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“Things I Liked, Disliked & Wished For At TIFF 2016” – Niyi Akinmolayan

BY NIYI AKINMOLAYAN

Hi everyone. I’ve missed you all. Just 5 days away and Buhari is already plagiarizing…someone can’t leave this country for too long o. we will resume the camera tutorials soon and start work on the short film but I thought I should report myself first and give a load down of stuff that went down at the just-concluded Toronto International Film Festival. So here goes:

THINGS I LIKED AT TIFF 2016

IT FELT GOOD TO BE A FILMMAKER. It felt even better to be a Nigerian filmmaker. You see, Canada is very diverse. It’s a country of immigrants. Also the nature of a festival is such that people come from all over the world to see other peoples work. So when you see over 500 people in a hall watching your film from beginning to end applauding non stop, You know you haven’t just made something for your friends and family or your nation, You feel you’ve made art for the world. You realize film is a language that doesn’t need an interpreter. You are literally on top of the world at that moment. Each of the directors experienced this. It was surreal and it was a big deal.

NIGERIANS WERE CELEBRATED FOR MERIT AND NOT OUT-OF-PITY: I was driven in a Cadillac from the airport to my hotel by the same driver who drove Leonardo DiCaprio and Geneveve Nnaji. We all shared the same hotel, red carpets and even parties. At that moment, what you were in your country no longer mattered. It was the quality of the film you brought. Over 40 submissions were sent from Nigeria, the woman who watched them all and decided is Ukrainian/Dutch. She had never seen Nigerian films in that number before then. She told me she was looking out for stories that would resonate with a global audience. She had no Nigerian friends or connections whatsoever. At the Question and Answer sessions, we were made to defend our choices in the film. Some of the questions were really tough. We were criticized and praised accordingly. Even though we were representing Nigeria, we were all standing individually to defend our art for its sake. Listening to my colleagues at their QnA and Press conference answering questions made me feel really proud. That’s the way I want people from outside my country to see us and our work.

WE MADE NIGERIANS IN DIASPORA BLUSH AND BRAG: It may not be a big deal to you but to Nigerians in Diaspora, our visit was everything. Nigerians came out to support their own. The cinema halls were extra noisy when our films showed to the surprise of the oyinbos. We reminded them all of home. Some don’t even remember what a Nigerian party looked like again. A Nigerian couple was so ecstatic; they wanted to adopt me in Canada. Some came to ask if the events portrayed in my film regarding the Lagos tech scene was real. He started thinking about coming home again to invest. I know many Nigerian filmmakers heard such too. I met people who realized I must be from Ondo state and came to take selfies and speak the language with me. Our presence there may have triggered something in Nigerians outside the country.

WE RAISED THE MARKET VALUE OF NOLLYWOOD: All the Nollywood films shown got the kind of attention they were hoping for. Some production companies were looking into doing some remakes of the films. Some were offering great distribution deals. FilmOne represented us very well there making awesome deals I can’t even disclose here right now. One thing is certain, the value of all the films brought to the event, the directors and actors have increased. Netflix was also there and showed interest in the films. Now do the math. By the time we were done, I had been invited to two festivals in London and Washington DC already. People were already asking what my next work was. This happened to everyone. Imagine what next year will be.

WE SHOWED DIVERSITY: The international audience didn’t exactly know what to expect from our films outside all the excessive melodrama, and slapstick comedies we were known for. The beauty of the selection was the diversity in genre, tone and style of all the 8 films. Abba Makama’s Green White Green was a unique genre on its own that I’m yet to find a name for. Uduak’s Just Not Married got a lot of attention for its ghetto storytelling, People were excited to see a Nigerian wedding as the premise of a film In Kemi Adetiba’s Wedding Party. They were all reminded how smart and resilient Nigerians were in kicking out Ebola in Steve Gukas’ 93 Days. The level of detail and finesse in Izu Ojukwu’s ’76 was mind blowing. The beauty of Omoni’s Okafor’s Law reminded them that women were actively behind the scenes. Daniel Oriahi’s Oko Ashewo is always eye candy anytime it’s shown in festivals and of course my film The Arbitration proved we could also do engaging high drama (coincidentally a similar case like the one in The Arbitration had just happened in Canada with a lot of media frenzy). They were happy to know sexual Harassment and assault are issues everyone is fighting all over the world.

Now lets go to the

THINGS I DIDN’T LIKE AT TIFF 2016

OUR SOUND WORK STILL NEEDS HELP: Starting with my film and most of the other Nigerian films, our sound work needs help. It’s basically from the fact that we have noisy neighborhoods to shoot and we don’t have film sets. But going forward, we need to fix that. It’s not an excuse. I think the films with good final sound mix were ‘76 and 93 Days. And they were all done in Europe. We have more work to do. Our major problem is field recording. I saw small European films that were definitely low or no budget. Sound was the least of their issues. It’s also important to get it right because our English sometimes take a while for international audiences to understand so it’s best we have clean sound all the time.

THE NIGERIAN FILMMAKERS WERE SCATTERED IN DIFFERENT HOTELS: I know this must have been due to the sheer size of people entering the city but it would have made a lot of sense if all the Nigerian filmmakers were in the same hotel. I know that while we were in paris, we had a lot of beautiful discussions during breakfast because we were all together. We even spent time critiquing each other’s work. That’s a beautiful experience. I barely saw any of my colleagues except at screenings or parties.

THE PRESS CONFERENCE WAS TOO SHORT: The Artistic director, Cameron Bailey organized a press conference for us. While it was quite engaging, it was very short. Ten filmmakers on a panel is a lot of perspective and we were asked only three questions. I felt we had more to say. The world press was there. Genevieve and Omoni didn’t even get to talk about the acting craft itself. It almost felt like we had to quickly talk about how Nollywood needed  help and leave. It could have been longer and better in my opinion. Here’s an Aljazeera article on the conference and watch the video below:

THINGS I WISHED FOR AT TIFF 2016

THAT SENIOR COLLEAGUES SAW AN OPPORTUNITY TO ENGAGE THE NEW GUYS AND FOSTER BEAUTIFUL RELATIONSHIPS. I must say. I felt an opportunity was lost there. The senior ones would have done a tremendous job in bringing everyone together and getting us all to share experiences. I felt the TIFF participation would bring that kind of exchange. Even the president of the DGN, Fred Amata was around and that still didn’t happen. It makes no sense to me. African elders must learn to draw younger ones in, even if the industry and society makes us look like competitors, we all share a common frustration in making films. We all bleed for our art. When the elder ones don’t do this, they will only see rebellion from the younger ones and that’s not how you build an industry. NOTE young and old in this context doesn’t mean age.

THAT MORE NIGERIAN PRESS AND ORGANIZERS OF AWARDS AND FESTIVALS CAME: There’s an easy answer to why. Dollar is ridiculously expensive. But I would have really loved it if our people can come see how these things are done and learn a thing or two. It’s a wish sha.

THAT THE GOVERNMENT WILL TAKE PEOPLE REPRESENTING IT SERIOUSLY: We say this all the time. It’s shameful really. There were representatives of the government around but I don’t remember meeting anyone or being introduced to them. They couldn’t even ensure they met the 8 filmmakers selected. I did not even realize there was a lagos state stand till my third day there and shamefully, it looked ugly. Haba Nigeria. Now we are back, it won’t kill for the government to organize a dinner and meet these filmmakers. Share some of the government plans with them or possibly collaborate. Am I asking for too much. Maybe I am.

Going forward, I learnt that there’s a lot of sense in thinking about making films for a global audience. If we can love Chinese and Indian films with a diverse range of genre and subject matter, we should make people from all over the world care about ours too.

And for those People that still can’t see the positives in what this TIFF city to city spotlight has done for nollywood, I have two words for you; EAT A DICK! Ok that’s three words.

Next Sunday, we continue Camera September. piece of advice

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This post first appeared on NiyiAkinmolayan.com

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