“TIFF”: City To City Features Lagos, Nigeria

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Illustration by Seun Ajibola

Toronto International Film Festival (“TIFF”) runs from September 8th to 16th along with its eighth year of the City to City showcase. Lagos City, Nigeria is this year’s feature. Past showcases include films from cities such as: Istanbul, Buenos Aires, Mumbai and Seoul.  Lagos was selected by the committee due to its financial impact in the film industry generating $1 billion annually at the box office and also to support and recognize the new generation of filmmakers.

76, 93 Days, The Arbitration, Green White Green, Just Not Married, Okafor’s Law, Oko Ashewo and The Wedding Party are the eight films that will premiere at the festival. The most anticipated film is The Wedding Party, which is produced by Mo Abudu.

Nollywood has dominated the African continent and has moved beyond its borders to Caribbean audiences, however it has failed to gain the respect and recognition of Hollywood. The showcase at TIFF not only solidifies its place globally but also gives the industry a chance to connect with the diaspora.   TIFF recognizing the talent is great timing, which has been driven by the increase in well trained actors, directors and producers redefining Nollywood.   I don’t suggest we go back to how filmmaking was done in the past with predictable plots and weak character arcs, however, it would have been great to include a true traditional film that captured the rural communities of Nigeria.

If we observe the collection of films in a Caribbean or African-American home, what we can conclude is that they enjoy the more traditional films and recognizing this filmmaking is representing Nollywood accurately.  TIFF failed to engage the Nigerian community here in Toronto. Restaurants and bars owned by the Nigerian diaspora could have been a great welcome host for Tiffs guests to the city. These businesses are men and women who support Nollywood and building a relationship with the industry could result in a financial benefit for the two parties.

The spotlight on Lagos suggests more opportunities for the filmmakers disrupting Nollywood. In addition, it gives more credibility to the acting, directing and producing capabilities of the film industry, which can only serve to increase the financial impact Nollywood has globally. t This is not without justification, as many of the films are terribly produced, however the films that are pushing boundaries should not be understated based on the dearth of great Nollywood production. 

The synopses of the films show a wide range in the storytelling, and the films have endeavored to assemble a strong casting. Given the level of difficulty in being short listed for TIFF, the future is promising for Nollywood and it can be concluded that global theatrical releases is in the industry’s future.

Ideas, NollywoodFemi Adeyinka