Let’s hope we didn’t go to Toronto Film Festival for pictures alone

Let’s hope we didn’t go to Toronto Film Festival for pictures alone

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Nigerians are noisemakers by nature. A distinct way to identify us in any part of the world is our charisma. We may be doing many things wrongly, but we know how to speak out and blow our trumpet.
We score excellence in blowing our own trumpet, whether rightly or wrongly, with the help of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media communication means at our reach.
But there is a major challenge, a stumbling block in achieving greatness. The simple truth is that once the ovation goes off, everything dies down and we are back to the drawing board.
I could still recall the grass to grace story of Olajumoke Orisaguna. I still have a clear picture of how the bread seller-turned model became a beautiful bride overnight and how everyone wanted a piece of her. Now, she’s fast becoming a forgotten issue. In the words of a writer recently, “She was used and dumped.”
But for time constraint, I could have given thousands of issues and incidents that enjoyed massive spotlight at different times. They have gradually lost importance and relevance, without leaving lasting impacts.
When the Lagos State Government announced that eight films by Lagos-based directors would be screened at the 41st annual Toronto International Film Festival, TIFF, in Canada, it became the talk of the town. The festival, through its City-to-City gesture, decided to profile Lagos for this year’s edition. Everyone was excited and wanted to know the films that would make the cut.
Finally, movies like ‘Wedding Party,’ ‘93 Days,’ ‘The Arbitration,’ ‘Okafor’s Law,’ ‘76,’ ‘Green White Green,’ ‘Just Not Married’ and ‘Taxi Driver’ were shortlisted. Kunle Afolayan’s ‘The CEO’ was also listed for special industry screening, while OC Ukeje and Somkele Iyama were picked to participate in the newly created Rising Stars Programme.
Spotlighting Nollywood at TIFF did restore excitement to an industry that has been plagued with grave challenges in recent times. Producers struggle to get investment on their works due to the act of pirates, actors are looking sick and hungry as they struggle for lucrative jobs and we now have more jokers in the industry than ever before.
If Nollywood’s participation at TIFF did not achieve anything, it brought back the lost smile, oneness and quest to conquer the world. Nigerian movie practitioners have truly dominated the African scene for so long, so taking on the world is long overdue.
Before and at the festival, publicity stunts were overwhelming. In fact, at some point, I was cautioned by my editor on running stories and pictures that had to do with the festival.
I just hope Nigerian representatives at the 41st TIFF were not carried away by the moment and forgot to take from the TIFF’s experience things that would help the growth of Nollywood. What we saw mostly were beautiful red carpet pictures and dresses. But let’s be optimistic that we did not go there just to take pictures because the ones we’ve taken at home are enough. And if they are not, we would always get more opportunities to flaunt our beautiful faces and dresses on red carpets.
As if it was deliberate too, Nigerian journalists were not sponsored to the festival. I thought it would have provided a good avenue to sample opinions of the international community on our products. All the media fed the public since day one of the festival were materials sent by hired publicists, who bombarded our mails on a daily basis. We received headlines like: ‘93 Days’ world screening sells out at the Toronto International Film Festival 2016 with standing ovation. But an earnest writer would question these materials, as they appeared to be highly promotional.
Since we were not there to witness things, as patriotic Nigerians, we must accept that the shortlisted movies performed well and were exciting to viewers at the festival.
We’ve heard all the noise, the razzmatazz and we have seen all the beautiful red carpet pictures. But beyond the glamour, we care to see in practice how the outing at TIFF would light up the industry. We desire to see immediate impacts. Will this just be another noise making venture? Should we expect more and cheaper cinemas? Will our actors get more international roles? Should we expect more foreign investors? Will it affect the quality of our movies?

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