The African International Film Festival is back and will run from November 5-11, 2023. This year’s event is packed, both in competition and out of competition, with a variety of documentaries, short films and global films that will also screen at the festival, selected from over 2,000 films from more than 100 countries across 5 continents.
This year’s jury will be headed by Stephen ‘Dr.’ Love (producer of They Cloned Tyrone). The rest of the 12th edition jury includes Zimbabwean award-winning author and winner of 2023 African Peace Prize, Tsitsi Dangarembga; and Lebanese-French actress and director Wafa’a Céline Halawi; Geneva Wasserman, Entertainment and technology expert and SVP of Scripted Development at Dentsu, the Japanese media juggernaut; Cuban-American film producer and Afro-Latino voices in film mentor, Ranada Shepard; renowned Hollywood producer and Head of Inventions Studios, Nicholas Weinstock; multi-talented film acquisition expert and Head of content at MultiChoice, Busola Tejumola; seasoned actress Kate Henshaw; and Nigerian filmmaker Desmond Elliott.
Ahead of the opening night of Lonzo Nzekwe’s Orah, we have curated a list of 14 Nigerian feature films that every festival attendee should have on their radar.
Slated as the opening night film, Orah, directed by Lonzo Nzekwe follows a Nigerian immigrant taxi driver in Toronto, who agrees to launder dirty money for her boss in exchange for bringing her son over from Nigeria. When the plan goes horribly wrong, Orah takes matters into her own hands to settle the score.
The titular Orah is played by Oyin Oladejo. The cross-country crime thriller also stars OC Ukeje, Somkele Iyamah, Oris Erhuero, Tina Mba, Ruby Akubueze and Emeka Nwagbaraocha.
Orah will also be screened on Wednesday, November 8.
All The Colours of the World are Between Black and White
Popularly known as its stylized shortened version, All the Colours is one of the two Nigerian films currently on a global festival run. The globetrotting drama directed by Babatunde Apalowo is now coming home for its African premiere. Kicking off at the Berlinale earlier this year where it won the Teddy Award, the film touches and captures a ‘taboo’ topic in Nigerian society.
Bambino (played by Tope Tedela) and Bawa (played by David Riyo) meet in Lagos and hit it off immediately. During their long trips around the city, they develop a deep affection for each other. But in a society that considers homosexuality taboo, they feel the pressure of social norms. The film also stars Martha Ehinome, Uche Chika Elumelu and Floyd Anekwe.
All the Colours will be screened on Thursday, November 9.
I Do Not Come To You By Chance
Genevieve Nnaji-executive produced book adaptation of Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani’s novel had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) 2023. It is another film (with a lengthy title) coming home for its African premiere. Directed by Ishaya Bako, the film is about a struggling Nigerian graduate (played by Paul Nnadiekwe) whose only surefire path forward seems to be abetting his shady uncle’s fraudulent email scam.
Co-written by Chika Anadu and Ishaya Bako, it also stars Blossom Chukwujekwu, Jennifer Eliogu, Sambasa Nzeribe, Beverly Osu and Emeka Nwagbaraocha.
I Do Not Come To You By Chance will be screened on Thursday, November 9.
Kanaani is a topical film starring Gabriel Afolayan and Ivie Okujaye, two powerful performers, as a separated couple. In September, the film found its way to cinemas briefly and is worth a watch. The Tola Olatunji-directed film explores human trafficking, the japa pandemic, and sexual violence in its cross-Atlantic tale. If you missed Kanaani in cinemas, AFRIFF is opening up another chance to catch the film, but do not forget your napkin as you find your way out of the hall after at the end of the tearjerking story.
Kanaani will be screened on Monday, November 6.
Funmilayo Ransome Kuti
As the name implies, Funmilayo Ransome Kuti is a biopic of the same name historical figure directed by Bolanle Austen-Peters (known for Man of God, The Bling Lagosians and Collision Course). The historical drama, which was on a limited theatrical run shortly before the Oscars IFF submission deadline, stars Kehinde Bankole and Joke Silva as the titular heroine at different stages of her life. We do not get biopics frequently and this is a chance to see the film before an anticipated streaming release.
Funmilayo Ransome Kuti will be screened on Wednesday, November 8.
This is Lagos
Kenneth Gyang is back with a passion project. In what is a film birthed and developed by him (and Tom Rowlands-Rees creative partner on Confusion Na Wa), This is Lagos is expected to be a different outing from what we have seen from him recently in Blood Sisters or Oloture. This is Lagos, which will be in cinemas from December, follows Stevo, played by Gabriel Afolayan, a young man with an insatiable hunger for superstardom in a city where everyone wears a mask of some kind. The film also stars Ikechukwu Onunaku, Rahama Sadau, Kate Henshaw, Enyinna Nwigwe, Mike Afolarin, and Laura Pepple.
This is Lagos will be screened on Thursday, November 9.
James Amuta’s Black Harvest is another Nigerian film at TIFF this year. Starring Zack Orji, Elvina Ibru, Kelechi Udegbe, Tope Olowoniyan, and Greg Ojefua, the neo-noir film explores illegal organ trafficking and transplant tourism. A group of goons-for-hire guarding a few hostages held in a kidnap-for-ransom situation, soon discover that their employer’s business isn’t exactly what was advertised, as they find themselves in the same predicament as their victims. Director Amuta, who also doubles as the screenwriter, is known for his writing work on Collision Course.
Black Harvest will be screened on Tuesday, November 7.
A Green Fever
Known for his frequent homage to the city of Ibadan, Egunjobi’s third film A Green Fever stars William Benson, Ruby Precious Okezie, Deyemi Okanlawon, Darasimi Nadi, Temi Fosudo, and Toyin Oshinaike.
A Green Fever will be screened on Thursday, November 9.
Afamefuna: An Nwa Boi Story
Directed by Kayode Kasum, Afamefuna explores the Igbo apprenticeship system and how it revitalised the community’s economy by allowing successful Igbo men to pass on their knowledge and blessings to apprentices, perpetuating the cycle of wealth creation.
The cast includes Paul Nnadiekwe, Kanayo O. Kanayo, Stan Nze, Alexx Ekubo, Atlanta Bridget Johnson, Segun Arinze, with appearances from Jide Kene Achufusi, and Noble Igwe.
Afamefuna will be screened on Monday, November 6.
Tarella: Princess of the Nile
The long-awaited Cinderella adaptation co-directed by Kayode Kasum and Lolo Eremie will be screened at AFRIFF. Set in a mythical kingdom of Akkaya in West Africa, Prince Nosa, heir to the throne, and Tarella, the orphaned maiden, must overcome numerous obstacles in their quest to find true love and their happy ever after.
Okawa Shaznay and Timini Egbuson star the couple in this African Cinderella story. Also starring in Tarella are Richard Mofe-Damijo, Chioma Idigo, Elvina Ibru, Ummi Baba-Ahmed, Rebecca Nengi Hampson, William Benson, and Gideon Okeke.
Tarella will be screened on Wednesday, November 8.
What No One Knows
Director Adeoluwa Owu is making a return to AFRIFF after winning the Oronto Douglas Prize for Best Nigerian Feature at AFRIFF 2021 for The Griot. Set to be screened out of competition, What No One Knows tells the story of two young women, played by Tope Laguda and Adunni Ade, who have been lifelong best friends but have their friendship tested to the limits as a result of choices they both agreed to make. The film, also starring Damilola Ogunsi, Enyinna Nwigwe, Lanre Hassan, Tina Mba and Carol King, will touch on friendship and grief.
What No One Knows will be screened on Friday, November 10.
Over the Bridge
After its world premiere in the UK in October, Nollyphiles won’t have to wait too long to catch Tolu Ajayi’s debut film on the big screen, starring Ozzy Agu, Segilola Ogidan, Joke Silva, Deyemi Okalanwon, Chimezie Imo and Paul Adams.
The fantasy drama follows Folarin (played by Agu), an accomplished investment banker with a beautiful wife, prestigious connections and a life most people can only dream of. When a high-profile government project he managed goes awry, he starts to question everything he has ever believed to be true.
Over The Bridge will be screened on Tuesday, November 7.
Onyeegwu is a sports drama starring Kayode Ojuolape jr, Zubby Michael, Tina Mba, Uche Jombo, William Uchemba, Toyin Abraham and Chioma Chukwuka Akpotha.
Directed by Uche Jombo, life as Alex knows it is about to end. With football being his life, he will go on a spiritual journey to reclaim his place in the sport he loves so much. Then his world collides with a young talented upcoming footballer with dreams of playing abroad.
Onyeegwu will be screened on Wednesday, November 8.
Breath of Life
Prime Video’s first commissioned film out of Nigeria, Breath of Life, directed by BB Sasore will close the 2023 AFRIFF. The faith-based story follows the story of a man who has lost his sense of purpose until an encounter with a young man who changes his life and destiny.
Set in the 50s, the film will star Wale Ojo, Genoveva Umeh, Chimezie Imo, Bimbo Manuel, Tina Mba, Demola Adedoyin, Sam Dede, and Sambasa Nzeribe. The film is also expected to premiere on Prime Video before the end of 2023.
Breath of Life can only be seen on closing night.
Let’s give you one more.
In another out-of-competition screening, the Cameroonian film that was expected to premiere on Netflix earlier this year will now be available at AFRIFF. By the team behind Fisherman’s Diary, the film is about an abusive husband who is advised to channel his rage in the army. There, he must come to terms with violent urges that have deep and painful roots. Nganu now has a new release date on Netflix in November.
Nganu will be screened on Thursday, November 9.
AFRIFF will be held in Lagos from November 5-11, 2023. Kindly confirm the exact showing times for the films on AFRIFF’s website.
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