Of all the different selection categories at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), this is the one I was most looking forward to.
This year’s TIFF City to City program will focus on Lagos, Nigeria! How wonderful is that? Although it shouldn’t be much of a surprise, given the internationally-recognized supremely-prolific movie industry that calls Nigeria home – Nollywood; an industry that’s given birth to a growing cadre of local filmmakers interested in shifting the mostly unfavorable critical *outsider* perceptions of films made by Nigerians in Nigeria.
The City to City selection is curated by Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of the Toronto International Film Festival, which runs September 8 to 18, 2016.
“Hundreds of films are made every year in Lagos for a voracious audience around the world. Our City to City spotlight brings some of Nollywood’s most popular filmmakers together with new voices who are introducing an alternative, indie spirit to Nigerian cinema,” said Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of the Toronto International Film Festival. “We’re excited to share this unprecedented showcase of talent from Lagos with our Toronto audience.”
This is the 8th year for the City to City program, which showcases filmmakers living and working in a selected city, regardless of where their films are set. Cities featured in past programs include London, Tel Aviv, Istanbul, Buenos Aires, Mumbai, Athens and Seoul.
The City to City: Lagos lineup has been announced this morning. A few of the films we’ve covered on this blog; others, which I’m looking forward to discovering, we haven’t. The program also includes a TIFF Rising Stars spotlight of two up-and-coming actors from Lagos: OC Ukeje and Somkele Iyamah-Idhalama; as well as an “In Conversation With” segment that will feature Nigerian actor, film producer, and singer Genevieve Nnaji, and actor, film producer, and director Kunle Afolayan, all names that readers of this blog will hopefully be familiar with.
Kudos to Cameron Bailey and company for putting this together! I smell change on the horizon when it comes to how Nigerian cinema is appreciated around the world.
The full Lagos City to City program lineup follows below, each accompanied by a trailer:
— “76” – Izu Ojukwu, Nigeria World Premiere
In a story inspired by true events, six years after the civil war in Nigeria, a heavily pregnant woman’s life crumbles when the news of her husband’s involvement in a botched military coup hits the headlines. Starring Ramsey Nouah, Rita Dominic, Chidi Mokeme, Ibinabo Fiberesima, Larry Williams, Adonija Owiriwa, Daniel K. Daniel, Memry Savanhu, Pat Nebo, Debo Oguns, and Adams Shuaibu.
— “93 Days” – Steve Gukas, Nigeria World Premiere
A riveting real-life thriller about courageous health-care workers in Lagos battling the Ebola outbreak of 2014. Starring TIFF Rising Star Somkele Iyamah-Idhalama, Danny Glover, Bimbo Akintola, Tim Reid, Alastair Mackenzie, and Keppy Ekpenyong.
— “The Arbitration” – Niyi Akinmolayan, Nigeria International Premiere
An arbitration must deal with the messy corporate entanglements of a workplace affair that led to a possible rape in the fast-paced world of the Nigerian technology space. Starring TIFF Rising Stars OC Ukeje and Somkele Iyamah-Idhalama, Adesua Etomi, Iretiola Doyle, and Sola Fosudo.
— “Green White Green” – Abba Makama, Nigeria World Premiere
A coming of age story about three young boys, from Nigeria’s major ethnic groups, on an adventure to make a short film inspired by the history of Nigeria. They embark on a roller coaster ride that will eventually lead them towards their individual paths to self-discovery.
— “Just Not Married” Uduak-Obong Patrick, Nigeria International Premiere
In this caper comedy thriller, a bright but broke undergrad striving to escape the slums gets in over his head when his modest criminal enterprise goes a bit too far when he and his friends resort to stealing cars under the guise of being married.
— “Okafor’s Law” Omoni Oboli, Nigeria World Premiere
Chuks is a firm believer in Okafor’s Law which states that once a man has had a woman, he forever has access to her. Challenged by his friends to prove the validity of the law in 21 days, past girlfriends Ify, Kemi and Ejiro are brought back into his life.
— “Oko Ashewo” (“Taxi Driver”) Daniel Emeke Oriahi, Nigeria North American Premiere
Adigun, a struggling village mechanic, accepts an invitation from Taiwo, his late father’s best friend, to take over his father’s now vacant position as a taxi driver alongside him. Adigun, now tackling life in the heart of Lagos, is completely oblivious of the wheels that his mere arrival has inextricably set in motion.
— City to City Opening Night Film.
“The Wedding Party” Kemi Adetiba, Nigeria World Premiere
Everyone knows that there ain’t no party like a Nigerian wedding party… Especially when you throw in an insecure virgin bride, a reformed playboy groom, two overbearing mothers who can’t stand each other, one philandering husband, a high strung wedding planner, the invasion of unruly village gate-crashers, a thief on the loose, a best man with a flash-drive full of secrets, a sexy ex with vengeance on her mind, two loyal bridesmaids ready to go to war, and a brother seeking his father’s approval. It is a hilarious melting pot of potential disaster.
TIFF RISING STARS
— OC Ukeje is a Lagos-born actor, singer and performer. Winner of the 2006 Amstel Malta Box Office reality TV show for actors, he later trained at the New York Film Academy. He has won several Best Actor awards, including the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Award, a Nigeria Entertainment Award, an Africa Movie Academy Award, and a Best of Nollywood Award. His films include Teco Benson’s Two Brides and a Baby (2011); Jeta Amata’s Black November (2012); Half of a Yellow Sun (2013), based on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s bestselling novel; Destiny Ekaragha’s Gone too Far! (2013); Kenneth Gyang’s Confusion Na Wa (2013); Seyi Babatope’s When Love Happens (2014); the television series Gidi Up; Remi Vaughan-Richards’ The Department (2015); Sara Blecher’s Ayanda (2015); and Niyi Akinmolayan’s The Arbitration (2016), which plays at the Festival.
— Somkele Iyamah-Idhalama is an actor, model, and fashion executive based in Lagos. A graduate of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, she made her onscreen debut in the television series The Island. Her first leading role was in the television series Gidi Up. Recent projects include Steve Gukas’ 93 Days (2016), Niyi Akinmolayan’s The Arbitration (2016), and Kemi Adetiba’s The Wedding Party (2016), which will all screen at the Festival.
IN CONVERSATION WITH…
In Conversation With… Genevieve Nnaji and Kunle Afolayan This onstage conversation will explore Genevieve Nnaji and Kunle Afolayan’s inspiring stories, illuminating the complex dynamics behind Nollywood’s rise to prominence at home and all over the world.
Following in the footsteps of his father, the beloved actor-producer-director Ade Love, Afolayan garnered accolades out of the gate with his directorial debut, The Figurine (2009), and continues to innovate as a cinematic storyteller and industry heavyweight. Afolayan has elevated the standards and ambitions of Nigerian cinema over the past decade; from shooting on 35mm instead of digital cameras, to devising elaborate release strategies for his films, including his most recent venture, The CEO (2016), which took place on an Air France flight from Lagos to Paris.
Celebrated as the leading lady of Nollywood and the face of African cinema, Nnaji began her career as a child on the popular soap opera Ripples and has since received multiple awards for her work in films such as Ijé: The Journey (2010), Half of a Yellow Sun (2013) and Road to Yesterday (2015). A producer and media entrepreneur, Nnaji is also a singer and released her first album, One Logologo Line, in 2004.
Purchase TIFF Choice ticket packages until August 24, while quantities last, online 24 hours a day at tiff.net/tickets; by phone from 10am to 7pm ET daily at 416.599.TIFF or 1.888.599.8433; or visit the Steve & Rashmi Gupta Box Office at TIFF Bell Lightbox in person from 10am to 10pm ET daily at TIFF Bell Lightbox, Reitman Square, 350 King Street West. .