Once in a while I like to get out of my area and go by the waterfront here in Toronto - Harbour Front. On this particular day, Toronto was graced with sunny skies, busy streets and the Labour Day long weekend. After getting some lunch with my friend, we sat down to relax and enjoy the last of the few days left in the summer. Shortly after we got interrupted by a promoter handing out flyers informing us about a TIFF party. The party was to celebrate the release of a film called "93 Days". 93 Days is one of eight films being screened this year at the festival highlighting stories and filmmakers making waves in Nollywood covering a broad range of genres such as: comedy and drama.
Toronto International Film Festival (“TIFF”) is currently motion and the event runs from September 8 – 16. This is the eighth year for the City to City program, with cities such as Istanbul, Buenos Aires, Mumbai and Seoul highlighted over the past few years to bring more flavor and color to the festival. This year, the city being featured prominently is Lagos City, Nigeria. Lagos was selected as the focus given that Nollywood generates about $1 billion annually at the box office and also to support the new generation of filmmakers emerging who are looking to advance and challenge the old guard of Nollywood.
Eight films will be screened, which include: 76, 93 Days, The Arbitration, Green White Green, Just Not Married, Okafor’s Law, Oko Ashewo and The Wedding Party. By far, the most anticipated of the fims is The Wedding Party, which is executive produced by Mo Abudu. She will be visiting and participating in conversations throughout the festival. While, The Wedding Party has its merits, I am excited to see the film titled 76. I have tickets and will be providing my review of the film in the following weeks.
Nollywood is finally receiving some of the mainstream exposure it deserves given theprogression in the filmmakers ability to tell stories and capture the right visuals to engage an audience. TIFF being at the forefront of the new wave is promising, but it shouldn't ignore the filmmakers that form the backbone of Nollywood whose films resonate across cultures and countries. I do not intend to suggest a lack of support for the new filmmakers and their ability to tell universal stories, however, if one looks critically at the collection of movies in a Caribbean or African-American home who is interested in Nollywood films what you find are the films that tell more indigenous stories irrespective of whether the stories would have been approved in a Hollywood studio.
Moreover, TIFF did not do enough to engage the Nigerian community here in Toronto. There are restaurants and bars that support Nollywood located north of the city that could have been used to bridge the relationship between the filmmakers and the Diaspora for future festivals. Moreover, while there are film critics that will be attending and deconstructing these Nollywood films from a technical perspective, but I doubt many of them have followed the journey of Nollywood and the impact it has had on popular culture in Nigeria and across the world. Going forward, TIFF needs to engage more of the critics of the Nollywood industry especially in the Diaspora to get a true perspective on the thoughts of the Nigerian audience as they have a better sense of the implications of where the new filmmakers are taking Nollywood.
Lagos City is being spotlighted for the first time and it suggests more opportunities for many of the filmmakers. In addition, this opens the door for Nigeria and other nations to provide support for the film industry in their respective countries. When I started this blog, one of the issues I had was the lack of social acknowledgement of the acting skills by the Nigerian community watching Nollywood films. 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 synopsis of the films that I have read show a range in the storytelling, and they have all endeavored to assemble a strong cast for their films. Given the level of difficulty in being short listed for TIFF, the future is promising for Nollywood and it is only a matter of time before the films have global theatrical releases.