In the last few year a few Nigerian Born Directors have made waves internationally.
Thomas Ikimi with his debut Limbo and it’s follow up Legacy: Black Ops scoring a ,hot off The Wire , Idris Elba as his lead and co-producer. He was nominated for a British Independent Film Award, and won Best Director at the London Screen Nation Awards 2011, Legacy was picked up for distribution in both the US and UK with limited theatrical releases in both countries.
Andrew Dosunmu with Restless City and follow up Mother of George, both films wining Cinematography awards at Sundance.
Akin Omotoso’s crime drama ,Man on Ground, premiering at TIFF
Destiny Ekaragha’s Gone Too Far winning Best New Comer at the London Film Festival,and is only the third British black woman, following Ngozi Onwurah and Amma Asante, to have directed a feature-length film that was given theatrical distribution in the UK
Richard Ayoade with Submarine and The Double, both films received critical acclaim.
Rick Famuyiwa (Brown Sugar, The Wood) making a splash at Sundance with coming of age movie Dope and is now attached to Direct the feature film for DC’s speedster THE FLASH
While we celebrate these Nigerian kin, the thing is, all these filmmakers were either born or raised abroad and aside their names, they are almost unidentifiable as Nigerians. The question then is, despite the position of Nigeria as the second largest producer of film in the world, why aren’t we frequently making films that take the world by storm?
If City of God from Brazil , a country with no discernible film industry could get everyone talking, inspire many of today’s Nigerian directors that such a level of FilmMaking was possible from the “third world”, why hasn’t any Nigerian film(100% cast, crew & finance) had that impact?
Why aren’t we regularly in competition at the top film festivals; Cannes, Sundance, TIFF, Berlinale ,Venice ?( If there are, please let me know)
Considering the output of Nollywood, the odds should be astronomically higher than most other countries, innit ?
At the NEC event in 2013, a prominent industry figure while on a panel was asked about our lack of presence at film festivals. With condescending irritation, he dismissed the question, stating we didn’t need the festivals and that the films were made for local audiences who loved what they were getting. Is this a sincere reason, or simply a cop out from making globally accessible films? After all, film is a visual language that should transcend culture, language and creed. Be accessible to anyone anywhere; opening the filmmaker to a wider demographic and more opportunities.
Film Festivals are to the filmmaker what the Olympics are to Athletes. While you may be a champion sprinter in your community if you really want prove that you as good as or better than everyone else in the world, you do that at the Olympics.
So, shouldn’t Nollywood be a regular feature in film festivals around the world? Shouldn’t Nigerian born and bred directors have films that have the entire global industry talking? It’s larger distribution and more income so why wouldn’t anyone want that? Also with Hollywood’s love for “discovering” foreign talent, it’s creates a bigger platform for the filmmaker.
There are many filmmakers who truly have no interest in any market beyond the one they currently serving and that is fine, but that certainly can’t be the perspective of the majority, can it?
Foreign Directors (non U.S) have caught the eyes of studios when their “low budget” films, made in their home countries, make waves and are transcendent of language and race.
Gavin Hood (South Africa) won the Oscar for Tsotsi was hired to direct Wolverine: X Men origins ,
Fernando Meirielles(Brazil) made The Constant Gardner.
Florian Henckel Von Donnersmack (Germany) directed The Tourist based on the impression he made with The Lives of Others ,
Tomas Alfredson(Sweden) made the cult hit Let the Right one in and was given Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
Jose Padhila(Brazil) Directed Elite Squad and was hired for the Robocop reboot and now is producing and directing NARCOS for NETFLIX
It can be argued that their Hollywood outing weren’t great ,(studio interference et al) but their work got them to the place where Studios called them, skipping over available U.S born and bred options in their backyard.
Why can’t this also be the story of a Nigerian director, who made a tour de force film for N10m and has studios fighting to hire him and give him/her $50m to make a film ?
It would be wonderful to one day, see a film, 100% Nigerian cast and crew, be the opening/closing film for any of the top 5 film festivals in the world. For a Nigerian director’s name to be called as the winner of the PalmDOr , Golden Bear, Sundance/Venice Jury Prize, TIFF etc.
Someone reading this is thinking, What about the local awards? Why do we need international glory? To that, the response is, there is a difference between the Super Eagles being the African champions and the Super Eagles being the World Cup Champions, why not both?