Lights Camera Africa: A field of harvest for Nigerian cinema

A cinema in nigeria

The 8th edition of Lights Camera Africa, the art house film festival founded by art curator, Ugonma Adegoke, held in Lagos recently. Viewers were treated to a variety of documentaries, animation, shorts and feature films they won’t likely see anywhere else. Screenings, conversations and optimism about filmmaking in Nigeria dominated Day 2 of the event.

The works of young filmmakers, not yet known by mainstream audiences were shown and the makers got the chance to talk about their films, experience and craft during Q& A sessions. Two films stood out for me.

Delivery Boy (2018), directed by Kunle Adejuyibe aka Nodash , the Cinematographer of Isoken(2017), In Line(2017), The Bridge(2017); lensing films for Directors, Tope Oshin, Kunle Afolayan, Tolu Ajayi and others.

It was an engrossing dive into the lives of a suicide bomber and a street walker, who meet by fate and embark on a ride which will forever change their lives. Lead actor, Jamal Ibrahim’s intense performance is worthy of note.

Adejuyigbe, balanced action, suspense and thrills to create a compelling piece of cinema. The 66 min passion project shot since 2015 just completed post-production and was viewed by the cast for the first time at the festival.

The thunderous applause it received was well deserved.

Kasala!(2018) is the feature debut of Ema Edosio who has directed TV shows like The Friendzone, The Governor and Rumour Has It . Those shows focus on the lives and loves of middle /upper middle class Nigerians in their gated communities. If her previous work had restaurant equivalents, her TV projects are a restaurant in Lekki Phase with elevator music and Kasala is a Buka in a bus park, full of life and Fuji music.

Kasala is the story of four friends in the slums of Lagos all going through family and life challenges. On this day they skip their troubles, work and babysitting to go for a party. TJ, the defunct ring leader steals his uncle’s car, so they can arrive with swag. At the party, Abraham steals the keys to the car and crashes it and that is where the Kasala starts. The window is shattered and the car won’t start. How do they fix the car and get it back to the house before 6 o’ clock when his uncle will be back from work?

The rest of the film has them struggling to raise the money to get the car fixed before the end of the day. The problem is, they are all broke.
Kasala, like La Haine(1995), Friday (1995) and Confusion Na Wa (2013), follows “ a day in the life” structure. We join working class young men in their twenties trying to survive and aspire for a better life. We see them from the moment they wake up till the sun sets dealing with a variety of characters, in the form of neighbourhood bullies, predators, lovers, mechanics and money deals.

The dialogue captures the lingo of young men in a way many other films don’t. Nothing about the way they talk to each other feels inauthentic and or out of place. Their camaraderie is believable and you really buy that they are friends off screen. They tease, mock and prank each other as young men do.

Many Nollywood films are visually generic; the camera is always stiff, clinical without personality. Not in Kasala.

There’s good energy in the scenes as Edosio , who was her own cinematographer, utilized, tracking shots and moving masters. One scene has an unbroken three minute moving master where we see all four characters together on screen for the first time, similar to the Sorkin, walk n talk. Edosio forgoes traditional coverage and follows her characters like a documentary film-maker, there is nothing glossy or pristine about the world her camera captures and that’s a good thing.

Theatrical Nollywood rarely had characters of the unemployed and undereducated youth: the disenfranchised who work in bukas, build our houses, haul our trash and serve us at fast food restaurants. Their stories also matter, lest we live in an echo chamber encased in a bubble of privilege.

Kasala was initially rejected by distributors who felt it had no commercial value. There were no known faces and felt just a little weird. It then was accepted by film festivals across the world – Edosio received invitations from universities who loved her work. Look out for its release and see it with friends.

The spectrum of choices in the Nigerian film space is expanding with new voices with something to say. The only way these films will keep getting distribution is if movie fans pay for tickets and make them profitable. Both films are examples of directors making stories they’re passionate about, not a calculation of what is most popular.
Lights Camera Africa is a great platform and I hope distributors begin to attend and harvest great talent.

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