The Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) is still ongoing in Lagos this week. There’s been an array of short films, feature films and industry sessions held, however due to the multiple locations and concurrent film screenings, I have not been able to attend all…. I doubt anyone ever covers a film festival and attends all screenings and sessions.
Anyway, I’m going to detail my top picks for Day 2 and 3 and tell you about a particular short film that left a sour taste in my mouth.
Bariga Sugar is a tale of friendship narrated in the slum brothel of Bariga Sugar. It tells the tale of human connection in a setting that hardly gets explored in our films. Most importantly, it tells the story of naive friendship between two kids before all the prejudices of the world set in.
So far, this short film has been the one to strike the deepest chord within me, reminding me of the everyday Nigerian and how we have relevant experiences and tales that need to keep being portrayed on film. Even more appreciated was the level of detail put into set design, cinematography and the care with which the actors told their characters’ stories, thus bringing the gap between the screen and our seats. Tina Mba continues to show just how amazing she is as an actor, Halimat Olarewaju and Tunde Azeez brought thier A-game and made me believe that the industry still got child talent and could nurture future stars, and Gregory Ojefua, Brutus Richard, Lucy Ameh, Blessing Samuel, Jay Franklyn Jituboh and Amarachukwu Onoh were the supporting stars every audience wants in a movie.
Big Kudos to Ifeoma Nkiruka Chukwuogo the producer/director and editor of this 21 minute riveting clip. She’s definitely on my watchlist of Directors to monitor.
One of the movies I was able to catch on Day 2 of the Festival was Arnold Aganze’s N.G.O (Nothing Going On); a tale of two friends Tevo (Richie Tevin) and Zizuke (Arnold Aganze) who finish school, try to find their path in life and end up setting up a fictional non governmental organization to milk some mulla of some unsuspecting Americans. In essence its a film about two Con Artists.
N.G.O is set in a small town in Uganda and manages to weave a tale of love, the African Hustle, some weird feminist concept and sex without either condemning or affirming a narrative of good or bad. The movie just tells a story which constantly has a narrative of making Africans look bad in a way that also shows how the western world also uses its ‘savior’ mentality to run a business out of helping Africans.
N.G.O is a tale with very authentic acting, sarcastic humor, and is quite enjoyable. It also has a second screening at the Filmhouse IMAX Cinemas today, Wednesday 16 November, 2016 at 5.30pm, so register at affrif.com to watch it.
The Cursed Ones
Anyone who follows the film industry in Africa would definitely have heard about ‘The Cursed Ones’. It’s an award winning movie that had a record 13 AMAA nominations this year. The movie is the story of a young girl in a back village somewhere in Africa who is accused of witchcraft and sentenced to death. Directed by Nana Obiri Yeboah and starring Oris Erhuero, Ama K. Abebrese, Jimmy Jean-Louis, Joseph Otsiman, Ophelia Dzidzornu and Fred Amugi, The Cursed Ones delves into a narrative filled with superstition, abuse of power, the typical African misguided honor that stops the thinking process and gives room for unspeakable horrors.
After watching, I see why the movie got so much love on the award circuit as the movie manages to tell the story fluidly, developing its characters well (except for the little girl Asabi), and describing the crux of the story without being too graphic. The plot is also a very relevant one that still occurs across the continent. Barring her character development and the lack of a narrative surrounding Asabi, Ophelia Dzidzornu was an amazing portrayal for the role Asabi – for one who did not utter a single word throughout the film, she was able to convey her emotions and sell the character with ease to the audience.
The Cursed Ones, falls into the same category as Dry – movies with a message told on a solid platform, while they may not necessarily be entertainment most people want to see when they go to the cinemas, they are a very relevant narrative that need to be documented on film.
Pilot TV Short Lodgers, is an interesting comedy of a Young Nigerian Professional Couple who decide to relocate to the United Kingdom in a bid to find greener pasture. Starring funny man AY Makun, Anthony Monjaro, Yetunde Oduwole, Lola May amongst others, Lodgers navigates this ever familiar tale with a twist of raw African comedy laying bare just how sought after ‘highly skilled’ immigrants are in the western world.
AY is in his element portraying the role of a proud MBA, MSc holder who should be having his pick of job offers but realizes that the most he can land is a blue collar gig. The star for me however was his wife Carol played by Yetunde Oduwole, a woman who is learned and qualified just like her husband, is going through the same hassles to get a job, but assumes the additional task of soothing her husband’s ego and temper.
Lodgers is not the typical short film but a Pilot for a BBC sitcom (wish the director all the best with that), but it was a good few mins of laughter that resonated well with the audience.
Rounding up Day 3 of AFRIFF 2016 for festival attendees at Filmhouse IMAX was Eric Aghimen’s Slow Country. An action packed gangster tale with the ever present love story, this movie is a breathe of fresh air to the massively dual genre that is Nollywood. The movie manages to pump adrenaline into the audience, keeping us mostly on the edge of our seats anticipating every next move.
Eric is sure showing off his skill at making Nigerian Action films by giving us an even better outing than A Mile from Home (which I totally enjoyed). Slow Country stars, Ivie Okujaiye-Egboh, Tope Tedela, Sambasa Nzeribe, Brutus Richard and Majid Michel who felt like they were born for their roles in this film.
Judging from the reaction of the audience, Eric has hit a good balance of action and enjoyability, I’m therefore looking forward to the audience reception when the movie hits cinemas next year. If you missed it here, you still have a chance when it hits the cinema, and I definitely recommend that you watch it.
Unfortunately, not all the films I saw in the first two days of AFRIFF were enjoyable. Most notable is the short film Red Pearl, a story of a Young African woman who is part of a space mission to Mars and spends the time narrating her back story to the other members of the team.
Red pearl is a very visually appealing sci-fi short film, however its narrative is old and unappealing. We understand that foreign media has made it a life goal to portray Africa as a place of squalor and in need of constant help, however, this is a futuristic sci-fi film set in 2040 thereabouts and ‘Africa’ just had to have a cholera outbreak that killed a lot of people some 20/30 years prior. Excuse me, Cholera? Africa the country or Africa the city or Africa the State? Let me not even get into the mother’s accent…
Nah! A little bit of research, some more attention to detail and the absence of the western’s world’s complex when it comes to its portrayal of ‘Africa’ could have made me fall in love… Guess not.