Showing posts with label Nollywood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nollywood. Show all posts

Monday, January 29, 2024

Video - Nigeria box office revenue soars as popular releases draw crowds to cinemas



Nigeria's cinemas have announced cumulative revenue of 21.5 million dollars over the past three years. Analysts attribute the strong performance to a combination of popular film releases and a surge in ticket sales

CGTN

Related story: Top Foreign Movies That Were Filmed in Nigeria

 

Monday, December 11, 2023

Filmmakers in Nigeria turn to YouTube for distribution

For the past five years, Nigerian actor, producer, and director Ibrahim Yekini has released most of his movies exclusively on YouTube. In November, he posted two of the biggest films of his career on the platform, which have garnered over 1.5 million views in total so far. Yekini — who starred in one of Netflix’s most successful Nigerian originals, Jagun Jagun, in 2023 — told Rest of World he has earned thousands of dollars from his YouTube releases.

“We moved to YouTube to escape CD piracy, which has now reduced,” he said.

Another popular Nigerian filmmaker, Seun Oloketuyi, decided to start releasing his movies on YouTube in 2022, after battling piracy for years. “All it takes is just one person going to the market to buy one copy of the CD and send it to the U.K. and the U.S.,” he told Rest of World. “The person in these countries makes multiple copies and sends them to multiple African stores.”

Oloketuyi has since released six films exclusively on YouTube, and plans to release two more before the end of 2023.

He and Yekini are among a growing crop of filmmakers in Nigeria — home to Nollywood, Africa’s largest film industry with around 2,500 films produced annually — who are using YouTube as a movie streaming platform. They told Rest of World they consider it a more democratic alternative to Netflix, Prime Video, and Showmax. Uploading their content on YouTube allows them to control the distribution of their work, without fear of piracy.

Selling movies to Netflix, Prime Video, and Showmax can be challenging as these platforms are too picky, Oris Aigbokhaevbolo, a Nigerian film critic, told Rest of World. “For low-budget productions, YouTube has had the most impact. For those who have built a following on the platform, there’s no real revenue sharing, [unlike] cinemas,” he said. “There are also lower expectations of quality — something Nollywood loves. You don’t have to shoot in multiple locations, even if your script calls for it. Low costs, dollars, obscure revenue sharing. What’s not to love?”

Its popularity among filmmakers has made YouTube a bigger streaming service in Nigeria compared to platforms like Netflix, Godwin Simon, who researches streaming media and the platform economy at the Queensland University of Technology, told Rest of World. “So many of them now produce direct-to-YouTube films so that they could make money and also pay the cast and crew,” he said. Nigeria reportedly has around 31.6 million YouTube users, and about 169,600 Netflix subscribers. YouTube did not respond to Rest of World’s request for comment.

Some filmmakers sell their movies to YouTube channels that aggregate content from the country. These aggregators operate just like streaming platforms, acquiring content or striking profit-sharing partnerships with filmmakers to exclusively release content on their channels.

Some YouTube channels also commission original content made exclusively for them. Rest of World found at least 10 Nigerian film channels on YouTube that post new releases at least once a week.

“We have a lot of people submitting their content, but we have a policy of screening all the content and making sure they are all on par with what our subscribers will want to watch,” Lekan Wasiudeen, a network engineer-turned-film producer who runs the Libra TV channel on YouTube, told Rest of World. Libra TV, launched in August 2015, now has more than 550,000 subscribers, and over 100 million views across 400-plus videos. The channel uploads at least three new movies each week.

ApataTV+, a Nigerian YouTube film channel with 1.69 million subscribers, has racked up more than 479 million views since its launch in September 2015, creator Olusola Akinyemi told Rest of World. “We publish and delete [movies] based on the contracts with our partners,” he said. “We procure movies and also do profit-sharing with our producers.”

Oloketuyi said the prospect of earning in U.S. dollars makes YouTube attractive to Nigerian filmmakers. He said he once made a film with a budget of 1 million naira ($1,200), and received $3,500 in his first check from YouTube.

But earnings from YouTube are still limited, Oloketuyi said.

In Nigeria, YouTube ads are not very sought-after, according to Olawale Adetula, founder of TNC Africa, a Lagos-based film production company. TNC Africa started out by making drama series for YouTube, and now produces original content for Netflix.

YouTube makes money from the ads that run before, during, and after videos, and shares those earnings with creators. For premium users who don’t see ads, YouTube shares a fraction of the viewers’ subscription fees with creators. Some Nigerian creators are now looking for ways to target YouTube viewers in the U.S. and the U.K. as they believe that would improve their earnings.

“If I make a video and … get a million views and all my viewers are from Nigeria … I’ll probably get paid $1,000 or maybe $1,500,” Nigerian YouTuber Tayo Aina told Rest of World. “If that same video had 1 million views from America, [I would] probably make like $10,000 to $15,000.” Anita Eboigbe, a Nollywood critic and co-founder of trade publication Inside Nollywood, believes targeting global audiences will give local filmmakers more room to diversify their income on YouTube. “You need to create demand for your content so people are going to stumble on it,” she told Rest of World. “It comes down to expanding your market, which is now equal to influence, money, and impact at a bigger scale than what you’d have if you limit it to just Nigeria.”

The shift to YouTube has helped Nigerian filmmakers fight piracy, which is rampant in the country. The illegal distribution of movies is so widespread that there are organized groups controlling the industry, Adetula said. Before YouTube became a popular option, producers often had no alternative but to sell their films at cheaper rates to piracy platforms. “[Those were] some of the compromises producers were making back then because of the limitation of distribution channels,” Adetula said. “Platforms like YouTube reduce piracy.” 

By Damilare Dosunmu, Rest of World

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Video - Netflix Hit The Black Book examines Justice in Nigeria

Friday, November 24, 2023

Daughter of Richard Pryor Shooting Nollywood-Hollywood Film In Nigeria

Rain Pryor, the daughter of American comedian and actor, Richard Pryor, has commenced shooting of her Nollywood-Hollywood film project in Nigeria.

The untitled film centers around the Yoruba Ifa Mythology, a subject she has studied over the years, then decided to make a movie about.

As an actress, Rain has featured in several film and TV credits and sitcoms including Head of the Class and Rude Awakening.

The film, which is her debut directorial role, is a cross-cultural affair that unites Nollywood and Hollywood talents, with Nollywood actor, Odunlade Adekola in the lead role as Oba Fagbemi.

“I am a fan of Nollywood. In the last year and a half, Nollywood has flooded the United States through Netflix and other streaming platforms, and I have watched King of Boys, Jagun Jagun among others. I have also watched Adekola’s acting range and what he can do and believe he possesses what is needed for the character of Oba Fagbemi in the film, and that’s why I chose him,” said the 53-year-old actress who was renamed Osunyemi Oriomodun (Osun Priestess).

For Rain, the project is life-changing as it was for her late father who had visited Africa during his lifetime.

“I have a family that is rich in tradition and culture, and when I travelled to Nigeria to learn about the Yoruba culture, predominantly Ifa, I thought how can I collaborate with Nigerians and Black Americans to create something that is a mixture of Hollywood and Nollywood? My father made profound changes in his life when he came to Africa, and felt that he found his soul and himself, and here I am, doing the same thing, finding my place.”

Arguably the first of its kind, in terms of magnitude of the collaboration between the two film industries (Nollywood and Hollywood), Rain is confident it will excite viewers in the United States and Nigeria with its rich and cross-cultural plot.

Working closely with her to achieve this feat are Nigerian filmmaker Bola Attah, and Arts Consultant, Chike Nwoffiah. Both serve as executive directors in the project contributing their expertise to the success of the film.

By Samuel Abulude, Leadership

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Monday, October 23, 2023

Video - Netflix Hit The Black Book examines Justice in Nigeria

A Nigerian action thriller that tells a gripping story of corruption and police brutality in Africa’s most populous country has reached record viewership numbers on Netflix charts globally. It's a reminder of the power and potential of Nigeria's rapidly growing film industry.

“The Black Book” has taken the streaming world by storm, spending three weeks among the platform’s top 10 English-language titles globally, peaking at No. 3 in the second week.

It garnered 5.6 million views just 48 hours after its Sept. 22 release and by its second week was featured among the top 10 titles in 69 countries, according to Netflix.

"Films are made for audiences, and the bigger the audience for a film, the better the chances of your message going out,” producer Editi Effiong told The Associated Press. “The reality for us is that we made a film, made by Nigerians, funded by Nigerian money, go global.”

Nollywood, Nigeria's film industry, has been a global phenomenon since the 1990s when it rose to fame with such films as “Living in Bondage,” a thriller with Kunle Afolayan's Anikulapo released in 2022 and peaking at No. 1 on Netflix's global chart. It is the world's second-largest film industry after India based on number of productions, with an average of 2,000 movies released annually.

Nollywood's latest blockbuster, “The Black Book,” is a $1 million movie financed with the support of a team of experts and founders in Nigeria’s tech ecosystem and is Effiong’s first feature film.

It tells the story of Nigeria’s checkered past, spanning a period of 40 years from when military regimes killed and arrested dissidents at will until the present day, when police brutality and abuse of power remain rampant.

The film opens with the abduction of family members of the head of the Nigerian oil regulatory agency, aided by corrupt police officers working for top politicians.
To cover their tracks, the police kill a young man framed as the suspect in the kidnapping — not knowing he was the only child of a former special operative who abandoned his weapons for the pulpit.

In his prime, the character of ex-officer-turned-pastor Paul Edima — played by Nigerian movie icon Richard Mofe-Damijo — was known as Nigeria’s “most dangerous man” with a past punctuated by assassinations and involvement in several coups across West Africa.

Portrayed as a repentant man who has turned over a new leaf after being inspired by his favorite Bible passage 1 Corinthians 5:17, Edima feels compelled to take revenge for his son’s death after failing to convince authorities his son is innocent.

The issue of delayed justice is not new in Nigeria. Many on Friday remembered the deadly protests of 2020 when young Nigerians demonstrating against police brutality were shot at and killed. Three years later, rights groups say many victims of police abuse still haven't gotten justice.

For Edima, justice for his son comes at a cost. One by one, he hunts down the officers behind his son's death, leading him to the army general behind the plot — coincidentally his former boss.

“It is a fictional narrative, but this is what Nigeria was,” Effiong told the AP.
He believes Nigeria is not doing a good job of teaching its history in the schools and letting young people understand how the country’s past is shaping the present.

“A society must be changed positively by art, and so there was an orientation on our part to, through the film we are going to make, reflect on this issue (of police brutality),” Effiong said.

While a government-commissioned panel of inquiry investigated the protest shootings in Nigeria’s economic hub of Lagos in 2020, Effiong attended its meetings and provided live updates via his page on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter. At the same time, pre-production for the movie already had begun.

“We must tell the truth in spite of the circumstances," he said. "Justice is important for everyone: the people we like and the people we do not like — especially the people we do not like,” he said.

Some have said the movie's plot is like that of the American action thriller John Wick. It is a surprising but flattering comparison that also testifies to the movie’s success, Effiong said.

The movie also has been lauded as signifying the potential of the film industry in Nigeria as well as across Africa. The continent's streaming on-demand video (SVOD) market is expected to boast a robust 18 million subscribers, up from 8 million this year, according to a recent report from market intelligence firm Digital TV Research.

According to a Netflix spokesperson, entertainment with local stories remains the core of the platform’s main objective in sub-Saharan Africa. “Africa has great talent and world-class creatives, and we are committed to investing in African content and telling African stories of every kind,” Netflix said in a statement.

In Nigeria, the movie industry is at “the point right now where the world needs to take notice,” Effiong said.

He said that's because. “The Black Book is a film by Black people, Black actors, Black producers, Black money 100%, and it’s gone ahead to become a global blockbuster.”

AP

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Monday, October 16, 2023

Video - Mami Wata selected as contender for 2024 Oscars

Nigeria has selected Sundance Festival award-winning film, “Mami Wata” as its contender for the 96th Academy Awards’ International Feature Film (IFF) category.

Written and directed by C.J. Obasi, the film is an exploration and creative reimagination of the mythology of a titular mermaid-deity of West African folklore, and one which, among other things, celebrates womanhood.

The Nigerian Official Section Committee (NOSC) for the IFF said it selected the film for its “relevant theme – multiple generations of women at the forefront of society’s well-being, its unique approach to a story of pre and post-colonial African societies, as well as its technical and artistic excellence.”

The NOSC voting members include: Stepanie Linus – award-winning actress and Chairperson of NOSC; Dr. Chidia Maduekwe – M.D Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC); Dr. Victor Okhai – President of Directors’ Guild of Nigeria (DGN); Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde – veteran actress; Mr. Andy Amenechi – former President of DGN; Yibo Koko – theater practitioner; and Izu Ojukwu – writer/director.

Others are Adetokunbo ‘DJ Tee’ Odubawo – Cinematographer; Emem Isong – writer/producer; Dimeji Ajibola – director; Jude Idada – writer/director; Ngozi Okafor – producer/costumier; John Njamah – actor/director; and Meg Otanwa – actress/polyglot.

“I’m excited to announce a milestone in our NOSC journey: our first Pidgin film submission to the Academy, marking our commitment to diversity and global representation. I urge filmmakers not to relent in enhancing their skills, and elevate production to global standards,” Linus stated.

“Mami Wata” advances in the Oscars race having received the highest votes from the 14-man committee. The next stage of the film will be determined by the IFF Executive Committee.

Shot on location in the Republic of Benin, “Mami Wata” tells the story of a beach-side community that must interrogate previously held beliefs when a stranger washes up ashore and further threatens its harmony.

The film, which had its theatrical releases in Nigeria and other countries, won the Special Jury Award at Sundance Film Festival 2023 for its vivid black-and-white cinematography.

The 96th Oscars will take place on Sunday, March 10, 2024. The show will air live on ABC and in more than 200 territories worldwide from the Dolby Theatre at Ovation, Hollywood.

By Chinelo Eze, The Guardian

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WURA - First Telenovela from Nigeria to premiere in January

Video - Why is Nigeria’s Nollywood failing to make awards shortlists?

Thursday, January 5, 2023

WURA - First Telenovela from Nigeria to premiere in January






 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With an early new year gift unveiling, the African streaming platform Showmax, which has given a lot of originals since the beginning of 2022, announced that Nigerians are in for a new ride in 2023.

The streaming platform is set to launch a new original telenovela titled ‘Wura’ in January 2023.

According to them, the new series is a Nigerian adaptation of the hit South African 1Magic telenovela, ‘The River’.

With over 200 episodes, Wura is billed to be the platform’s first and longest-running Nigerian telenovela.

The series will debut on Showmax on the 26th of January, with four episodes, weekly adding to Showmax’s library of local content and investment in Nigeria’s film industry, Nollywood.

In a constructed spotlight, the story, which is set against the backdrop of the gold mining industry in the Iperindo community of Osun state, tells the story of Wura-Amoo Adeleke, a perfect wife, a loving mother of two and, in a twist, the ruthless Chief Executive Officer of the fictional Frontline Gold Mine.

In the eyes of her family, Wura is faultless and a saint, but when it comes to running her business empire, she is the ultimate iron lady who doesn’t care whose ox is gored in her path to get what she wants.

This series stars Nollywood veterans and fast-rising new stars, including Scarlett Gomez, who is cast as the lead Wura Amoo-Adeleke.

Famous Nollywood Yoruba actor Yomi Fash-Lanso plays Anthony Amoo-Adeleke, and Nollywood veteran Carol King stars as Grace Adeleke in the series.

Other cast members are Ray Adeka as Jejeloye “Jeje” Amoo, Iremide Adeoye as Lolu Adeleke, Ego Iheanacho as Iyabo Kuti, Martha Ehinome as Tumininu “Tumi” Kuti, and Lanre Adediwura as Olumide Kuti.
 

Storyline

In Iperindo, where the show is set, although the story is fictional, the place is a natural, small community in Osun state in the South-Western part of Nigeria. It is one of the clusters of seven gold deposits around Ilesha town.

But, despite the promise that the presence of the precious metal holds for Iperindo and surrounding communities, residents are still plagued by poverty and exposed to environmental disasters due to mining activities. Wura, though fictional, will throw some light on this.

Speaking ahead of the show’s launch, Executive Head: content and West Africa Channels, MultiChoice Nigeria, Busola Tejumola, said: ‘Wura: explores the untold story of gold mining in Nigeria. Each scene is carefully crafted thoroughly,

Also, multiple award-winning makers of Wura, Rogers Ofime, said, “Wura gives all the emotions that a well-rounded series should; it will pull you into its world of intricacies, whodunit, deceit, triumph, and suspense from the very first frame to the last”.

By Solution Emmanuel, Premium Times

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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Video - Why is Nigeria’s Nollywood failing to make awards shortlists?



Despite the growing popularity of Nigerian movies, Nollywood is struggling. It is ranked as the world's second-largest producer of films, but lacks the resources to compete with Hollywood and Bollywood. Al Jazeera looks at the challenges in an industry that releases hundreds of films a year - but fails to make the shortlist at international festivals. Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris reports from Lagos, Nigeria.

Al Jazeera 

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Friday, September 16, 2022

Video - Nigeria’s entertainment sector contracts



Nigeria’s entertainment sector has contracted for the first time since 2019. Data from the Country’s Statistics Agency says the entertainment sector's GDP shrunk by nearly 6 percent despite overall growth in a nation that is home to Africa’s largest economy. Kelechi Emekalam has more. 

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Friday, August 5, 2022

Amazon Prime Video launches local service in Nigeria

Amazon Prime Video today announced the launch of the localized version of its streaming service in one of Africa’s biggest markets: Nigeria. Just as it did in Southeast Asia some days back, the tech giant is attempting to boost its subscriber push in new markets like Africa by increasing its investment in local production, unveiling slates of localized originals and introducing discounted Amazon Prime membership offerings to customers.

Amazon Prime Video launched in Africa in 2016 as part of its global push across more than 200 countries worldwide, bringing some serious competition to Netflix’s global plan launched that same year. However, versions of the service available in the region have never featured the local-language interfaces, subtitling and original content offerings typical in more developed markets.

That changes today in Nigeria and the whole of Africa as the company plans to launch in other markets like South Africa. In a tweet by its official account, Prime Video Naija, the company said that customers in Nigeria can stream more than 20,000 original TV shows and movies within its ecosystem, such as “The Boys,” “All or Nothing,” “Reacher” and “All the Old Knives.” According to its website, the service will cost ₦2,300/month (~$4) after a seven-day trial. Thus, for the first time, users in Nigeria will be able to subscribe to Prime Video using their local currency, and unlike how most have accessed the platform for region-specific content in the past, they would not require a VPN to stream content on the service.

Prime Video and other streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+, Canal+ and Showmax are vying for Africa’s 2026-projected 15 million video-on-demand subscribers. According to Digital TV Research, an analytics firm, Prime Video has 600,000 subscribers in Africa and might add 1.5 million new subscribers compared to Netflix’s 3 million subscribers in the next four years.

To gain more market share amid a streaming war for African content and eyeballs, Prime Video has been collaborating with filmmakers and content creators in Nigeria regarding the production of original and licensed content. The past couple of months has seen the service make strategic moves, such as closing theatrical outlet agreements with Anthill Studios, Inkblot Productions and Evoke Studios, hiring Insight Publicis as its creative agency and recruiting senior executives like Wangi Mba-Uzoukwu, head of Nigerian Local Originals, to develop original video content in Nigeria, Africa’s largest film industry.

Amazon Prime Video’s first Nigerian show is “Gangs of Lagos,” a local original crime action movie that follows three friends’ lives as they navigate the streets of Isale Eko in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial city, scheduled to be ready for launch later this year. 

Tech Crunch

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Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Nigeria’s box office rakes in N653m revenue for May

The Cinema Exhibitors Association of Nigeria (CEAN) on Tuesday said that it generated N653 million from tickets sold across the country in May.


Mr Patrick Lee, National Chairman of CEAN, disclosed this while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.

“We had total sales of N653,229,100.00 for the month of May 2022.
“21 Nollywood films shown in May accounted for 28 per cent of total ticket sales while 14 films, Hollywood films accounted for about 69 per cent, with “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” being the major outliner.


“Comparing April with May, ticket sales improved by about 12 per cent, with May being the highest-grossing month in 2022, so far.

Lee noted that the top five highest-grossing films in May are: “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”; “King of Thieves”; “Sonic the Hedgehog2”; “The Lost City” and “The Perfect Arrangement”.


He said the films to be released across cinemas in June are: “Ex and Exes”; “Jurassic World: Dominion”; “The Order of Things”; “Flatus”; “Last Seen Alive”; “Light Year”; “Silent Baron”; “Black Phone”; “Elvis” and “Ile Owo”.

“It is exciting to see the mind-blowing box office performance of titles released in
May.


“Like we all anticipated, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” led the park with over N330million to consolidate on the continued monstrous performance of Nollywood’s rave-of-the-moment, “King of Thieves”.

“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” now holds the record of the strongest weekend opening for a post-pandemic release in Nigerian cinemas.


“While “King of Thieves”, is so far, the highest-grossing Nollywood film since “Omo Ghetto the Saga”,” he said.

Vanguard

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Video - Amazon Prime Video signs deal with Nollywood

Amazon Prime Video is looking to attract new subscribers from Africa through a new deal with Nigerian filmmakers. The movie streaming platform has signed exclusive streaming agreements with two Nigeria production companies, which analysts say could boost Nigeria’s film industry to become the country’s largest export. 

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Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Netflix first original series from Nigeria drops highly anticipated trailer

It is one of the most anticipated Nollywood films of all time and the trailer for King Of Boys: The Return Of The King was released Monday amid frenzy from fans of the crime and political thriller, who call themselves the KOB Army.

The seven-part project is Netflix's first Original Series from Nigeria and a sequel to the highly acclaimed 2018 King of Boys movie directed by leading director Kemi Adetiba.

Fans can now take a peek at what to expect, as formidable businesswoman Eniola Salami, played by Nollywood veteran Sola Sobowale, returns to Nigeria after a five-year exile eager to mete out blood-curdling punishments to her adversaries.

Following the success of the first installation, which made over N450 million ($1M) at the box office, Adetiba announced a sequel was in the works.

After a two-year wait, she revealed that the sequel initially intended to be a movie will be a Netflix Original limited series.

The KOB Army

The KOB Army has shown immense support for the franchise since the first movie, with fans making plans for viewing parties and special outfits when it premieres on August 27 on Netflix.

As the release day for the sequel draws nearer, the anticipation runs high as many wait with bated breath to see The Return Of The King. But fans are not the only ones eager; Adetiba describes the weight of the expectation as "awaiting a report card for the last year and a half of my life."

"My anxiety these days ranges from numb to severe...so I too am on tenterhooks, she says. "But I'm mostly absolutely thrilled by the love and support of the KOB ARMY. It's been so overwhelming. The massive anticipation simply shows us how well-loved KOB 1 is."

The King of Boys has been a stand-out movie for modern Nollywood. It was the sophomore film by Adetiba, whose directorial debut, The Wedding Party, was the unopposed Nollywood movie of the year 2016, being the highest-grossing film until January 2021 and spotlighting Adetiba, who already made her mark in the music and television industry, as a filmmaker of note.

The new installment will see old characters from the original, including actor Toni Tones, who reprises her role as a young Eniola Salami and musician Reminisce as Makanaki.

It also introduces new characters who have a bone to pick with Salami. Among them are seasoned actors Nse Ikpe-Etim and Nollywood heartthrob Richard Mofe Damijo.

King of Boys is a departure from the cheery, bright romcom of The Wedding Party into the dark crime-filled world of Eniola Salami, whose quest for power leaves a trail of dead bodies in her wake.
It was a wager which paid off in an industry known of late for primarily producing comedies to meet the audience's demand. Of the top 10 highest-grossing Nollywood movies, King of Boys is the sole thriller on the list.


Trusting the audience

Adetiba says the successful outing taught her not to cage her audience.

"I remember once in film school, an instructor said, 'If you treat your audience as if they were intelligent, they'll love you for it,'" she says.

"Yes, I was told that the audience wasn't ready for a film like KOB." Still, Adetiba and her brother, Remi Adetiba, who co-produces the franchise, persisted in bringing the project to light.

"Running on blind faith, we were all, "Go Big Or Go Home." It was our very own 'Do It Afraid' moment, but we jumped in the deep end, and our amazing audience, aka KOB ARMY, thanked us with their massive support. Just as my instructor said."

Not only was the genre a deviation from the norm in modern Nollywood, but her lead figure was complex in a way that is rarely done in the industry, where characters are usually portrayed as either good or evil.

Adetiba says it was vital for her to highlight this complexity because it mirrors real life.
"I love my characters to be relatable...There are many facets to you and I. Understanding this then creating a character that is one-dimensional is an injustice."

"So when I'm creating a character like Eniola Salami ... I'm interested in who s(he) is to all those different people. In Eniola's life, we have her family, those she encounters in everyday life, her legit business customers, then her interactions... in the 'underworld.'"

Adetiba says the production has been a real labor of love and promises a great time.
"We threw everything into this production... including the kitchen sink. We gave everything we had, so it's a product of REAL love, blood, sweat and tears. Most important of all, it's a great story."

By Anita Patrick

CNN

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Friday, July 23, 2021

Eyimofe: Twin Directors’ Stunning Feature Debut Takes Nigerian Cinema To New Heights

Financed entirely in Nigeria and made with a predominantly Nigerian cast and crew, Arie and Chuko Esiri are capturing international attention with their feature in new movie “Eyimofe”.


“Eyimofe” (“This Is My Desire”), the debut feature from co-directors (and twin brothers) Arie and Chuko Esiri, is a heartrending and hopeful portrait of everyday human endurance in Nigeria, West Africa. The film traces the journeys of two distantly connected strangers at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder.

Shot on richly textured 16mm, the film is a vivid snapshot of life in contemporary, colorful, chaotic Lagos, the largest city in the country, whose social fabric is captured in all its vibrancy and complexity. It’s also a tale that was inspired by the filmmakers’ own journey.

“In a romantic way, we wanted to insert the film in the catalog and annals of the great city films that had been shot on celluloid,” said Chuko in a recent interview with News men. “We’ve seen Rome on film, we’ve seen Paris and London, but everything that we’d seen of Nigeria on film is archival footage, it’s ethnographic footage, it’s documentary. It’s not cinema, and cinema is a completely different beast.”

Documentary filmmakers might beg to differ, but the brothers are steadfast in their thinking. Still, the immortalization of the city on celluloid is a noble feat, especially when shooting in a country without any stable cinema infrastructure, a notoriously unreliable electrical grid and nightmarish traffic.

“Shooting on the streets of Lagos is notoriously difficult, because it’s a dense city and has what are called ‘area boys,’ or street guys,” Chuko said. “The idea of shutting down a street for a film production — I mean, if the president of the country can’t do that when he visits, then we weren’t going to be able to do it for our movie.”

Born 30 minutes apart in Warri, Nigeria, they grew up in Lagos, but at the age of eight, their parents shipped them off to boarding school in England to complete their formal education. At the time, there were no cinemas in Nigeria, so movies weren’t a part of their childhood. “At the time, the country was experiencing successive military regimes, and each regime had bright ideas about what was good for the culture, and these ideas were almost never good,” Chuko said. “So we didn’t grow up going to movies.”

Twenty years later, they both enrolled in film schools: Arie graduated from Columbia University and Chuko from New York University. During their time in New York City, they collaborated on a pair of short films: “Goose,” presented at the LA Film Festival in 2017, and “Besida,” which premiered at the Berlinale in 2018.

They returned to Nigeria as adults and found a Lagos that has somehow felt foreign. “Eyimofe” was born out of that experience — the idea of leaving and returning much later to whatever “home” is.

“It came from my returning to Nigeria for my stint in the National Youth Service,” he said. “From the age of eight to 22, I had only spent time in Nigeria on holiday, so now I was spending substantial time in a place to which I belonged but where I was also something of an alien — until then I hadn’t really faced all that it meant to be in Nigeria. I wanted to return to where it felt more familiar and where I would feel more comfortable in a national film industry. Even though Nigeria has a robust industry, Nollywood is a massive machine but I didn’t want to make the kind of films people make in it.”

While the Esiri brothers spent much of their lives overseas, “Eyimofe” was financed entirely in Nigeria and made with a predominantly Nigerian cast and crew. The film is now drawing a new level of international attention to Nigerian cinema and screening at several festivals, including Berlin and New Directors/New Films. However, as Nigerian movies get more notice outside the country, it’s also raising the issue of exactly what a “Nigerian film” is supposed to be.

Akeju, a US-based director at Aflik TV while making comment on the new movie, added: ” The movie details much of African migrants experiences in the Diaspora. The production is very different and professional. Kudos to the directors and all the team behind it”

The Janus Films will release “Eyimofe” across various theaters on Friday, July 23, 2021 and will be hoping it inspires as much audiences as possible.

The Guardian

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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

3 Nigerians selected for Netflix Development Lab to engender more local African content

 Three Nigerians have been selected among the twelve (12) African candidates chosen to participate in the 3-month Netflix Episodic Lab (EPL) and Development Executive Traineeship (DET) launched by the Realness Institute.

2 Nigerians were selected to participate in the Episodic Lab where they will develop their story concepts alongside expert story consultants and creative producers. They are Ayoade Adeyanju with Agent 419 and Kehinde Joseph with Osupa.

Other participants include Andile Ngcizela with Drummies (South Africa); Dominique Jossie with Fafi (South Africa); Kudakwashe Maradzika with Bad Influencer (Zimbabwe/South Africa) and Mary Waireri with Sheitain (Kenya/United Kingdom).

Netflix’s Episodic Lab and Development Executive Traineeship are part of efforts by the global streaming giant and the Realness Institute to produce more original local content from creative writers in Africa.

For the DET, Ololade Okedare is the only Nigerian selected to participate in the program where they will accompany the incubation of the six potential Netflix African Original Series.

Anneke Villet, Antionette Engel and Thandeka Zwane (South Africa), Damaris Irungu Ochieng’ (Kenya) and Lara Sousa (Mozambique) make up the other five DET participants.

The Episodic Lab will take place remotely till 5 September 2021, where selected participants will receive about $2,000 monthly stipend so that they can focus entirely on their development. At the end of the lab, each writer will have an opportunity to pitch their incubated concept to Netflix to have their series further developed for production.

Meet the Nigerian writers taking part in the Netflix Episodic Lab.

Ayoade Adeyanju

Ayoade has aggregated over 10 years of career experience creating content spanning various local and international TV shows, including MNet’s Tinsel and EbonyLife’s Ojo’s in ‘d House. He created African Magic’s Hustle and was the story editor for African Magic’s Battleground. He developed content for the critically acclaimed, award-winning show, MTV Shuga.

Kehinde Joseph

Kehinde Joseph has worked for 9 years as a radio presenter on Eko FM in Lagos. He’s the sole Nollywood screenwriter with 3 movies that’s grossed over 100 million at the box office.

By Gbemileke Babatunde

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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Can the Milkmaid win Nigeria’s first Oscar?

When the Nigerian Official Selection Committee sat down to select Nigeria’s nominee for the 2021 Academy Awards last December, the jury voted overwhelmingly for Desmond Ovbiagele’s film The Milkmaid over the sex-trafficking drama Oloture and film festival toast Eyimofe.


Unlike Genevieve Nnaji’s Lionheart which the Academy disqualified from the international feature film category last year for having English as the main language of the script, The Milkmaid fulfils the requirement for a predominantly non-English dialogue track. It conveys authenticity with Hausa, Fulfulde and Arabic, three languages hermetically spoken throughout the film.

The film follows the story of two sisters, Aisha (Anthonieta Kalunta) and Zainab (Maryam Booth), who get separated when insurgents attack their village. Aisha is determined to rescue Zainab from her captors and traces her whereabouts to an enemy camp, where she is enslaved and treated inhumanely.

A sophomore feature from Ovbiagele after his 2014 crime thriller debut Return to Caesar, The Milkmaid is a compellingly superior entry into Nollywood’s Boko Haram-themed cinema.

The genre is relatively new, inspired by the Boko Haram insurgency in Northern Nigeria, which began its deadly uprising in 2009 and has claimed the lives of more than 37,000 people and displaced 2.5 million. Most of these films are not made to be box office hits as they usually employ largely unknown actors, so they sail under the radar.

But with Joel Kachi Benson’s Daughters of Chibok winning a Golden Lion at the 2019 Venice Film Festival and Netflix picking up Adekunle Adejuyigbe’s The Delivery Boy a year later, the genre is slowly occupying an expanding space in the public imagination and has set off some conversations about violence in society.

Tackling such sensitive issues as religious extremism and violence, The Milkmaid has predictably faced censorship at home. The Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB), the government agency whose mandate is to regulate the creation, distribution and exhibition of films and video products by rating them, denied the film classification because it felt it portrayed Islam as an enabler of religious extremism.

To obtain a classification for pubic screening in Nigeria, 24-minutes-worth of footage was cut from the director’s original version. “We had to remove everything – costume, dialogue, language that was an authentic depiction of a particular religion, even though there is nothing in the film that states that the religion was directly responsible for violence,” Ovbiagele said in a December 2020 interview.

The Milkmaid’s censorship was to be expected, considering the NFVCB’s history of stifling artistic freedom and paranoia that films can threaten national unity. The film does not suggest Islam inspires extremism and it also does not glorify terrorists and whatever their motivations are. Rather it exhumes the traumatic experiences of women and girls in a world blighted by insurgency. Although the film is yet to do a wide release, the response from the members of the Muslim community who have seen it at private viewings has been positive.

Because of censorship at home, The Milkmaid turned to Cameroon and Zimbabwe for its theatrical release in November, then went on a limited run with its toned-down cut in select Nigerian cinemas in afterwards. Garnering local buzz, the motion picture swept last year’s Africa Movie Academy Awards with eight nominations and four awards, including Best Film.

For the Oscars, Ovbiagele sent the film’s original version, which contains all the elements of a potential winner: a compelling story, captivating actors’ performance and masterful cinematography.

Through Ovbiagele’s deft handling of the camera, audiences can see how beauty tightly intertwines with violence, creating a stunning artistic patchwork. This visual language is defined by the crisp cinematography of Yinka Edwards whose technical detailing does not just dwell on scenery but also within interpersonal spaces.

At the core of that is a feminine reckoning with extremism and its fallouts – the abduction of women and girls, violence and enslavement.

There is something particularly auspicious about The Milkmaid’s Oscar campaign footprint. But will it appeal to the Academy?

Aside from its obvious artistic merit, the Oscar fate of The Milkmaid will be determined by how the Academy voters – representing the American audience – see anti-terrorism messaging almost 20 years after the start of the US “war on terror”.

Like Nollywood, Hollywood too has experienced a boom in the production of films inspired by the themes of extremism and insurgency. A few have even made it to the Oscars and won.

The genre has successfully propelled the US government narrative of its forces fighting foreign terrorism and restoring stability to faraway conflict-torn regions and has done little to illuminate the disastrous consequences of US anti-terror-driven imperialism.

Although it does not tackle the international aspect of the Boko Haram insurgency, The Milkmaid fits well into this mainstream US narrative about terrorism. Its story would feed into the American viewers’ self-righteous disdain for overseas terrorist groups and will probably be well received. Whether this is what the Academy will be looking for in this year’s international film feature category remains to be seen.

By Bernard Dayo

Al Jazeera

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Thursday, October 29, 2020

Netflix shines light on Nigerian sex trafficking



Set in the shady underworld of Lagos brothels, Nigerian thriller Òlòtūré gives viewers an inside look at the sex trafficking schemes that ensnare thousands of Nigerian women each year.

The film is fictional but aims for a realistic and gritty picture to raise awareness of what is a persistent and little-discussed problem, said 36-year-old director Kenneth Gyang.

For decades, scores of Nigerian women and girls have been lured to Europe with promises of work, then trapped in debt bondage and forced to sell sex.

The United Nations migration agency estimates that 80% of Nigerian women arriving in Italy - more than 11,000 in 2016 - are potential victims of sex trafficking.

“I know people are not always receptive to documentaries, so sometimes you have to put these things in fiction so that people will see it,” said Gyang, who won international acclaim for his first film, Confusion Na Wa, in 2013.

His thriller debuted on Netflix this month and quickly became the streaming service’s most-watched film in Nigeria, reaching the top-10 list in another 13 countries.

“For me it’s about people watching the film and then trying to push for policies that will protect these young women from getting trafficked,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

In the movie, a journalist goes undercover as a sex worker to expose human trafficking and quickly gets in over her head.

It is worlds away from the films that are usually popular in Nollywood, Nigeria’s massive film industry, which favours comedies and light-hearted tales about rich people, said Gyang.

“The producers were not sure how it was going to be received,” he said.

“When the film came out, it was #1 on Netflix in Nigeria and on social media, everybody was talking about it. People were angry. People were talking about the fact that they didn’t know this is what happens when people get trafficked.”

In one scene, sex workers undergo a religious ritual that binds them to their traffickers with black magic - a common practice that renders women too fearful to mount an escape.

Gyang said he sought support from NAPTIP, Nigeria’s anti-trafficking agency, to make sure he got the details right.

Part of his motivation, he said, was seeing Nigerian women on street corners when he travelled in Europe.

Foreign donors have poured money into anti-trafficking programmes in the traditional industry hotspot, Edo State, but experts say sex traffickers are now moving to other parts of Nigeria to avoid detection.

"I hope what will happen is that the right people in the right places will see the film, and then the relevant bodies will push for policies to try to help these young women," said Gyang. (Reporting by Nellie Peyton, editing by Lyndsay Griffiths; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit news.trust.org)

By Nellie Peyton

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Thursday, October 8, 2020

New Nollywood film shines a light on human trafficking in Nigeria



 

Dressed in a transparent and colorful blouse, a sex worker in Lagos, the commercial center of Nigeria jumps out the window of a room at a party to avoid having sex with a potential customer.
She is seen, heels in her hand, running away from the party and eventually getting into a bus heading back to a brothel, where she lives with other sex workers.


These scenes are from the Netflix original film, "Oloture," in which we later find out that the sex worker, also named Oloture, is a Nigerian journalist who is undercover to expose sex trafficking in the country.

Every year, tens of thousands of people are trafficked from Nigeria, particularly Edo State in the nation's south, which has become one of Africa's largest departure points for irregular migration.
The International Organization for Migration (IMO) estimates that 91% victims trafficked from Nigeria are women, and their traffickers have sexually exploited more than half of them.
 

Through "Oloture," the difficult realities of these women, particularly those who are sexually exploited, come to light. It shows how they are recruited and trafficked overseas for commercial gain.
Directed by award-winning Nigerian filmmaker, Kenneth Gyang, the film features Nollywood actors including Sharon Ooja, Omoni Oboli and Blossom Chukwujekwu.
 

Mo Abudu, executive producer of "Oloture," told CNN that the crime drama was inspired by the numerous cases of trafficking around the world and in Nigeria.


"There have been many reports around the world highlighting human trafficking and modern slavery. It has been in our faces. I dug and dug and did a bit more research, and when I came across the numbers and saw how much was made annually from human trafficking, I was totally shocked," she said.
Human trafficking is a $150 billion global industry. And two-thirds of this figure is generated from sexual exploitation, according to a 2014 report by the International Labor Organization.
Abudu -- who is also CEO of EbonyLife Films, which produced "Oloture" -- added that the film mirrored some real-life reports by journalists who had gone undercover to expose sex trafficking patterns in the country.


One of them, she said, was a 2014 report by journalist Tobore Ovuorie, in the Nigerian newspaper, Premium Times. 

"Upon research, we found that many journalists had gone undercover to report on human trafficking. But the Premium Times article did spark our interest as some of it plays out in the film," Abudu said.

Easy prey for traffickers

Ovuorie, whose report was credited in "Oloture," told CNN that women often get trafficked as a result of their need to make money abroad. Ovuorie said she met many women in the course of her reporting who wanted to get to Europe in hopes of better job opportunities that would earn them more money.

"People were motivated by greed, you know, the need to get rich. I spoke with the women I was supposed to be trafficked with, and many of them wanted better lives motivated by money. There was one girl who had never earned more than 50,000 naira (about $130) as salary since she graduated from university," she told CNN.

Most of the women were fleeing harsh economic conditions and poverty, making them easy prey for traffickers, Ovuorie said.


During Ovuorie's investigation, she said she posed as a sex worker on the streets of Lagos, looking to travel to Europe.

Her plan worked. She was eventually linked with a trafficker who promised to get her to Italy. In partnership with ZAM Chronicles and Premium Times, she documented her experience.

After a series of "humiliating trainings" and physical abuse, she said she was told she and other girls would receive a fake passport in preparation to be smuggled outside the country through the border in Benin in West Africa.
She escaped at the border.

Physical and sexual abuse   

Many women who are trafficked in Nigeria face sexual, physical and mental abuse, according to a 2019 report by Human Rights Watch.
 

The rights group interviewed many women who said they were trafficked within and across national borders under life-threatening conditions as they were starved, raped and extorted.
On some occasions, according to the report, they were forced into prostitution where they were made to have abortions and coerced to have sex with customers when they were sick, menstruating or pregnant.
 

"Oloture" portrays some of these harsh realities as the lead character (played by Ooja) suffers sexual violence and physical abuse, including being whipped by one of her traffickers.
It was important to depict the reality of sex trafficking so viewers can understand the experiences of women who are forced into the trade, Gyang, the director, told CNN.
 

"I wanted people to know that this is the reality of these ladies. People always want closure but life is not about a Hollywood ending; you can't always get a happy ending," he said.
While directing the film, Gyang visited places with sex workers to get a better idea of how they live and work, he said.
 

"I actually went to places where we have sex workers in Lagos with one of the producers of the film. We wanted to really capture their lives so that we would be able to show it realistically in the movie. We talked to them, and some of the rooms we used in the movie were actually used previously by sex workers," he explained.

'The most impactful movie we have ever done'


The film was shot in 21 days towards the end of 2018, he said. Post-production was covered in 2019, and it was released Friday on Netflix.


In just days, it has become the top watched movie in Nigeria and is among the top 10 watched movies in the world on Netflix. 

 
"It's huge for me as a filmmaker that people have access to the film from all over the world. I want many people as possible to see it and have conversations about sex trafficking," Gyang said. 


The film is doing well in countries like Switzerland, Brazil, and South Africa because it is authentic and "deals with the truth," Abudu said.


"EbonyLife has done seven movies. But this is the most impactful one we have ever done. And the most important," Abudu said.


The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), the law enforcement agency in charge of combating human trafficking in Nigeria, wants the film to be made available to people in rural communities who don't have access to Netflix.


"I haven't seen the movie, but if it is trying to portray the ills and dangers of trafficking, then it's fine since that is going to raise awareness," Julie Okah-Donli, the director-general of the agency said.
And while she is happy that "Oloture" is shining the light on human trafficking, she told CNN that women mostly targeted by traffickers may not get to watch it.


"The people watching it on Netflix all know what trafficking is. It needs to go to those girls in rural communities where traffickers go to bring them from. Those are the girls that the awareness should go to," Okah-Donli said. 


With more people partnering with NAPTIP and raising awareness of the dangers of trafficking, sex trafficking will be minimized in Nigeria, she said. 

By Aisha Salaudeen 

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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Netflix Unveils Nigerian Original Series, Three Films

Netflix on Monday unveiled a new Nigerian original series and three new films from the African country.

"The new series and films, which are at different stages of production while others are ready to premiere, will join the growing slate of Nigerian content on the service and debut to 193 million members in 190 countries around the world," the streaming giant said.

The new original series is an untitled young adult drama series created and produced by Inkblot Productions. It follows the story of Ishaya, "a charismatic teenager and talented artist from a poor family, whose dreams suddenly appear within reach when a prestigious scholarship to the most exclusive school in the country catapults him into the luxurious world of Nigeria's 1% – all while a huge secret threatens his newfound status and, ultimately, his family's safety."

Created by Chinaza Onuzo and Dami Elebe who serve as executive producer and head writer, respectively, the six-episode series will be directed by Onuzo, Tope Oshin and Niyi Akinmolayan. Funke Akindele is confirmed as playing one of the lead characters with more casting details to follow. Zulumoke Oyibo and Damola Ademola will serve as executive producers.

"Netflix is proud to continue to invest in more original content from Nigeria," said Dorothy Ghettuba, the lead for African originals at Netflix. "We’re also thrilled to grow our existing creative partnerships while forming new ones with Chinaza and the amazing Inkblot team who will now join the growing list of Nigerian partners."

Said Onuzo: "We’re thrilled to be partnering with the Netflix team to tell the story of Nigerian youth on a global scale. We cannot wait to share with the world what it feels like to grow up in one of the most dynamic countries on the planet."

Netflix also unveiled deals for three Nigerian films from filmmakers Mo Abudu, Kunle Afolayan and Kemi Adetiba that will premiere on the streaming service. They are Òlòtūré, Citation and King of Boys II.

The first is the story of a young female journalist who goes undercover as a prostitute to expose a human trafficking syndicate. The film is part of Netflix’s partnership with Mo Abudu and her production company Ebonylife. The movie will launch globally on Oct. 2. Directed by Kenneth Gyang, its cast includes Sharon Ooja, Omowunmi Dada, Omoni Oboli, Blossom Chukwujekwu and Wofai Fada.

Citation, from director Kunle Afolayan and produced by Golden Effects Pictures, will hit Netflix globally on Nov. 6. It is the coming-of-age story of Moremi, a bright university student who forms a bond with her charismatic and well-connected professor who ends up sexually harassing her. The film follows Moremi’s quest for justice and stars Jimmy Jean Louis, Gabriel Afolayan, Ini Edo, Joke Silva, Adjetey Anang and newcomer Temi Otedola.

King of Boys II is the sequel to director Kemi Adetiba's 2018 crime thriller, in which a businesswoman and crime boss is drawn into a power struggle that threatens all she holds dear. Set to launch globally in the first half of 2021, the movie begins with Eniola Salami's triumphant return, after a five-year exile, to Lagos City. "Not content with the prospect of a fresh start," she this time aims even higher than before. The movies features returning stars Sola Sobowale, Remilekun "Reminisce" Safaru, Tobechukwu "iLLBliss" Ejiofor, and Toni Tones, as well as new talent in Richard Mofe-Damijo, Nse Ikpe-Etim, and Efa Iwara.

"These Netflix original films demonstrate how we’re building a home for the best-in-class Nigerian content for our members in Nigeria and beyond," said Ben Amadasun, Netflix’s director of licensing and co-productions in Africa. "It’s amazing to see how Nigerian films and series resonate with audiences around the world. By making it easy for people to watch films and shows from other countries, we can help them build empathy and develop a shared understanding of the world."

By Georg Szalai

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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The Nigerian filmmakers risking jail with lesbian movie Ife



Two Nigerian filmmakers face the prospect of imprisonment if they ignore the stern warning of the authorities and proceed with the release of a movie about a lesbian relationship.
The dramatic face-off with the regulators - the Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) - is worthy of a film itself.

Producer Pamela Adie and director Uyaiedu Ikpe-Etim are determined that Ife (meaning "love" in the Yoruba language) reaches a Nigerian audience, but the NFVCB says it will not be approved as it violates the country's strict laws on homosexuality.

International premiere


To get around this, the filmmakers are planning a surprise online release to catch the regulators off-guard. The NFVCB, however, is diligently monitoring all digital platforms to prevent the movie from getting out.

According to NFVCB boss Adebayo Thomas, Adie and Ikpe-Etim could be jailed for promoting homosexuality in a country where same-sex relationships are forbidden and can carry a 14-year sentence.

They are organising a private screening in the commercial capital, Lagos, at the end of the month, for which they believe they do not need to get permission.
Ife will also get an international premiere in Canada in October.

Adie said the aim of the film was to show an accurate picture of lesbian and bisexual women in Nigerian movies.

If a lesbian woman does appear in a standard Nollywood movie they are often portrayed as being possessed, influenced by bad friends or forced into homosexuality and always needing "saving", she told the BBC.

"You rarely see stories about LGBT people, especially about queer women that speak to the realities of our lives.

"Ife was made to bridge the gap and to get the conversation going in Nigeria."

Coming out to a Nigerian mother

Ife is a story about two women falling in love as they spend three days together. They "then have their love tested by the realities of being in a same-sex relationship in a country like Nigeria", according to the publicity for the film.

If July's trailer, where sex is hinted at but not actually shown, is anything to go by, then Ife certainly pushes the boundaries of telling the LGBT story by Nigerian movie standards.

In one shot, the two protagonists, Ife and Adaora are in bed talking about love and the challenges faced by LGBT people especially within their families.

Their conversation forms the spine of the teaser for the film.

"I told my mum first, took her about a week to come to terms with it," Ife, played by Uzoamaka Aniunoh, says talking about revealing that she was a lesbian.

"Which is short for a Nigerian mother," interjects Adaora, played by Cindy Amadi.
"Is it too soon to say I might be in love with you?" asks Adaora as they cuddle.
"We are lesbians, this is the perfect time," answers Ife.

'It has to be censored'

Homosexuality is an extremely contentious issue in many parts of Africa and Nigeria is no different.
It is a highly religious and traditional society and its influential Christian and Muslim organisations oppose homosexuality.

As a consequence, Nigeria is one of 30 countries on the continent where it is criminalised.
The legislation outlawing same-sex relationships was passed in 2014 and built on the colonial-era prohibition of sodomy. Police in Nigeria have cracked down on people suspected of homosexuality, forcing most into hiding.

The feeling of being sidelined and the need to challenge beliefs that homosexuality is immoral is what inspired director Ikpe-Etim to take on the project.

"Before now, we have been told one-sided stories. What we are doing with this film is normalising the queer experience, we are normalising the LGBT romance.

"It will begin to erase that shame that LBQ [lesbian, bisexual and queer] women face," she told the BBC.

The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community in Africa is becoming increasingly vocal and visible, thanks to the internet providing a space for films, talk shows and websites.

But that has not stopped filmmakers from getting into trouble with authorities.
The head of the NFVCB said there was no space for Ife or other homosexual movies in Nigeria, citing the law.

"There's a standing law that prohibits homosexuality, either in practice or in a movie or even in a theatre or on stage. If it's content from Nigeria, it has to be censored," Mr Thomas told the BBC.
He said that whatever the platform was, "as long as it's Nigerian content and it's telling a Nigerian story, then we have a right to it".

But there is no plan for large-scale screenings of Ife in Nigerian cinemas or selling the DVD, as the producers want to make it available online as pay-on-demand.
But even that will get them into trouble with the regulators.

Increasing acceptance of LGBTQ people

"If it did not pass through NFVCB and it is released, the filmmakers will be prosecuted according to the law," Mr Thomas said.

"As long as it's Nigerian content, we will pull it down because we have collaborations with Google, YouTube and other key players."

But that has not deterred the producers and Adie says her team will continue as planned, as they believe they have done nothing wrong and do not plan to seek permission for an online release.
This is not the first time an LGBTQ-themed movie has fallen foul of regulators on the continent.
Stories of Our Lives, a collection of five short films based on stories of LGBTQ life in Kenya was banned in 2014 for being "contrary to national norms".

This was also the fate of Rafiki, Kenya's first film about a lesbian relationship, which went on to be the East African nation's first film to premiere at the Cannes film festival and also receive an Oscar nomination.

Inxeba/The Wound, a South African film about a relationship between two men in the context of the Xhosa initiation ritual was also banned from mainstream South African cinemas in 2018.
Despite the set-backs, some in the LGBTQ community in Africa say they are gradually gaining confidence and acceptance and link it to the increased visibility in films and literature which are encouraging greater tolerance among younger generations.

A 2019 survey of attitudes in Nigeria showed an increase in acceptance of LGBTQ people - though the balance was still tilted against them.

Some 60% of Nigerians surveyed said they would not accept a family member who was LGBTQ, but this was significantly lower than the 83% who put themselves in that category in 2017.
The need for further change is why people like Ikpe-Etim want to keep telling the stories of the LGBTQ community.

"As a member of an under-represented group, you are constantly at the mercy of people who don't understand what it means to be queer.
"I knew if I wanted the society to view LGBTQ people in a different light, I had to tell the full story," she said.

By Azeezat Olaoluwa

BBC 


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