"Bariga Sugar"
“Bariga Sugar”

Not-so long ago, if a filmmaker mentioned making a short film here in Nigeria, they’d likely get one of these reactions: “What’s that?” “How much money can I make from it?” “Why can’t I just make a feature instead?”

The idea of short films was previously generally dismissed and seen as a waste of time and money. Short films have always been a calling card and a way for directors to get their feet wet, cut their teeth, test their storytelling skills, and for new actors to get work their reels that they’d likely never get on a feature. There are still some who seem to think that even a well-executed short film does not prove that the filmmaker is capable of directing a feature or even a TV series. Those people, I still don’t understand.

Fast-forward to 2017 and short films have found better acceptance, still dismissed by some, but recognized by top industry organizations like the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA), Africa Magic Viewer’s Choice Awards (AMVCA) and the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) who present awards to short filmmakers every year.

One of the great things about filmmakers making these short films is, without the worry of selling tickets or “commercial value”, they have creative autonomy to: tell the story they want; cast who they want; and play in whatever genre they want; so you often find more interesting, original and sometimes more daring storytelling in short films.

The aesthetic of the Nollywood film has changed over the last 8 years since films started receiving theatrical releases; filmmakers have become more ambitious and deliberate in how they stage, shoot, light and cut their films. Whatever impression audiences and critics have had of the Nollywood aesthetic from a decade ago, is slowly being stripped away by these new directors pushing boundaries and making statements with their short film work; some of whom have gone on to make feature films, as well as direct television and web-series.

The visual landscape of Nollywood is changing inch by inch, and sometimes it’s like swimming upstream a white water river while dodging stones and jeers by the naysaying landlubbers. But like the evolution that took place in other film industries (silent era to talkies; Golden Age to New Wave) the old way will give way for the new, once the audience get a thirst of/for something different.

While the below playlist of 13 short films is not a definitive list (it will grow), it showcases work in a variety of genres from Nigerian directors – both at home and abroad – telling Nigerian stories, either personal narratives, or making social commentary, or both. These are films that while being authentically Nigerian, can play anywhere in the world.

Watch all 13 films below: