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The audacity of breaking new grounds


Actress Adesua Etomi and Nigerian singer Banky Wellington (R) attend “The Wedding Party” premiere during the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival at The Elgin on September 8, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images/AFP

Actress Adesua Etomi and Nigerian singer Banky Wellington (R) attend “The Wedding Party” premiere during the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival at The Elgin on September 8, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.<br />Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images/AFP

I am Omoni Oboli and I represent Naija! The 41st edition of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has begun! This is so exciting, especially when our very own Nigerian movie industry is the centre of attraction. It’s been one hectic week for me since I arrived Toronto ahead of the festival. I have been going from one interview to the other, speaking to diverse people with diverse interests about Nollywood. The heightened interest in our movies by many interest and relevant groups is a testament of how colossal this official selection of the 8 movies to the TIFF is.

We’ve come to that point in this industry where we’ve grown too big for the box we had been confined to. If we had any doubts about how far ahead we have moved from where we first started, then certain things need to be brought to light to remind us of what we’ve achieved but have somehow neglected to celebrate lately.

Firstly, we are at TIFF! I wish we could all see the magnitude of this feat which has brought our movies to very platform many are dying to have their movies accepted from all over the planet! As filmmakers, you couldn’t get any higher than this, except you’re nominated for the Academy Awards, which I pray would happen soon for one or more of us in Jesus name. This is our foot in the door. Next thing would be the full body in the room of those who are the powerhouses of international movie making. Don’t let us start underestimating the power of the underdog. Underdogs have been pulling up surprises lately, ask Leicester football club. It starts with a dedicated fan club keeping the drums rolling even when the team seems to be down, until they rise above it all to achieve the seemingly impossible. Nollywood is flowing, and like a river, obstacles don’t stop our flow but makes us change course temporarily, charting a new course to the ocean of endless possibilities.

Secondly, AY Makun has just been named by the Guiness World Records as having his movie, 30 Days In Atlanta, as the highest grossing movie ever in the Nigerian cinema box office! This is a man who has shown a consistent diligence in his craft, astuteness in his handling of business, and a persistent zeal to soar even higher. The end result is what we see; sold out live comedy shows and packed audiences at his debut movie. This is an example of a role model which the youth of Nigeria need to emulate; one that would show them that hardwork pays in the end, and even after the success has been achieved, hardwork continues to sustain that success and build on it. I can’t tell how much I’ve learnt from just watching him and gleaning from his tenacity to reach his set goals, but my prayer is that I’m not the only one. His success gave me the zeal to push even harder knowing that what I thought was the ceiling of possibilities for the box office success of Nigerian movies is now possible to surpass. I’m glad my movie, Wives On Strike, performed more than I could ever hope for, and I’m looking forward to doing even better with Okafor’s Law just because AY showed it could be done.

Thirdly, the movie, 76, directed by Izu Ojukwu, has been officially selected to feature at the British Film Institute (BFI) London Film Festival! What’s up with Nollywood? They say when it rains it pours! It was FIFTY last year at BFI, and now 76, with a powerhouse cast and crew, led by Ramsey Noah and the evergreen Rita Dominic. This is a must see movie, which is also one of the movies featuring at this year’s TIFF.

There’s something audacious about being self-confident that tends to stir up others into taking positive action for their own good and for the good of all. When we begin to see that if we develop a habit of celebrating our own, we will begin to awaken that sense of pride from our people which is the seed of a greater future. It’s good to desire to be successful because you’ve seen someone else achieve it, so let’s begin there. My journey to where I am today was firstly because of the grace of God, and God brought certain people my way to help jumpstart the process. This was either by direct monetary or material contribution, a piece of advice, their own lifestyle and ideals I’ve seen, or the way others portrayed certain people to me with the reverence they deserve. Whatever the case, I picked up the positives that I needed and trained in areas I believed I needed fine tuning or outright knowledge, just to achieve my goals. The likes of Emem Isong, Kunle Afolayan, Lonzo Nzekwe, Blessing Egbe helped me see the workings of moviemaking behind the scenes. In that same light, I also pray that I woud be a direct or indirect example for someone to follow.

So can we get far on just our individual efforts? Of course, but can we achieve with our individual efforts, what other countries have painstakingly and deliberately achieved collectively? I doubt that! We are our own worst enemy, or our own best friend. The choice is entirely ours. We can’t point fingers at others for our own woes when they tear us down and try to belittle our achievements, small or great. They only echo what we’re already doing; not celebrating or celebrating ourselves. Let’s begin to shout our strengths so loud that our weaknesses would pale before their very eyes and ours, just as they shouted the praise of the English Premiere league so loud that we became die hard fans with its accompanying economic benefits to them. Let’s start to adopt those little habits that would eventually help to make Nigeria great!

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