Posts Tagged ‘New York’

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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En route to Akodo Beach: Funke Akindele (as Jenifa) with Denrele Edun of Soundcity and Seun Chukwuemeka of Spice TV

Shooting commenced today on Akodo Beach for the much-anticipated third installment of the blockbuster Jenifa series. The Return of Jenifa resumes the storyline from Part 2 after Jenifa discovered her HIV-positive status and follows her subsequent adventures in self-discovery. The comedy will address a variety of issues, most importantly HIV/AIDS-related stigma.

Funke Akindele (as Jenifa), Bakare Adeoye (Production Manager), and Joy Akalu (Wardrobe) review costume choices for the beach party scene

Funke Akindele (as Jenifa) in hair and make-up

Funke Akindele reprises her role as the title character–which has become a household name Nigeria– along with her simultaneous duties as writer and producer. She promises a “bigger and better” film with a celebrity-filled cast featuring musicians eLDee and Omawumi, comedienne Helen Paul, dancer Kaffy, as well as TV presenters Denrele Edun and Seun Chukwuemeka.

DJ Tee (Director of Photography) shooting on the camera crane

Akindele will lead the 250-member cast and crew over the next 12 days of shooting in Lagos. The production will continue over another two weeks in New York City and Houston, Texas.

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Recovered Illegal DVDs at the "Operation Access Nollywood" Press Conference in Brooklyn, NY, Photo courtesy NollywoodNYC

On November 4, 2010, Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes announced the seizure of 10,000 counterfeit Nollywood DVDs from nine Brooklyn video stores. The recovery, named “Operation Access Nollywood” is the start of an investigation into the counterfeiting and illegal sale of Nigerian movies in the United States. According to the New York Post, the American market for Nollywood films is estimated at $20 million per year, compared to the $250 million African market.

Per Hynes, ““The sale of bootleg and counterfeit goods deprives the city and state of New York of millions of dollars in sales tax revenue, at a time when we all need it most, and it deprives the artists who made the movies of their well-deserved proceeds.”

The seizure was precipitated by a complaint to the District Attorney’s Action Center from Tony Abulu, President of the US-based Filmmakers Association of Nigeria. Abulu said, “The sweat and blood of Africa, both on the continent and in the U.S., will not go to waste.”

Now that US law enforcement officials have prioritized protecting the intellectual property of Nollywood filmmakers on American shores, all eyes are turning to their Nigerian counterparts. What is stopping a raid on this scale from happening in Lagos, where the impact will be ten-fold?

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Once again, the international art world has come knocking on Nollywood’s door. The photography exhibition, Sharon Stone in Abuja (which references the popular Nollywood film of the same name), will open tomorrow at Location One in New York City. The show, which features works by Wangechi Mutu, Pieter Hugo, Mickalene Thomas, Andrew Esiebo, and Zina Saro-Wiwa, promises to “reimagine the visual conventions of Nollywood film-making and explore the emotional landscape of Nigeria and Africa”. Filmmaker and AfricaLab founder Zina Saro-Wiwa and James Lindon of Pace Gallery are the co-curators.

I was not impressed by Pieter Hugo’s Nollywood show at Yossi Milo in New York City earlier this year, which I felt decontexualized the industry to the point of portraying it as the freakish “other”. Thus, I am skeptical if Sharon Stone in Abuja will actually contribute worthwhile dialogue to current discussions about the industry or if it will just sensationalize Nollywood’s frequent depictions of rituals and witchcraft. Since I’m no longer on my old stomping grounds to see the exhibition in person, I would be more than happy to publish any gallery-goer’s account of the show. What do you think of the concept?

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After reading this NY Daily News article, it looks like I’ll have to make a pilgrimage to the African Movies Mall in the Bronx during my brief interval in NYC next week.

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