulate emotion where Hell or High Water only narrates a tale, thereby translating as a more powerful Short to me.
Closing the festival film screenings was Izu Ojukwu’s ’76 a film that has been hotly anticipated for months and will finally hit cinemas on the 25 November, 2016. A befitting closing film, ’76 is a love story told on the landscape of one of Nigeria’s most important historical events, the failed coup and assassination of then Head of State Murtala Mohammed. Watching this film, I begin to ask myself why we don’t have more films like this, but then I kind of know the answer to that.
’76 is a great film, period. The attention to detail to take audiences on a nostalgic journey is just the kind we have been seeking from Nollywood. You can almost taste the passion with which the cast and crew of this film made it, ranging from accents, mannerisms and costume. This is a film to be proud of, this is a film that should break box office records in Nigeria, this is a film that Nigerians need to watch, this is a film that needs to be selected to represent us at the Oscars, this is Nollywood at its best and I am honored to have watched it. This film has been in production for the last decade or so and I have been waiting to see it, I can boldly say, the wait was worth it, I just wish my mum was alive to watch it.
Now that #AFRIFF2016 has come to an end (I need to go don my agbada for the Closing Gala now), I am very glad to say it was a wonderful week for film in Nigeria. And while I am excited to see which films the Jury will select for awards, I am going to list my favorite contenders in the Animated Short, Short Film and Feature Film categories:
Favorite Animated Shorts
Mosquito: The Bite of Passage
Got Flowers Today
Favorite Short Films
Favorite Feature Film
I’m not sure if ’76 is in competition, so I’m not including it in my list. Notable mentions include N.G.O (Nothing Going On), Love Hate and Ketchup, Slow Country, Green White Green, No Good Turn, The Storyteller, Just Not Married, The Cursed Ones and Amaka’s Kin (which should win an award too in my opinion).