NDFS is a platform created to bring world class Nigerian film-making to international audiences.

From Toronto, with Love

I’ve spent the past few days wandering around Toronto watching films and marveling at the friendliness of this town. Everyone is so nice! They are actually genuinely smiling and unassuming and provide me good service wherever I enter. I want to live here. Maybe someday, but I’ll be back soon.

I’m here for the Toronto International Film Festival, to which I came on a whim. I didn’t have a clue how big this thing is, but I felt a strong urge to be present. Boy am I glad I bought that last minute ticket and booked that ratchet Airbnb downtown. The bed bugs were worth it. Not only have I seen amazing films and spent time with incredible creatives, I’ve been part of a historic moment in one of my favorite film industries, Nollywood. I get to see so many of my esteemed filmmakers celebrated and heard on an international platform for their diligence and commitment to telling our stories against all odds.

Genevieve Nnaji and Kunle Afolayan partook in a talk, In Conversation, in which Genevieve explained that we only need international investment so that we can access more screens for our films to earn more and pay more. I loved that she wasn’t about begging oyinbo for approval, but about upholding her right to make films by Africans for Africans and the world. Kunle spoke about his efforts to distribute his films across Africa so that we wouldn’t have to kick down doors in Hollywood for our films to make a profit. I never knew how hard it was to sell a film until now.

Toronto is gorgeous. You can eat off the sidewalk. Between Lagos style parties and group dinners, our colorful compatriots could be seen livening up the streets of downtown Toronto and giving press conferences about the future of Nollywood. What struck me about this bunch, especially Omoni Oboli, was that they are not just artists, they are strategic and visionary about their contributions to Black film and their advancement of the fastest growing film industry in the world. They’re also gorgeous. From Desmond Elliot to Ramsey Noah to Rita Dominic, Genevieve, Kunle Afolayan and Ifeanyi Dike Jr. the eye candy aboundeth.

You’re wondering about the films, I get it. I’ll talk about them once I mention how much cleaner and nicer Toronto is than New York–and how an Armenian woman asked to take a photo with me because she had never seen a Black woman before.

I wanted badly to see The Wedding Party, but alas it was not meant to be. I’ll write a post once I’ve seen it. What I did get to see was ‘76 (loved it), Okafor’s Law (not too shabby), The Arbitration and The CEO. All decent films. Some better than others…by light years.

I’m leaving this place with a sense of pregnancy. The air is pregnant with the potential of Nollywood. Anything is possible. For me the goal isn’t Hollywood distribution, at least not immediately. Though the films were collectively the best of Nollywood thus far, there were only a few that would merit that “international standard” label that I obsess over. We’re not there yet, but it doesn’t matter. The key is that we have the numbers to make Nollywood even more profitable than Hollywood or Bollywood. It’s really a matter of us coming together to celebrate and empower our films and filmmakers. We need more screenings, organized independently if that’s the only way right now, so that our films are seen by more of our people worldwide. Those people need to pay to watch those films–maybe pay more based on the quality / rating, but we do need to pay so that our filmmakers don’t have to water down our stories to appeal to Hollywood’s palette, but they can get better at telling our stories our way.


See a few photos from TIFF below.


Cultural Confidence Recap, Photos

This past weekend, NYU Kimmel was the meeting ground for renowned Nigerians and Africans in film, media and fashion. Cultural Confidence, the second annual forum of the Nollywood Diaspora Film Series, included the US premiere of highly acclaimed Nollywood film, October 1; and screenings of Village Voice critics pick Supreme Price, Mother of George and Half a Yellow Sun. Nollywood great, Kunle Afolayan, and Hollywood actors Gbenga Akinnagbe and Adepero Oduye also spoke on the intersection of film, cultural confidence and Nollywood.

October 1, which is widely described as the best Nollywood film in history, was the centerpiece of the forum. A psychological thriller set around the time of Nigeria’s independence from Britain, the film made its international debut at Cultural Confidence. With stunning visuals and a mixed cast of veteran and newbie actors, Kunle Afolayan’s best work yet beautifully captured Nigeria’s history and cultures, while projecting a complex future for Africa’s leading economy. Afolayan took questions from the audience following the screening.

Afolayan, Akinnagbe and Oduye along with other renowned cultural ambassadors addressed the issues of Nollywood’s growth, cultural confidence in the African Diaspora, Nigeria’s future and more in two panel discussions: Cultural Confidence (Acquiring and Negotiating Authentic Cultural Idenities) and Couture Culture (What Makes Fashion African?)

Also present at the forum were Khafila Abiola, daughter of Nigeria’s first democratically elected president and subject of the film Supreme Price—MKO Abiola; Supreme Price producer and director, Joanna Lipper, award-winning filmmaker and Harvard lecturer; Awam Amkpa, NYU professor, actor and playwright; Wunmi Olaiya, international recording artist and award-winning fashion designer; Loza Maleombho, award-winning fashion designer and creative director of her self-titled clothing line; Kukua Odoi, founder of African Prints in Fashion blog; Busayo Olupona, creative director of Busayo.

NDFS Cultural Confidence was sponsored by VLISCO, Holland Textiles, Sonna Textiles, Africa Magic GO, Yoruba Cultural Institute, NYU Africana Studies. Partners included Indigo Tongues and Liberated People.


KunleAfolayan, GbengaAkinnagbe & AdeperoOduye ©2014NDFS
Kunle Afolayan, Gbenga Akinnagbe & Adepero Oduye ©2014NDFS
Gbenga Akinnagbe, Adepero Oduye, Wunmi Olaiya ©NDFS2014
Gbenga Akinnagbe, Adepero Oduye, Wunmi Olaiya ©NDFS2014
Busayo Olupona, Kukua Odoi, Loza Maleombho ©NDFS2014
Busayo Olupona, Kukua Odoi, Loza Maleombho ©NDFS2014
Khafila Abiola, Joanna Lipper, Abiola Oke, Busayo Olupona
Khafila Abiola, Joanna Lipper, Abiola Oke, Busayo Olupona
Couture Culture Panel via Instagram @lozamaleombho
Dr. Bose George, Wunmi Olaiya, Loza Maleombho, Kukua Odoi, Adepero Oduye via Instagram @lozamaleombho
Abiola Oke, Host via Instagram @Justsioux
Abiola Oke, Host via Instagram @Justsioux
Lolade & Kunle Afolayan
Lolade Siyonbola, NDFS & Kunle Afolayan
Abiola Oke, Dr. Bose George, Kunle Afolayan, Wunmi Olaiya, Dr. Awam Amkpa, Adepero Oduye ©NDFS2014
Abiola Oke, Dr. Bose George, Kunle Afolayan, Wunmi Olaiya, Dr. Awam Amkpa, Adepero Oduye ©NDFS2014

WATCH Kunle Afolayan on AriseTV

Follow NDFS on Twitter for more photos and video clips from the forum, and for updates on future events.

‘October 1’, $2Mil New Nollywood film, to Screen at Cultural Confidence

Kunle Afolayan, a Pioneer of New Nollywood

Kunle Afolayan, Nollywood’s leading filmmaker, will preview his recent release October 1, a psychological thriller set around the time of Nigeria’s independence from Britain, at NYU Kimmel this Saturday, October 11. In commemoration of Nigeria’s centennial and 54th year of independence, Afolayan will be celebrated along with other filmmakers, as a contributor to social change through film and media.

In its second annual event, the Nollywood Diaspora Film Series will host the forum in conjunction with NYU Africana Studies to explore the notion of cultural confidence with film screenings and panel discussions featuring a number of notable African filmmakers, actors, producers and designers.

October 1 whose director is widely hailed as Nigeria’s best filmmaker—called ‘a Nigerian Scorcese’ by the New York Times—sets a new standard for Nollywood, as does Half of a Yellow Sun, which will also screen at the forum. In addition to Afolayan, other special guests including Adepero Oduye (Twelve Years a Slave, Pariah), Gbenga Akinnagbe (24, The Wire) and Wunmi Olaiya will engage NYU filmmakers and the larger community on issues facing Nigerians, using film as basis to explore the role of the Diaspora in social change in Africa.  “Of special interest to us is the role that film can play in elevating the social consciousness of Nigerians and the image of Nigerians across the world,” says Ololade Siyonbola, NDFS founder.

The forum will also feature Supreme Price, by award-winning filmmaker and Harvard lecturer Joanna Lipper, which highlights the legacy of Nigeria’s first democratically elected president—MKO Abiola—from the perspectives of his wife, Kudirat, leader of the pro-democracy movement, and daughter, Hafsat Abiola.

On the theme of Cultural Confidence, Andrew Dosunmu, whose film Mother of George will also screen at the mini-festival, said “Knowing oneself…it’s the greatest wealth one can have.”

For more information on the forum, visit http://filmseries.co/2014/10/thisweekend/

Tickets: http://culturalconfidence.eventbrite.com

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6cbZTUqRj0

October 1 Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-R7wJuPv_7o

NDFS Cultural Confidence is sponsored by VLISCO, Holland Textiles, Sonna Textiles, Africa Magic GO, Yoruba Cultural Institute, NYU Africana Studies.

Special Guests: Khafila Abiola


Khafila Abiola is a human rights and democracy activist from Nigeria. She comes from a family of dedicated Pan-Africanists and courageous fighters for freedom and justice. Her father, M.K.O. Abiola, won the Presidential election held in Nigeria in 1993 but served out his term in solitary confinement, incarcerated by the military. He died in prison, on the eve of his release. Her mother, Kudirat, was a democracy leader who organized major strikes, marches and fought assiduously against the military. In 1996, she was assassinated in the streets of Lagos.

To continue the legacy left by her parents, Khafila actively works as a member of the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND). Currently, she works as the Development Officer and is responsible for building a community of friends that support KIND’s mission and vision. She is also responsible for organizing and speaking at international engagements and human rights campaigns for KIND. Khafila is involved in the global movement to empower youth as a member of the State of the World Forum’s Emerging Leaders Program.

Panelists: Loza Maléombho

Established in New York City in 2009 and relocated in Côte d’Ivoire since 2012 where its production also takes place, the brand is best described as a fusion between traditional cultures/ sub-cultures and contemporary fashion. In fact, Loza Maléombho credits her early world wide exposure for the ecclectic aesthetic and multi-culturalism ever present in her work.

Born in Brazil and raised between Côte d’Ivoire and the United States, she was designing since 13, and graduated in 2006 from the University of the Arts of Philadelphia with a BA of Fine Arts in Animation. She was then initiated in the fashion industry by interning with New york based designers Jill Stuart, Yigal Azrouël and Cynthia Rowley all before deciding to start a brand of her own.

By producting in Côte d’Ivoire, Loza’s vision is to empower women with a small manufacturing workshop that produces the collection and solely hires young women from unfavorable backgrounds. She also works closely with local artisans on featured products such as Indigo dye fabric, jewelry, shoes and accessories.

Panelists: Busayo Olupona

Busayo O.

Busayo Olupona is an attorney, textile and fashion designer, boxer, writer and podcast host. She is the founder and creative director of Busayo; an apparel company that utilizes traditional Nigerian textiles to create contemporary women’s wear. In addition, she has authored several pieces on the history of Adire, an indigenous Nigerian textile and other Nigerian textiles.

Prior to her life as an entrepreneur, she practiced corporate finance law and securities law at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP. She has an undergraduate degree in Business Administration from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley and a J.D. from New York University School of Law.

Panelists: Kukua Odoi


Brooklyn-based Marketing expert and blogger Kukua Odoi (aka MsK) started African Prints in Fashion (APiF) in Summer 2011 as a blog to document the influence of the African Diaspora on fashion, track on Africa-inspired trends and showcase African as well as Africa-inspired designers. Through a unique mix of personal favorites, interviews, trends and a distinctive voice, African Prints in Fashion has established itself within a short time in the African Fashion/Africa-inspired blogging community. APiF has over 210.000 followers and keeps on growing.


Panelists: Prof. Awam Amkpa


Awam Amkpa is a Nigerian actor, playwright, and professor of dramatic arts. He received his B.A. in B.A. 1982 in theater from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria where he studied under the tutelage of Wole Soyinka, his M.A. in 1987 from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria, and his Ph.D. in 1993 from University of Bristol, Bristol, England.

Dr. Amkpa is currently a professor of drama at New York University as well as the Director of Africana Studies at NYU. [1]. He has also taught at Mount Holyoke College [2]

Special Guests: Joanna Lipper


Joanna Lipper is an award-winning filmmaker, photographer and author of the nationally acclaimed book, Growing Up Fast. As a Lecturer at Harvard University, she teaches Using Film For Social Change. Her work as a documentary filmmaker has been supported by the MacArthur Foundation, Ford Foundation/Just Films, ITVS, the Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund, Chicken & Egg Pictures, Women Make Movies, IFP Spotlighting Documentaries, and Britdoc Foundation.

In 2013, Gucci commissioned an extended trailer from her film The Supreme Price to launch their Chime For Change Campaign at TED 2013 and globally.

In 2012, Joanna Lipper won the Gucci Tribeca Spotlighting Women Documentary Award for The Supreme Price. Previous films she has produced and directed include Inside Out: Portraits of Children, Growing Up Fast and Little Fugitive.

Lipper’s book about teen parenthood, Growing Up Fast, was published by Picador in 2003.

  “Compelling and important…this book adroitly illuminates a social crisis.” (Publisher’s Weekly)

Her photographic series, Seaweed Farmers in Zanzibar was featured in Economica: Picturing Power and Potential, a group exhibition presented by the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery and The International Museum of Women in Summer of 2010. This series along with a related multimedia installation was featured in a solo show at Photo De Mer in Vannes, France in 2011.