TIFF Spotlights Lagos, Nigeria in City to City Programme

Nigerian zombie flick Ojuju was a recent hit on the festival circuit.
Lagos, Nigeria is TIFF's 2016 destination for its annual spotlight of national cinema in the Festival’s City to City programme. Lagos marks the programme's first trip to Africa in its eight years of stamping Toronto’s passports. The selection adds to the Festival’s effort to showcase diverse stories from around the world and, while presumably in the works for a while, gives audiences, critics, and especially industry types the chance to discover and foster new talents in the wake of the growing outcries for more inclusive hiring efforts before and behind the camera.

“Vital, complex and inspiring, Lagos is entirely unique,” said Cameron Bailey, TIFF’s Artistic Director and curator of the programme, in a statement from the festival. “The city of Fela Kuti's music has also given birth to one of the world’s most vibrant film industries. The 1,000 low-budget features ‘Nollywood’ produces each year generate about $1 billion in box office. Now, from that commercial hotbed, a new generation of filmmakers is emerging to both advance and challenge Nollywood. Bigger budgets, greater artistic ambition — the new cinema of Lagos is bold, exciting, and ready to take its place on the international stage. We’re excited to share the creativity of this remarkable city’s filmmakers with TIFF audiences in September.”

Lagos features one of the world’s largest film industries that remains relatively removed from Canadian movie screens. ‘Nollywood’ has a robust business of video productions that reaches Lagos film lovers and ex-pats, but don’t have much, if any, commercial life here until now. Recent notable highlights from Nigeria to hit the festival circuit include the co-production of Half of a Yellow Sun, a Nigeria/UK co-production starring Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor, which premiered at TIFF in 2013, and last year’s horror circuit hit Ojuju (pictured), which gave Night of the Living Dead an eco-conscious Nollywood spin.

The African nation has yet to be in the Oscar's foreign language film race, although a committee called for submissions to compete in the most recent competition. No films were deemed eligible, so the films selected for City to Citycan expect one of the bigger boosts for Nollywood on the international stage.

Previous City to City tours include London, Seoul, Mumbai, and, most controversially, Tel Aviv. The film selections for the programme are set for an announcement on August 8. The 2016 Toronto International Film Festival runs Sept. 8 – 18.