BY ‘SEGUN ODEJIMI
On Sunday, September 11, 2016, two of Nollywood‘s giants, Genevieve Nnaji and Kunle Afolayan were in the spotlight at the ongoing Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), Canada where they were subjects of the In Conversation With… programme.
The duo discussed extensively the Nigerian filmmaking industry with an audience that comprised Nollywood practitioners and foreign filmmakers and enthusiasts. At the over one hour long event in which clips from their works – Figurine and The CEO in Afolayan’s case and Ije and Road to Yesterday in Nnaji’s – the filmmakers highlighted distribution and a lack of varied investment as the major challenges the industry currently faces.
Below are five major things we learned from the entertaining but enlightening discussions:
1. Genevieve Nnaji isn’t almost three decades old in the industry for no reason. Don’t let the low-neck red carpet dresses or sultry attires she sometimes tease our eyes with deceive you. Nnaji is more than that. She’s not just that sex goddess many Nigerian men wish was warming their beds. The actress knows her industry well. She knows, to a very large extent, how the polity operates. Her experience, skill set, knowledge of Nollywood and what needs to be done to maximize its potentials show why Nnaji might not get knocked off her perch as the queen of Nollywood anytime soon.
2. Nnaji confirmed what we have feared for a while. While discussing her career from when she started out as an 8-year old actress up until now, Nnaji mentioned that what has changed drastically from her early days is directors nowadays just putting her in front of a camera and just expecting her to act because she is Genevieve Nnaji. “I like to be told what to do [by directors],” she said before continuing, “What’s happening now is that people expect you to know everything…to just act. ‘What are you doing? Have you read the lines?’ ‘Just act.’ But I still like being told what to do.”
And this is something we have noticed recently. You see actors on the screen these days and you can tell that they are just delivering what they have. The director hasn’t pushed them or led them, as they should, into becoming the characters that they are portraying. Directors focus too much on the technical now.
3. Kunle Afolayan’s business acumen means he’s comfortably the best movie producer Nollywood has today. If you needed an insight into how Afolayan’s thinking has been able to make money for him as a filmmaker, listening to him talk at the program should provide it. Like he admitted, working in the corporate world opened his eyes into how that world works and that has in turn made attracting corporate interest in his works easy-peasy. A lot of creative minds struggle to sell their works to the average business mind because the business part of creativity is hardly taught as courses in schools. Experience and/or a drastic change in orientation is what does the trick. In Afolayan’s case, it’s the former.
4. Somkele Idhalama is a typical Nollywood creative. While Afolayan represents the very few who understand the business of art, Idhalama represents the vast majority of artists who are all about their craft and doing it well without really having a robust understanding of the marketing side of it. Well, at least, that’s what we learned from her comment. She just wanted practitioners to keep making films, saying the recognition and financial breakthrough will come someday, somehow. This in itself is not bad, but in the context of the economic realities Nollywood operates in, it is a poor idea not to, like Afolayan, seek creative ways to attract investment and channels that will guarantee ROI.
5. How Nollywood takes advantage of this spotlight is very important. Well, we didn’t learn this from the programme. Rather, this is what every stakeholder in the industry should be thinking of and acting on. It is not every day that you get a City to City spotlight from TIFF or any other major film festival. It is not just about sold out screening halls and standing ovations. The conversations and ACTIONS from now should be directed towards maxing out this past one week or so of our sojourn to Canada.
You can watch the full video of the programme below: