Lagos city and Nigeria’s film industry, Nollywood, have taken center stage at the ongoing Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) which began September 8th and ends on the 18th, 2016. It is the first time Nollywood and Lagos, its entertainment mecca, have enjoyed an in-depth spotlight on a global stage.
The spotlight is the result of TIFF’s ‘City to City’ program, curated by Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of TIFF, to showcase filmmakers living and working in selected cities around the world, regardless of where their films are set. Cities featured in past programs include London, Tel Aviv, Istanbul, Buenos Aires, Mumbai, Athens and Seoul.
On September 8, TIFF organizers kicked off the exciting and amazing spotlight on Nollywood with the screening of The Wedding Party, one of the eight movies selected as part of the eight year program. The other movies are Just married, 76, 93days, Okafor’s Law, Taxi Driver, The Arbitration, Green White Green.
The Wedding screened to a highly excited and sold out crowd which included David Oyelowo, Hollywood based actor of Nigerian heritage.
Oyelowo gave a short speech at the event that was hilarious. He joked and breathed a sigh of relief that he could finally be in a room with people who could say his name right! (There were many Nigerian Nollywood fans in attendance.) “This is the first time, in so long, I’ve been in a room with people who can say my name properly,” said Oyelowo to the very excited audience. “So I stand before you today as DAVID OYETOKUNBO OYELOWO.”
Oyelowo emphasized the pride that comes with being a Nigerian, and how as a Nigerian, you are raised to walk into rooms like a King. “I don’t know if you know who you let into the room Cameron,” he teased the artistic director who was also present at the screening. He also took a moment to recognize the significance of the moment, “I have no doubt that this is the start of something absolutely fantastic for us, because we’ve been doing this for a long time—telling stories traditionally, filmically, poetically. We are storytellers by nature.”
Needless to say, Nollywood and Africa’s finest and favorite celebrities, many of whom were involved in the movies that were and have been screened so far, came out in full force to strut the red carpet, display their fashion forward styles, support the filmmakers and engage their fans.
Attendees throughout the screenings have included Kemi Adetiba director of The Wedding Party, Mr. Danny Glover who acted in the Nollywood movie 93Days, President and General Manager of the Toronto Raptors (To see the team in action, toronto raptors tickets can be found around the web!), Masai Ujiri; Artistic Director of the Toronto International Film Festival, Cameron Bailey; Executive Producer and Forbes Most Influential African, Mo Abudu; Actor Richard Mofe-Damijo and actresses Rita Dominic, Iretiola Doyle and Adesua Etomi.
Nevertheless, Nollywood’s presence at TIFF16 hasn’t been all about the parties or screenings. Filmmakers have rolled their sleeves and got down to discuss the business of Nollywood, its attempt to become a global household name, and the difficulties its till faces such as funding, distribution, lack of a strong legal framework and enforcement of intellectual property rights, all of which help to move the industry forward. Two standouts and platforms for such discussions was the press screening involving all eight directors for the ‘City to City’ program; and the conversations with director Kunle Afolayan and veteran actress turned film producer Genevieve Nnaji.
These creatives were challenged by the audience with questions that focused on how they ensured they presevered their African identities while catering to an international audience, and how they truly intended to scale their businesses, among other topics.
Catch up with some of the hot fashions, your favorite celebrities, the screenings, interviews and share with your network:
Red carpet at The Wedding Party
Watch David Oyelowo’s funny remarks at The Wedding Party screening.
Red carpet at the 76 Screening
The Press screening
Genevieve Nnaji in Conversation with Kunle Afolayan
The Actors, Actresses, Directors
Director Kemi Adetiba
Abba Makama & Ifeanyi Dike