The primary time I used to be at a movie pageant outdoors Nigeria was again in 2014. The venue was Durban, South Africa. A filmmaker requested me if such a factor as a critic existed in Nigeria, given what he knew of Nollywood. The filmmaker was South African and so there was in all probability that rivalry factor happening. However there was additionally some reality to his query. Nollywood wasn’t precisely eager about enjoying within the worldwide scene on the extent of festivals.
Over the previous few years, that has modified. Netflix, Amazon, and Showmax are pouring cash into the business and demanding a sure stage of excellence Nollywood has in any other case resisted. People like me had been shouting within the wilderness for years and the response was a blithe “my movie made cash.” The implication was that straining for extra, artistically, was ineffective. The standard query went unanswered and ceaselessly unheard. It was a little bit of frustration that led me to put in writing a bit on the lack of ambition from Nollywood.
And so it was significantly memorable the day I got here throughout a small movie titled O-City on the African Worldwide Movie Competition. At this level, Kunle Afolayan had made Figurine and Kenneth Gyang made Confusion Na Wa, the 2 movies that mark a watershed second in New Nollywood’s historical past. O-City had emerged as an unlikely sequel to these movies and its clear ultra-indie standing positioned it immediately below Confusion Na Wa. Right here eventually was a movie that confirmed very clearly that an artist was on the helm. However most of the youthful administrators didn’t fairly assume extremely of CJ Obasi or his movie. However I used to be satisfied, so I did what any self-respecting critic would do: I wrote in regards to the movie, praising the person’s imaginative and prescient.
Even then, it was apparent that no matter flaws his movie had, Obasi was pondering past his nationwide viewers. Certainly, one of many points Nollywood gamers from the time had together with his movie was its characters talking with a western accent. It was a good commentary, however I felt that that was criticism that would dwell in the identical area as an appreciation for Obasi’s expertise.
In the direction of the tip of final yr, that expertise acquired fairly the validation when Obasi’s identify appeared within the record of Sundance movies. Anybody can be forgiven for pondering that homegrown filmmakers can’t actually lower it in main festivals outdoors the nation and continent with out showing through a sidebar part. It was hardly cynicism; it was being sensible. Not loads of Nollywood figures knew in regards to the pageant scene past a sure stage. I recall an argument years in the past on Twitter the place a screenwriter/producer was arguing about how festivals are ranked as a result of his movie had gotten right into a particular programme at TIFF which, after all, made TIFF the most important movie pageant in his eyes.
In any case, on two events lately, Nigerian names have appeared within the record of award winners at Sundance. Each instances, neither participant might actually declare an intimate kinship with Nollywood, closely bred as they had been within the west. I’m referring to Chinonye Chukwu and Akinola Davies. That’s not the case with Obasi who, since O-City has acquired credit in main Nollywood productions, comparable to Lionheart and Residing in Bondage: Breaking Free. As with many younger and bold filmmakers, he in all probability has a fancy relationship with the time period Nollywood— however I’m sure the time period has no drawback with him. His movie at Sundance, Mami Wata, is distributed by Movie One, considered one of Nollywood’s huge gamers, which comes as a shock, given Movie One’s usually mainstream Nollywood tastes. On this proof, Movie One is increasing into a world participant, doing what companies of its dimension and obvious ambition do elsewhere by showcasing a range of tasks. Briefly, Obasi and his venture have Nigerian DNA by and thru.
The query that might comply with is: what occurs subsequent? That might rely upon the reception of the movie in Utah. But it surely helps to keep in mind that Sundance gave such filmmakers as Steven Soderbergh and Quentin Tarantino a platform to launch great careers. Possibly, simply possibly, it’s one Nigerian filmmaker’s flip.
Regardless of the case, in a day or two, I shall see the movie for myself courtesy of a Sundance invitation. I attended the pageant three years in the past in individual, however that wasn’t sufficient for the US Embassy this time. So I’ll should make do with seeing Mami Wata utilizing my on-line Sundance cross.
This protects me cash however it robs me of the pleasure of answering any pesky questions on Nollywood and/or Nigerian cinema with a little bit of pleasure in Utah. Which is unlucky as a result of I’ve imagined myself saying, “After all, there’s a Nigerian filmmaker exhibiting within the World Dramatic Competitors. His identify is CJ Obasi. Possibly I can inform you in regards to the day I first noticed his work?”