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Toronto international film festival and the luck 8

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Toronto International Film Festival

Toronto International Film Festival

I am Omoni Oboli and I represent Naija! What a time in our young but eventful history of Nollywood to be a filmmaker! Wow! I can’t believe I’ve written, produced, directed and featured in four movies in the space of two years! I thank God for the grace to work and to let my work be appreciated by audiences across Nigeria and the world.

This is indeed an interesting time for Nollywood, and especially for all those who have been selected to feature their movies at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). The TIFF City to City edition featuring Lagos city is a once in a lifetime privilege for those selected and for the entire Nigerian movie industry.

For those who do not know, TIFF (formerly known as ‘Festival of Festivals’), founded in 1976, is regarded as North America’s most prestigious film festival, and the most widely attended. In fact, Time calls it “…the most influential film festival, period.” This is due partly to TIFF’s ability to generate Oscar buzz. So it is a big deal for us! What does this mean for Nollywood? With the spotlight on us from such a high profile film festival as TIFF, we have the rare opportunity to showcase our work to a more global market, and pray that through this medium, doors are open for the Nigerian movie industry. We can present our style of movie making, storylines and culture to the world of filmmakers and marketers who have more experience, with the view to opening up alliances and opportunities to grow beyond the current state of the industry so far.

The eight movies that are officially selected are OKAFOR’S LAW (directed by me), 76 (by Izu Ojukwu), THE ARBITRATION (by Niyi Akinmolayan), 93 DAYS (by Steve Gukas), THE WEDDING PARTY (by Kemi Adetiba), TAXI DRIVER Oko Ashewo (by Daniel Emeka Oriahi), GREEN WHITE GREEN (by Abba Makama) and JUST NOT MARRIED (by Uduak-Obong Patrick). I have to congratulate every one of those involved in all these projects; producers, cast and crew, and if no one has told you how great you are, then let me proudly say it now; You’re all amazing!

As a filmmaker, I’m so glad that Nollywood is positioned for such a time as this, when we have such great talents in the art of filmmaking. We weren’t ready for this 10 years ago, but with diligence and resilience, we have improved our craft, and our craft has improved and now opened doors for us. We have to see this as an opportunity to celebrate ourselves and come out strong during the festival to show how much we support our industry, and also how we are sincerely behind its continued growth. We can’t expect to be celebrated enough by foreigners, when they don’t see enough enthusiasm from those whom our storylines and dialogues serve to entertain primarily. When the TIFF City to City program focussed on India, they rose to the occasion to make it a memorable one, thereby expanding further the frontiers of the already boisterous and thriving Indian film industry, Bollywood. This is our time!

My movie, Okafor’s Law, is sure to thrill audiences when it’s finally released at the cinemas. I put in a lot more effort into this project, so that I have shown a consistent growth and improvement of my work to my ever-growing fan base who expect to get something different, better and entertaining whenever I step out. It’s not easy creating stories that would thrill an audience, let alone produce a masterpiece that has minimal flaws with all the challenges of funding, time and logistics of shooting a feature in Nigeria, but I’m so blessed to have done it four times as a filmmaker, writer, producer and actress.

I have seen great strides in the industry that brings tears to my eyes for the joy of seeing positive growth from other filmmakers, and this should not stop, so that we don’t lose our audience. Nothing kills an industry or dents the morale of those making a worthwhile effort to improve their craft more than these two things respectively; the consistent and persistent move towards mediocrity with a deluded self-belief of improvement to go with it, and the unconstructive criticisms from those who haven’t first understood or identified the shortcomings of the industry nor have a genuine motive to help before criticizing.

Criticism is good when it comes from someone who is really interested in seeing positive changes, and this can be perceived from the manner in which the critic addresses the shortcomings observed in the work they wish to criticize. Also, mediocrity can ride on the waves of novelty for so long before it gets washed ashore on the beach of indifference and abandonment by the audience who can grow weary easily, especially with so many options available for their viewing pleasure.

Bearing in mind all the hindrances that make for good excuses to quit, Nigerians have shown an unwavering resolved that has brought this homegrown film industry to the attention of such a prestigious film festival as the TIFF. This is not the time to relax and pat our backs, but a time to first enjoy this moment, then learn from those ahead of us until we rise to become a force to reckon with in the global movie industry space. It may take some time for some of us to wrap our heads around the possibilities ahead, but even if it takes a few good men to do it, the whole industry will be the better for it.

So, to the Lucky Eight who have been selected, hold your head up high because you deserve it, but don’t be tempted to forget that it took the whole movie village to raise you up to this platform. Again, I say to Nollywood, CONGRATULATIONS!


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