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Archive for the ‘Premieres/Screenings’ Category


After a 20-hour journey from Lagos via Johannesburg, we arrived in São Paulo, Brazil on Thursday 17 November 2011 to celebrate the inaugural edition of the Bem-vindo a Nollywood Film Festival – honoring the works of veteran director Tunde Kelani. The Nigerian delegation consisted of me, Kelani, Ma’ami production manager Jamiu Shoyode, and Arugba and Ma’ami associate producer Hakeem Adenekan. Nollywood expert Prof. Jonathan Haynes graciously paused his Guggenheim Fellowship work to join us from New York.

Arriving at the Cine Olido, the main site of the "Bem-vindo a Nollywood" Film Festival in São Paulo, Brazil. © 2011 Mainframe Film & TV Productions

The Brazilian coordinators (counterclockwise): Vanessa Lopes, Roberta Astolfi, Alex Andrade at the welcome dinner. © 2011 Mainframe Film & TV Productions

Olusegun Michael Akinruli, founder of the Instituto de Arte e Cultura Yoruba, met us at the airport and became our knowledgeable guide for the first few hours in São Paulo. From the beginning, the trip was meticulously orchestrated by my Brazilian co-curator, Alex Andrade of Kinopedia Ltd, and his associates, Vanessa Lopes and Roberta Astolfi.

Meeting with José Roberto Sadek, Secretary of Culture of the City of São Paulo. © 2011 Mainframe Film & TV Productions

José Roberto Sadek, Secretary of Culture of the City of São Paulo, displays his gift from Kelani of Mainframe classics. © 2011 Mainframe Film & TV Productions

The next morning, we met with José Roberto Sadek, the Secretary of Culture of the City of São Paulo. Along with the Cine Olido – the Festival’s main venue – he also oversees 12 theaters, 60 libraries, and approximately 600 cultural programs per month. Sadek applauded the Nollywood financing model for its “accountability to the audience”. Since most Brazilian films receive government funding, filmmakers don’t feel the need to make a profit and follow popular tastes.

Eder Mazine (far right), President of the São Paulo Film Commission, presents gifts to Hakeem Adenekan and Tunde Kelani. © 2011 Mainframe Film & TV Productions

L-R: Hakeem Adenekan, Tunde Kelani, Eder Mazine, Jamiu Shoyode, Bic Leu, Jonathan Haynes, Film Commission rep, Alex Andrade at the Cine Olido. © 2011 Mainframe Film & TV Productions

Next, we encountered Eder Mazine, the President of the São Paulo Film Commission. Mazine emphasized the need to attract more foreign productions, such as Nollywood, to the city as film shoots engender economic growth by creating widespread employment.

Tour of the Cinemateca Brasileira. © 2011 Mainframe Film & TV Productions

Tour of the Cinemateca Brasileira. © 2011 Mainframe Film & TV Productions

After that, we were treated to a comprehensive tour of the Cinemateca Brasileira, the second Festival venue and the largest film archive and audiovisual conservation center in Latin America. The Cinemateca is housed in the renovated municipal slaughterhouse, where specialists conserve and restore foreign and national films produced since 1895. The institution is home to an astounding 250,000 rolls of film and 35,000 titles; its library boasts over 23,000 items. To my Nigerian colleagues, the most amazing discovery was that the public could access everything that the Cinemateca offers for free in perpetuity.

With Tunde Kelani at the cinema inside the Cinemateca Brasileira. © 2011 Mainframe Film & TV Productions

The tour of the Cinemateca confirmed to me that all I have done has been worthwhile. I may not be rich in the material sense, but I now realize the importance of going back to rescue what I have done and what the [Nigerian film] industry has done. — Tunde Kelani

At the premiere of "Ma'ami" at the Cine Olio. © 2011 Mainframe Film & TV Productions

Tunde Kelani with filmmaker Abel Success Erebe (far left) at the premiere of "Ma'ami" at the Cine Olido. © 2011 Mainframe Film & TV Productions

The evening ended with the official Brazilian premiere of Ma’ami, hosted by our friends at the Secretary of Culture at the Cine Olido. Prominent Nigerian-Brazilians attended to pay respect to Kelani, including Abel Success Ebere, director of Black Night in South America (2007).

L-R: Jonathan Haynes, Jamiu Shoyode, Bic Leu, Hakeem Adenekan, Tunde Kelani. © 2011 Mainframe Film & TV Productions

The second day began with me moderating a roundtable discussion on current issues in Nollywood at the Cine Olido – featuring Kelani, Haynes, Shoyode and Adenakan. The topics ranged from funding and distribution to location management and international diffusion of Nollywood films.

Festival co-curator, Alex Andrade, poses a question on Nigerian film preservation. © 2011 Mainframe Film & TV Productions

One of the most thought-provoking questions came from my co-curator, Alex Andrade, who asked about the preservation efforts of Nigerian films and “what we can do to ensure that we see the movies that you make.” Kelani and Haynes both agreed that an ideal Brazilian-Nigerian partnership would consist of the Cinemateca Brasileira managing the technical training of archiving and preservation and a private sector player, such as oil and gas giant Petrobras, providing the funding. Perhaps this initiative will get kick started by the next annual edition of the Festival.

A performance by the Orquestra de Berimbaus at the Centro Cultural da Juventude. © 2011 Mainframe Film & TV Productions

View of São Paulo at night from the Centro Cultural da Juventude. © 2011 Mainframe Film & TV Productions

After the discussion, the delegation took a break to enjoy a performance by the Orquestra de Berimbaus at the Centro Cultural da Juventude.

National Black Consciousness Day celebration at the Museu Afro Brasil. © 2011 Mainframe Film & TV Productions

Our last full day on 20th November coincided with the National Black Consciousness Day (Dia da Consciência Negra). As such, we visited the Museu Afro Brasil, where a full-fledged celebration featured a food festival and a live concert, which eventually invaded the pristine halls of the Museum.

"Metrópolis" interviews Kelani outside the Polo Cultural de Heliópolis. © 2011 Mainframe Film & TV Productions

"Metrópolis" interviews Kelani outside the Polo Cultural de Heliópolis. © 2011 Mainframe Film & TV Productions

Community leaders lead us on a tour of the Heliópolis favela. © 2011 Mainframe Film & TV Productions

Community leaders lead us on a tour of the Heliópolis favela. © 2011 Mainframe Film & TV Productions

With Heliópolis community leaders. © 2011 Mainframe Film & TV Productions

Later on that afternoon, we toured Heliópolis, the largest favela (or shantytown) in Brazil – home to 190,000 people. Rising above its poverty and infrastructural challenges, Heliópolis is a success story of community organization. In 2007, community leaders successfully petitioned the Municipality of São Paulo and the State Government to fund the construction of an education and cultural center (and the third venue of the Festival). Built by renowned architect Ruy Othake, the center includes a gallery, a theater, and classrooms for over 2,000 students.

Heliópolis community leader (right) presents Kelani with a gift. © 2011 Mainframe Film & TV Productions

Touched by the perseverance of the Heliópolis residents and community leaders, Kelani declared the tour of the favela and the subsequent screening of Ma’ami in the community theater as “the happiest moments of my life.”

With my Brazilian co-curator, Alex Andrade, at the Polo Cultural de Heliópolis. © 2011 Mainframe Film & TV Productions

At the end of our tour of the Heliópolis favela. © 2011 Mainframe Film & TV Productions

I feel extremely fortunate that my Nollywood immersion has come full circle. After being introduced to Nigerian cinema in Jonathan HaynesLong Island University office, my education was cemented on the set of Tunde Kelani’s Ma’ami in Abeokuta in October 2010 – just two weeks after my arrival in Nigeria on the Fulbright grant. I am so honored to complete my Nollywood research with these two amazing individuals, as well as be joined by new friends who have supported me along the way – Alex Andrade, Jamiu Shoyode and Hakeem Adenekan.


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A Nigerian Endowment for the Arts could help fund film productions like Tunde Kelani's 'Ma'ami'. © Bic Leu and FindingNollywood.com, 2011.

With the recent announcement of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) and the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) for film industry development, the question of access to funding in Nollywood is once again a hot topic in the entertainment sector.

SMEDAN Director General Alhaji Muhammad Nadada Umar stated that the MOU aimed to create opportunities for small businesses to grow in the film industry, especially in regards to youth employment, revenue generation, poverty reduction and social stability in the country. SMEDAN, he said, would support the NFC with funding windows available to Nigerian entrepreneurs such as the SME credit guarantee scheme introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the funding scheme of the National Economic Reconstruction Fund (NERFUND).

This topic was reiterated during the Silverbird premiere last Wednesday of Communicating for Change’s documentary on Nigerian artists, RedHot Nigerian Creativity, and then again during a recent conversation I had with The Guardian on Sunday editor Jahman Anikulapo.  Anikulapo suggested that instead of transient initiatives like the SMEDAN/NFC MOU or the current $USD 200 million Special Entertainment Fund that is administered by the Bank of Industry, the Federal Government should set up a permanent institution dedicated to creative industries development like the US National Endowment of the Arts (NEA).

The NEA is an American independent federal agency that receives annual appropriations from the US Congress to award grants and fellowships to creative industry professionals and organizations in such areas as Arts Education, Dance, Literature, Museums, Music, Theater, and Visual Arts. At present, the NEA awards more than 2,500 grants and cooperative agreements exceeding $USD 130 million. Since its establishment in 1965, the NEA has awarded over $USD 4 billion in grants to develop and sustain the American creative industries.

Anikulapo further proposed that setting aside 1% of the annual Companies Income Tax paid to the Federal Government could fund the Nigerian NEA and that a government-appointed committee of art experts could be tasked with evaluating each grant proposal.

What do you think of Anikulapo’s idea to counter the neglect of the creative industries in Nigeria by setting up a sustainable grant-making agency? What can be adapted from this American model to work within the Nigerian context? What type of framework needs to put in place to ensure that the grant-dispersal is free and fair?

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Executive Producer Emem Isong at the 'Kiss & Tell' premiere, Silverbird Galleria. © Bic Leu and FindingNollywood.com, 2011.

Bird's eye view of the 'Kiss & Tell' premiere, Silverbird Galleria. © Bic Leu and FindingNollywood.com, 2011.

When I sat next to Guy Murray-Bruce, President of Silverbird Entertainment, at fundraiser dinner last night, he identified the burgeoning growth of cinema releases as one of the most important developments in Nollywood in the last 15 years (although he was not able to tell me approximately how many Nigerian films Silverbird had screened in 2010). This trend was confirmed tonight at the Silverbird premiere of Kiss & Tell, the latest drama from Executive Producers Emem Isong and Monalisa Chinda, and long-time collaborator Director Desmond Elliott. The film also features the acting talents of Desmond ElliottMonalisa ChindaNse Ikpe-EtimUche Jombo and Joseph Benjamin.

In a recent conversation, Isong divulged that when she shot the film about a year and half ago, she had originally intended it for straight-to-video release. Upon further review, she became taken with the movie’s quick-witted dialogue and decided to unveil it on the big screen.

This revelation brought up an issue that I’ve encountered numerous times in the industry: Just because cinema release is now available in Nollywood, should filmmakers exercise this option indiscriminately? (The worst offender being Vivian Ejike’s A Private Storm). While I quite enjoyed Kiss & Tell’s clever verbal sparring and chemistry among the main characters, there were a few elements that made it apparent that the film was made for the small screen, such as the inconsistent sound quality and the slow pacing in the middle (which is around when the movie would have been cut into Parts 1 & 2 for the video release).

Thus, is the current cinema culture in Nollywood sustainable or are filmmakers rushing into the trend to turn a quick profit?

Read FindingNollywood.com‘s behind-the-scenes coverage of Desmond Elliott’sMidnight Whisper.

 

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Last night, director Tunde Kelani premiered his latest feature, Ma’ami, to a packed house at Agip Hall at the MUSON Centre. The evening honored the re-election of Governor Babatunde Fashola as the Lagos State Government was a major funding source of the film. Governor Fashola gave the closing remarks after the screening – during which he highlighted the personal impact of Mainframe films, starting with Saworoide in 1999.

Per Production Manager Jamiu Shoyode, the film will premiere next weekend in Abeokuta.

Watch FindingNollywood.com’s behind-the-scenes coverage of the Ma’ami shoot.
Read
FindingNollywood.com’s behind-the-scenes coverage of the Ma’ami shoot.

Ma'ami' on stage at the MUSON Centre. © Bic Leu and FindingNollywood.com, 2011

Governor Fashola gives his closing remarks with Tunde Kelani. © Bic Leu and FindingNollywood.com, 2011

Governor Fashola gives his closing remarks with Tunde Kelani. © Bic Leu and FindingNollywood.com, 2011

With Tunde Kelani and Deji Ajose-Ojikutu. © Bic Leu and FindingNollywood.com, 2011

With Wole Ojo. © Bic Leu and FindingNollywood.com, 2011

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Director Andrew Donsunmu (in red) with the crew of 'Restless CIty' at the NYC premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. © Bic Leu and FindingNollywood.com, 2011

After missing the Restless City screening at FESPACO in March, I was pleased to be invited by New York African Film Festival director, Mahen Bonetti, to view the film at its New York premiere on May 29.

First-time director Andrew Dosunmu premiered the film at Sundance this year.  The movie follows Djibril, a young Senegalese immigrant, as he navigates the urban jungles of New York City. Per Dosunmu during the Q&A session, he wanted to portray the nuances of “universal displacement” in Djibril’s self-exile.

A film still from 'Restless City'. © Jenny Baptiste, 2011

As a New Yorker, I found the film exquisite. Director of Photography Bradford Young captured images of Manhattan in ways that I had never seen during the 18-day shoot. There is a scene in which the M1 bus (my former preferred commute) repeatedly threatens to overtake Djibril on his moped – an apt visual metaphor for the City’s voracious appetite to swallow you whole.

As a Lagosian, I was bored. After spending the past nine months watching Nollywood films, Restless City’s sparse dialogue and silent close-ups didn’t resonate with the “aesthetics of outrage” that media anthropologist Brian Larkin (2008) coined to describe the melodramatic plot lines and overwrought acting that characterize Nigerian cinema.  While there was plenty of drama in Restless City’s storyline, I thought its visual language was too “nuanced” to capture a popular African audience.

Dosunmu mentioned that after taking the film on the international festival circuit, he planned to release the film in Nigerian cinemas. I couldn’t help wondering how Restless City would be received by Lagosian movie-goers next to the current Silverbird offerings like Aramotu and The Hangover, Part II.

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Five months after shooting wrapped in Abeokuta, Tunde Kelani is finally ready to unveil his latest feature film, Ma’ami – starring Funke Akindele, Wole Ojo, Tamilore Kuboye and Olumide Bakare. The invitation-only premiere will take place at Agip Hall of the MUSON Centre in Lagos on Saturday 4th June 2011 to celebrate the re-election of Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN.

The event marks the latest in a string of collaborations between Mainframe Productions and Lagos State. In 2008, Kelani celebrated Governor Fashola’s inaugural year in office with the premiere of Arugba. The premiere of Saworoide in 1999 honored election of former Governor Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, while Agogo-Eewo celebrated Tinubu‘s 50th birthday in 2002.

Ma’ami is based on Femi Osofisan’s novel of the same title and follows Kelani’s tradition of bringing Nigerian literature to the big screen. Past works include Koseegbe and O le ku, written by Akinwumi Isola; Thunderbolt (Magun) adapted from Adebayo Faleti’s MAGUN : The Whore (with Thunderbolt AIDS); and The White Handkerchief and The Narrow Path adapted from Bayo Adebowale‘s The Virgin.

Due to the threat of piracy, Kelani is only releasing Ma’ami at cinemas throughout the country.  He also plans to organize free mobile cinema screenings and lectures at universities throughout the Southwest.

Watch FindingNollywood.com’s behind-the-scenes coverage of the Ma’ami shoot.
Read
FindingNollywood.com’s behind-the-scenes coverage of the Ma’ami shoot.

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A bird eye’s view of the red carpet at the Tango with Me premiere at Silverbird Galleria. Photo © 2011 Bic Leu

Mahmood Ali-Balogun’s Tango with Me finally premiered last night at Silverbird Galleria on Victoria Island after more than five years in the making. When I first spoke to the director in January, he revealed that he initially developed the story in 2005, but did not finalize the screenplay (which went through seven drafts) until 2007. He then spent the next two years working and approaching family and friends to fund-raise for the N100 million production budget. Ali-Balogun was also consumed during this period with planning for the shipment of 35 mm camera equipment and crew from the US–including Director of Photography Keith Holland and Production Designer Toi Whittaker. Principal photography commenced in Lagos in November 2009 and the shoot wrapped in March 2010.

Ali-Balogun then traveled to Dubai where he spent two weeks using Telecine to transfer the 35 mm rushes to video. This allowed him to use the video production equipment in his Surulere studio to inexpensively and extensively edit the footage over the next three months. In mid-2010, Ali-Balogun travelled to South Africa to mix the sound; after which he completed and screened a rough cut to a few friends in the Lagos culturatti. He then used their feedback to inform the editing process when he traveled to the Kodak lab in Bulgaria from October to December 2010 to do the final cut in celluloid.

Ali-Balogun hopes to recoup his substantial investments in time and money by attracting Nigerians to cinemas to see this “dialogue-driven” movie about “the day-to-day story that you know about that people don’t want to talk about. …It’s about how you handle [the situation]. It has to do with issues of faith; it’s about forgiveness; it’s about two people in love.”

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