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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.