African Voices

7 Nigerian filmmakers pushing boundaries beyond Nollywood

Editor’s Note: Nadia Denton is curator of Beyond Nollywood part of the Black Star season at the British Film Institute (BFI) and the author of ‘The Nigerian Filmmaker’s Guide to Success: Beyond Nollywood’. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

Story highlights

The content being created on the periphery of Nollywood is most likely to cross over internationally

It marks a refreshing change from the slap-and-dash charm of Nollywood productions

CNN  — 

There are some exciting content emerging from the Nigerian film space which is largely obscured from view because it does not fit the Nollywood model. The content on the periphery of Nollywood – Beyond Nollywood as I have termed it is a growth area within the Nigerian film industry and in my opinion the most likely to cross over internationally.

Beyond Nollywood Green White Green

The Beyond Nollywood weekender presents a motley collective of filmmakers who are creating work that subverts Nollywood both in content and style. Creatives who have interesting things to say about Nigerian culture that is frankly not out there and gives some indication of what is to come from this young industry.

Director of Green White Green: And All the Beautiful Colours in My Mosaic of Madness, Abba T Makama says that he made his feature to inspire the youth.

Young people, who incidentally make up 65% of Nigeria’s under 35s rarely appear in Nollywood films. Makama’s visual sensitivities come to bear in this coming of age piece, the first art-house indie to emerge from Nigeria.

The film had its world premiere at the recent Toronto International Film Festival and will soon appear on Netflix. What’s so unique about Makama’s direction is his painstaking attention to the craft of filmmaking – a refreshing change from the slap-and-dash charm of Nollywood productions.

Makama, who studied film at New York University refers to himself as a ‘creator’ shying away from terms like ‘artist’ and ‘filmmaker’. It is perhaps this unwillingness to be categorized that has allowed him to freely explore and paint a new Nigerian film canvas.

Young titan director Ishaya Bako hit the headlines in 2012 when his documentary, Fuelling Poverty, a response to the fuel subsidy protests in Nigeria attracted the wrath of the Nigerian Censors Board and was immediately banned.

Strong female narratives

Bako, a graduate of London Film School has gone on make more socially conscious films including Silent Tears and Henna. Bako has shown himself an unlikely champion of the feminine, making films that have a strong female narrative at its heart.

Last year he directed his first feature, Road to Yesterday, with Nollywood starlet Genevieve Nnaji. An activist filmmaker in the making, Bako’s direction is most assured when he holds his camera in hand interrogating his society.

Tope Oshin is one of Nigeria’s most prolific TV directors having overseen nearly 500 episodes of Africa’s biggest drama series - Tinsel, Hotel Majestic and Hush.

This feisty mother of three takes up the ‘gender debate’ with much aplomb arguing that “in any field, a woman is more thorough than her male counterparts.” Her short film Ireti which is about a woman’s bid to be free from the chains that imprison her sees Oshin come into her most expressive self.

She comments that she makes films “to create a perfect version of the flaws [she] sees in the world around [her].” The Women of Nollywood: Amaka’s Kin, is a film that sees Oshin paying tribute to one of the doyins of Nollywood the late Amaka Igwe.

Armed with these impressive credits under her belt, Oshin is set to emerge as the female conscience of the Nigeria film industry.

LA based video and installation artist Adebukola Bodunrin is part of an increasing crop of diaspora filmmakers who are reinterpreting indigenous culture in way that takes on an international tone.

‘Magic’ of storytelling

Bodunrin, who studied fine arts at the School of the Art, Institute of Chicago creates thought provoking, experimental collage animations that seek to push the boundaries of conventional filmmaking in a philosophical way.

Her short science fiction influenced animation, The Golden Chain, revisits the Yoruba creation myth. In her own words Bodunrin says ‘there is a magical way of moving images that can immerse people’, it is some of this ‘magic’ which if applied to more conventional methods of storytelling could see Bodunrin become a seminal artist and filmmaker of her generation.

UK filmmaker Sade Adeniran’s debut Commonwealth Writer’s Prize novel Imagine, has been read by thousands of Nigerian school children and herein lies a clue to what could be her long term contribution to the industry.

Adeniran, who is currently in development with the feature of the same title has written for radio, theatre and film. Her words jump off the page and this is supremely illustrated in Mrs. Bolanle Benson, a short piece which narrates a 60 year old woman’s tryst with her lover.

Her family reconciliation film, A Mother’s Journey, deals with an issue that Nigerian society does not like to talk about – in this case women who abandon their children.

In Adeniran’s writing, Nigerian culture and society become more accessible and should she find the right collaborations she could well become a force within the industry.

A key diaspora filmmaker creating transnational Nigerian content is Canada based Lonzo Nzekwe. His 2010 debut Anchor Baby was met with acclaim and went on to become the first Nollywood film on iTunes.

In Meet The Parents, Nzekwe comments on his immediate environs, the North American inner-city, presenting the narrative of absentee parenting and its consequences on a young impressionable minds.

Nzekwe, a self-taught Director is co-founder of the first black-owned 24-hour television network in Canada, FEVA TV. He is also one of the few filmmakers in the diaspora who have applied themselves to the business of film distribution as much as the creation of content.

Still from, Faaji Agba, directed by Remi Vaughan-Richards.

Remi Vaughan-Richards is the most active female guerilla filmmaker on the ground in Nigeria today. Her shoots have taken her across the country where she is used to ‘kicking ass’ and being the only woman on set.

Not one to shy away from controversy Vaughan-Richards directed the Ford Foundation supported social advocacy piece Unspoken, casting a gaze on the challenging issues of child marriage.

Vaughan-Richards studied Design at the Royal College of Art in London and has steadily risen up the film ladder ever since.

Her documentary, Faaji Agba, which chronicles the development of indigenous musical forms such as highlife, juju and afrobeat received an Africa Magic Viewer’s Choice Award earlier this year.

In Vaughan-Richards work, we see a filmmaker who is not afraid to ‘go there’, focusing a sharp lens onto contemporary Africa.

Read more from African Voices

Beyond Nollywood takes place 18 to 20 November 2016 at the BFI Southbank, London.