The past few years have grounded Nollywood as a force to be reckoned with among different film industries worldwide. The Black Book, directed by Editi Effiong, made history as the first Nollywood film to claim the number-one spot on Netflix worldwide. Within a week of the blockbuster’s debut, it reached the top in 12 countries, from Nigeria and Kenya to Poland and even the Bahamas.
Global streaming platforms such as Netflix and Prime Video have also made significant strides that have put “globally acclaimed” and “groundbreaking” in the same events as Nollywood. In light of all these, there’s no doubt that Nollywood has blazed a trail when exploring a plethora of subjects, genres, and cultural contexts, existing as a mirror of Nigerian society.
However, one thing we can’t understate regarding Nollywood’s growth and success is its array of film festivals and the film festival culture. Film festivals such as the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) have brought attention to African cinema and, more importantly, shown the immense potential of Nollywood to express unique and eclectic storytelling. These festivals also provide a venue for domestic and international viewers to enjoy and celebrate these varied stories.
AFRIFF has been going on for over a decade and has featured events, including film screenings, panel discussions, and master seminars on filmmaking, intending to advance the growth and business of telling African stories. This year’s edition was no different. Marking the festival’s 12th edition, the three-day event had “Indigenous 2.0 Global” as its subject, intending to highlight the value of authenticity in reaching a worldwide audience.
This year’s festival witnessed the screening of over 2,000 films from over 100 nations on five continents, including documentaries, short films, and international films. With the event finally bowing on the 11th of November, the night featured different winners, several celebrity sightings on the red carpet, and the appearance of numerous Nollywood icons.
Come along as we introduce you to 7 brilliant Nollywood films AFRIFF brought to our screens this year, some of which were crowned winners.
- I Do Not Come To You By Chance
Fans of Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani‘s famous novel, I Do Not Come To You By Chance, went agog some months ago when news of the book’s adaptation appeared across several media platforms. This noise grew even louder when many found that veteran Nigerian actor Genevieve Nnaji was an executive producer on this project. Initially hosted at the 2023 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), this long-titled movie finally experienced a homecoming.
Directed by Ishaya Bako, who is also credited with the films The Royal Hibiscus Hotel and Road To Yesterday, the protagonist of this movie is a struggling Nigerian graduate who gets caught up in his dishonest uncle’s fraudulent email scheme. Blossom Chukwujekwu and Paul Nnadiekwe are the film’s main stars, with prominent roles played by Jennifer Eliogu, Sambasa Nberibe, and Beverly Osu.
This brilliant film project also won the Audience Choice Award prize, putting smiles on the faces of many.
- All the Colours of the World are Between Black and White
Taking a similar trajectory to I Do Not Come To You By Chance, All The Colours Of The World Are Between Black And White has also made its footprint on the global scene. The globally known film directed by Babatunde Apalowo has found its way to Nigeria for its African premiere. The work of art explores and dissects a topic tagged as a taboo in Nigerian society.
The movie revolves around two main characters, Bambino, played by Tope Tedela, and Bawa, brought to life by Riyo David after their Lagos encounter and an instantaneous connection. Desire burns and a deep affection ensues during their lengthy trips around the city. However, everything comes to a standstill when they find themselves torn in a society that criminalizes homosexuality. The film also features actors like Martha Ehinome, Uche Chika Elumelu, and Floyd Anekwe.
This exceptional movie also made history by winning the Special Jury Prize and sharing the award with White Nanny Black Child. It was the first time in AFRIFF that two projects have won the award simultaneously. This event adds a new accolade to the film’s streak of awards, such as the Teddy Award won at the Berlinale earlier this year.
- Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti
As the name suggests, many have and will finally see the life of the legend Funmilayo Ransome Kuti on screen through a biopic of the same name. Bolanle Austen-Peters, famous for her work for Man of God, The Bling Lagosians, and Collision Course, directed the film.
Kehinde Bankole and Joke Silva play roles that embody the titular heroine at various stages of her life. This period drama ran for only one short theatrical run before the Oscars IFF submission deadline. There’s no doubt many Nigerians have been clamouring for biopics, and the opportunity to see this film will be a memorable experience for many.
Funmilayo Ransome Kuti also got awarded two prizes, including Oronto Douglas Best Feature Film and Best Screenplay, won by the movie’s own Tunde Babalola.
Orah centres around the story of a Nigerian immigrant taxi driver in Toronto who, in exchange for bringing her son over from Nigeria, offers to launder dirty money for her boss. Orah, played by Oyin Oladejo, settles the score by taking matters into her own hands as the plot goes terribly wrong.
Orah was the highlight of AFRIFF’s opening night and is directed by Lonzo Nzekwe. The movie is packed with young Nollywood stars like Ruby Akubueze and Emeka Nwagbaraocha and veterans like Tina Mba and OC Ukeje. Actors like Somkele Iyamah and Oris Erhuero also feature in the cross-country crime thriller.
- Áfàméfùnà: A Nwa Boi Story
Áfàméfùnà: An Nwa Boi Story pays an essential homage to the Igbo apprenticeship system. This groundbreaking feature-length film from Come On Naija explains how this system was vital in resurrecting the Igbo community’s economy. It also shows how successful Igbo men impart knowledge and experience to apprentices, circulating wealth creation among many.
Kayode Kasum is the film’s director with a rich and star-studded cast that features Kanayo O. Kanayo, Stan Nze, Alexx Ekubo, Atlanta Bridget Johnson, and Segun Arinze. There are also special appearances from Jide Kene Achufusi and Noble Igwe.
Talented actors Gabriel Afolayan and Ivie Okujaye play a separated couple in the topical movie Kanaani. The film, which had a brief theatrical run in September, is worth seeing. This cross-border story from director Tola Olatunji examines sexual violence, the pandemic in Japan, and human trafficking.
For anyone who missed Kanaani when it was originally released in theatres, AFRIFF gave enthusiastic viewers a second chance to see the movie.
- Breath Of Life
Breath of Life, BB Sasore‘s first Nigerian film commissioned by Prime Video, wrapped up the 2023 AFRIFF. The narrative of the faith-based tale centres on a man who has lost his sense of direction in life until he meets a young man who alters both his course and destiny.
The movie, which takes place in the 1950s, stars Wale Ojo, Sam Dede, Sambasa Nzeribe, Bimbo Manuel, Chimezie Imo, Demola Adedoyin, and Tina Mba. Before the end of 2023, the movie will debut on Prime Video.
With this year marking the 12th edition of the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF), there’s a significant emphasis on developing talent. These film projects and many more have shown the presence of many young talents in Nollywood and the immense skills they express.
More importantly, apart from the brilliant actors showing up and showing out in the industry, film festivals like AFRIFF also showcase other stakeholders in the film industry who have sharpened their skills and established themselves as pivotal parts, ultimately helping Nollywood to grow and evolve.