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

Special Guests: Gbenga Akinnagbe


Gbenga Akinnagbe (born December 12, 1978) is an American actor, best known for his role as Chris Partlow on the HBO original series The Wire.[2]


He played “Ben Ellis” in the episode Contenders on the TV series Numb3rs. In the summer of 2006, Akinnagbe performed the role of “Zim” in the NYC Fringe Festival’s “Outstanding Play” award-winning production of Modern Missionary.[4] In 2003, Akinnagbe auditioned for the role of Chris Partlow on the HBO series The Wire and starting in 2004 began a frequent recurring role. In 2008 during the show’s fifth and final season, he was promoted to a series regular. In 2007, Akinnagbe appeared in the film The Savages with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Laura Linney, and Philip Bosco. He appeared in the remake of The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, which was released by Sony in June 2009. Akinnagbe made a guest appearance on a Season 10 Law and Order: SVU episode entitled “Hell” as Elijah Okello, a former Ugandan child soldier living in New York, facing deportation. Akinnagbe’s former The Wire cast mate Robert Wisdom also appeared in that episode as Father Theo Burdett. In 2010 in Seattle, Washington Akinnagbe starred in world premiere play The Thin Place at The Intiman Theatre.[5] He was also in the movie Lottery Ticket and is currently in The Good Wife as Pastor Isiah Easton.[1] His former co-star from the The Wire, Frankie Faison, portrayed his father on the show in several episodes. He is currently starring as Kelly Slater, a new nurse in the 3rd season of the Showtime series Nurse Jackie.[6] He will be seen in the lead role of Jack in the upcoming Independent film “Home”, directed by Jono Oliver. He is currently playing a drug lord in the USA series Graceland and stars as CIA agent Erik Ritter in 24: Live Another Day.

Writing career

As of 2009, Gbenga has begun a writing career, having had two articles published in The New York Times, one detailing a trip to Nepal to climb the Himalayas, and the other outlining the medical procedures he underwent to correct his severely flat feet.[7]

Special Guests: Kunle Afolayan


Kunle Afolayan is a Nigerian actor and director. He is the son of the famous theater and film director and producer Ade Love. He is of Yoruba descent.[1][2] Afolayan majored in economics. Since 2005 he has been active in the Nigerian film industry. He has made several extremely popular titles including: The Figurine: Araromire which was in the Yoruba and English languages and Phone Swap which featured Nse Ikpe Etim and the legendary Chika Okpala. The Figurine won five major awards in the African Film Academy and experienced tremendous success in the Nigerian movie theaters.[1]

Kunle Afolayan appeared at the Subversive Film Festival in 2011 where he represented the second largest film industry in the world, the Nigerian film industry, with his colleague Zeb Ejiro.[1] In May 2013, Phone Swap premiered in France at the first edition of NollywoodWeek Paris and won the Public Choice Award.[3]



It’s Almost Time

OCTOBER 1, the film everyone in Nigeria is talking about, will have it’s US debut at CULTURAL CONFIDENCE. This HISTORIC film is the epitome of what NDFS was created for — culturally relevant, world class storytelling.

BUY Tickets in advance to avoid disapointment. Prices are higher at the door.

Here’s a breakdown of this weekend’s events. You. Do. Not. Want. To. Miss. This.


Opening Reception. Doors open at 6PM.
RSVP to nollywood@filmseries.co by WEDNESDAY 10/8 for FREE entry before 7PM. Buy dinner tickets here.

LOCATION: Le Souk Harem. 510 LaGuardia Place. Manhattan. (6 train to Bleeker St. B/D/F/M to Broadway-Lafayette. A/B/C/D/E/F/M to West 4th St. 1 train to Houston St.).


THE SUPREME PRICE Film. Doors open 7:30PM
Film screening and Q&A with award-winning Filmmaker Joanna Lipper and Khafila Abiola–activist & daughter of MKO Abiola.
Moderated by Busayo Olupona.

LOCATION: NYU Kimmel Center. 60 Washington Square South.



Doors open at 11AM

LOCATION: NYU Kimmel Center. 60 Washington Square South.


11AM – 2PM
Yoruba, Igbo and Efik Workshops

LOCATION: NYU Department of Social & Cultural Analysis. 20 Cooper Square, 4th Floor. Manhattan. (6 train to Astor Place, N/R to 8th St. NYU)

Are you ready? Are you ready? This is going to be an AMAZING weekend! You might just walk away from it with ridiculous amounts of CULTURAL CONFIDENCE. You might walk taller, prouder, more sure of who you are. JOIN US.











Busayo O.


Special Guests: Wunmi Olaiya

Wunmi Olaiya, international recording artist and global brand, is the embodiment of cultural confidence. Her raw lyricism and musical performances have been described as “sensational,” “breathtaking,” “mesmerizing” from London to Tokyo to Bahia and feature an eclectic mix of AfroBeat, House, Jazz, Funk; likening her to a new-era Fela Kuti.  She’s made music and shared stages with everyone from Soul II Soul to Tony Allen to Roy Ayers.

Wunmi is as real as it gets, and her performance talent is fully matched by her gift as a fashion architect. Having designed for the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, Esmerelda Spalding and Susan Taylor, among others, her stringent commitment to superior quality, authenticity, beauty has made her own clothing line—Wow Wow by Wunmi—one of the most coveted ready to wear African fashion brands on the planet. Join Wunmi and other culturally confident ALAs (Africans Living Abroad) at NDFS Cultural Confidence.

Learn more about Wunmi here.

Half of a Yellow Sun to Screen at Cultural Confidence

Half of a Yellow Sun provides an intimate encounter with one of the most important pieces of Nigerian history. This classic film juxtaposes love with violence, family with enmity, self-hatred with cultural confidence.

This film demonstrates so beautifully that the beginning of cultural confidence is the embracing of history. Accepting the truth of our history–as individuals and as a nation–allows us to build new and better truths in the future.

What Biyi Bandele and the HOAYS executive team have done here is not only recount history; they have made history. Half of a Yellow Sun was funded by Nigerians, filmed in Nigeria, by Nigerians. Additionally, this film can stand against any film from any industry. Production quality, storytelling, aesthetics…this is Nollywood. This should be the Nollywood standard. This is the new bar for anyone within the borders of Nigeria creating content.

Join us for the screening of Half of a Yellow Sun and a discussion on how film and media can advance a nation’s cultural confidence. Tickets.

View the trailer here:

Special Guests: Adepero Oduye

adepero main
Adepero Oduye in Vanity Fair’s Hollywood Issue

“To watch Adepero Oduye … is to experience the thrill of discovery.” – A.O. Scott (New York Times)

Before we saw her as Eliza, starring across from Lupita Nyong’o and Chiwetel Ejiofor in Steve McQueen’s Twelve Years a Slave, Adepero Oduye brought us several powerful characters on the big screen and on Broadway. Growing up in Brooklyn as one of seven children, Oduye says she always considered herself Nigerian first. A former pre-med student, Oduye defied all odds by leaving the medical path to become a successful actor.

The second most amazing thing about Oduye, who the New York Times calls “a master of understatement,” is that she is motivated by a passion for telling powerful stories. In Pariah, her breakout film, Oduye played a teenager who overcame tremendous opposition to embrace her queer sexuality. In Steel Magnolias, with Queen Latifah, Jill Scott, Felicia Rashad and Alfre Woodard, she played ‘Anelle,’ a character who transforms herself from fearful and shy, to bold and true.

The most amazing thing about Oduye is what the Times calls her “megawatt smile,” which we’ve seen in Fela! On Broadway, Law & Order, The Bluest Eye, Trip to Bountiful and much more.

Come and meet Adepero and other culturally confident special guests at NDFS: Cultural Confidence on October 10 & 11 at NYU. Tickets

The Legacy of June 12: There Once Was a Country

Once upon a time, there was a country. Growing up in the West, the most dominant narrative of Nigeria had to do with poverty, sickness, corruption, greed and more poverty. Going home was like playing Russian roulette with your life because chances were, you would get malaria or typhoid or get robbed, or be harassed by police men or get in a deadly car crash or see dead bodies littering the streets, or be kidnapped…

There was another Nigeria, though, before we millennials were born. A place where university students received stipends from their local, state and federal governments, so that a good college education was absolutely free. A place with currency stronger than the US dollar. A place from which travel was easy because people actually wanted to live at home. What happened to this Nigeria? How did we go from a country with solid free primary education to a place where children are kidnapped from their schools with no resolution, no justice?

When MKO Abiola was arrested in 1993, Nigeria had already become the kind of country where injustice prevailed, where the government behaved like the mob, killing innocent people in broad daylight, and with impunity. Nollywood Diaspora Film Series is pleased to include Supreme Price in the line up of this year’s forum, a powerful film which tells the story of Nigeria’s first president elect and the legacy he left through his–now grown, activist–children. Join us for a screening and a Q&A with the filmmaker.

See the trailer here:


What is Cultural Confidence? Part I

(Photo by Quazi King)

Well, we should ask you this. What is cultural confidence?


Funmi Iyanda says: “Often times, people don’t make the connection between the people’s culture and the growth of the nation… I think one of the challenges in Nigeria is that we lack cultural confidence. We do have cultural bravado, but we lack confidence. Cultural confidence is a quieter thing that comes from the recognition of who you are as a person and as a nation.


Cultural confidence may manifest as different things for different people. For us at NDFS, cultural confidence—on the individual level—is a deeply ingrained understanding of who you are, within the context of understanding where you come from. Finding a balance that allows you to represent your cultural group (s) with pride, but also let your true individuality shine through. Amy Chua, also known as Tiger Mom, teaches that one’s propensity for success is determined in large part by the cultural group to which one belongs.


You may not know the entire history of your nation or cultural group, you may not even speak your language. But do you own this culture? Do you identify with it? Are you in a persistent quest to know more about it? Do you drink from the fountain of its beauty?  A fluent Wolof speaker can learn new Wolof words as often as she seeks them.  Be interested.


For some of us, the journey to cultural confidence may begin with identifying a culture or cultures with which to align oneself. For displaced peoples—for instance, Africans in the Americas brought here forcefully—it can be very difficult to assume an authentic cultural identity. If I don’t know from whence in Africa my ancestors came, how do I begin to own an authentic cultural identity that can ground me successfully and help me flourish in the jungle of international discourse? This is also true for European Americans, most of whom do not know whether their roots were British, German, Portuguese. For those who do, how much of the traditions of their ancestors intentionally inform their day to day lives?


In a nation like Nigeria, where so many cultures have been made to live together, it can be difficult to settle on any genuine cultural identity. However in the cultural subgroups, some have more ‘confidence’ than others. A confident culture ensures that its members and their descendants understand each other, and are equipped to represent the interests of their group on the world stage.  A confident culture then does not just start wars in the name of religion or political power, but is in the business of empowering its citizens and preserving itself for posterity, even advancing itself culturally as well as economically.


If a nation does not utilize and cultivate its language, for instance, that language dies over time, possibly being lost with the younger generations who take up the tongues of foreigners, or being absorbed into neighboring languages.  Author Rita Mae Brown says, ❝Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.❞ Now list ten people you know from other countries under age 30. How many of them speak their native tongue. How many of the Africans on that list speak their native tongue?


Language loss is an undeniable part of globalization, but it is not the only way in which the cultures of Nigeria—and other indigenous cultures—are fledgling internationally. How many people on that list of ten actually participate in the customs of their cultural group frequently? Not weddings. Can you describe the customs of a few African traditions other than marriage?


Essentially, we believe the current generation has lost most of its cultural confidence. We wish to help you get it back, to whatever degree you are ready for it.


What do you think? We really want to hear from you. Do you agree with this position, or do you feel that there is more to Cultural Confidence to this? Tell us here in the comments, tweet about it, write your own posts. Use the hashtag #culturalconfidence so that we can find your thoughts in the world of the web.


Part II coming soon!

A note about the featured photo: Featured in the image is Wunmi Olaiya, Culturally Confident musical icon of our time. She was photographed in Brooklyn by J. Quazi King circa 2008.

Happy Birthday, Nollywood

Defining and Celebrating the Past and Future of Nigerian Cinema


A walk down many a Brooklyn street and the noises of the city are accompanied by the blaring noises of storefronts. Bootleg movies blare from wall-mounted televisions, and Carribbean and American passerby stop in to buy films flown over from the Motherland. Mostly Nigerian films, these stories give an insight into the African continent that this audience would not otherwise have.


“You’re Nigerian? I love Nigerian movies.”


In a country like the US where the dearth of Black cinema leaves much to be desired, Nigerian films were welcomed with open arms. Blacks living in the States thrive on seeing images of people who look like them. Instead of the images of brown-skinned people committing crimes, serving “fairer” masters, living in poverty, near-naked dancing on poles in music videos; American consumers of Nigerian films view Black Africans with mansions, their own house help, their own businesses, drivers and extended family units.  They see the urbanization of Lagos and other African cities, while also being transported into the hinterlands with more traditional stories.


The fact that these consumers have spent millions on Nigerian films in the last 10 years—in spite of language barriers (the accent-peppered English can be an acquired taste for the average American), poor writing and lower production quality than what they are accustomed to—shows that they value the experience of traversal to West Africa more than they worry about film quality. After all, these films present to such consumers the rare opportunity to see reflections of themselves in a relatively positive light.


How old is Nollywood?


Last Spring, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan acknowledged the 20th anniversary of the inception of “Nollywood” as we know it with a government-sponsored celebration.  This on the heels of UNESCO’s declaration that Nollywood, the world’s second-largest film industry and Nigeria’s second-largest employer, required more support.  Some tastemakers and contributors to Nigerian cinema were rubbed the wrong way by the celebration.  The $200 billion loan fund and ₦3 billion grant fund recently instituted by Jonathan for development of the film industry is suspected to be targeted only to chosen facets of the industry—the same facets who claim that Nollywood was born in 1993 with Kenneth Nnebue’s film Living in Bondage.


In actuality, Herbert Ogunde and Ola Balogun produced Nigerian films as early as the 1960s. However, earlier films were not mass distributed in the way that Nollywood films have come to be. Nnebue’s distribution model set the stage for the straight-to-home-video, cheaply-mass-produced nature for which Nollywood has come to be known.


“Nolly, who?”


Perhaps it is this image of Nigerian cinema that keeps Africans in the Diaspora viewing these films with less fanfare than other Americans.  Fifty-somethings are more likely to be caught watching Nigerian films than twenty-somethings. Why is this? The younger generation, Western-raised on immaculate cinema and television content, is often more distracted by poor production quality than their say, Caribbean-raised counterparts.


There is also an element of shame at the high incidence of voodoo rituals used for evil, and the repetition of stories that are core to the most popular films. It seems that you can always expect an evil mother-in-law, sister or “frenemy” to solve a problem or nine with the help of a voodoo priest. It seems often that life’s problems are explained by someone’s use of a catastrophic spell years and years ago.


While this very well may be the reality for a certain portion of the Nigerian / West African population; while marriage, infidelity, backstabbing, murder may be the central themes in the lives of many a Nollywood contributor; the younger generation seems to thirst for stories that enrich, that edify and that reflect a much broader sense of African-ness.  The newer films, focused on a very Western aesthetic and storyline, may be relatively easier for the younger group to swallow, but also have lost a great deal of what made them African in the first place. The most unforgettable African films are those whose fully-developed, intelligent African storylines and characters speak to the humanity of the viewers.


Re-writing the Script


Osuofia in London, arguably the most internationally known Nollywood film, was produced with superior digital quality, with a story themed on culture-clash, familial loyalty, and unusual perseverance. Directors like Tunde Kelani still produce films for theatre, films that instruct viewers in the culture of his homeland, advancing the mother tongue. Tony Abulu has more than once bridged the gap from the Diaspora to the homeland through film. Andrew Dosunmu has produced two “visually-stunning” films to sold-out US theatres, with Mother of George also providing cultural education. Most of these would never be considered “Nollywood” films. Granted, there are a whole host of films produced and/or directed by Nigerians and other Africans, telling African stories with Sundance class. But is the new government funding interest focused on these? Or on the mother seeking a Babalawo’s help to restore her prostituting daughter who became mentally ill because of a twenty-year-old curse?


This debate is what spurned the creation of the Nollywood Diaspora Film Series, a series of film screenings and panel discussions highlighting the best of Nigerian Cinema. Using West African media content as the platform on which to dissect larger issues plaguing Africa, the Nollywood Diaspora Film Series is encouraging a new infusion of interest in Nigerian cinema. At the first events this winter at Studio Museum Harlem and NYU, moviegoers joined the conversation with writers and producers who believe in the power of film to drastically affect a generation for the better. Thus giving those city-dwelling film-lovers better buying options in their storefronts, and supporting the notion that Nigerians have largely struggled to accept: that of quality over quantity.