One of the highlights of the 12th edition of the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF 2023) is the celebration of young, independent filmmakers who are attempting to make their imprints in Nollywood, Africa’s largest film industry. Committed to the course of realizing the dreams of passionate young filmmakers is the Accelerate Filmmakers Project. The 2023 Project edition was a week-long program targeted at grooming over 20 young Nigerian filmmakers through mentorship with industry professionals, with five filmmakers making the final shortlist for screenings of their short films at AFRIFF. These filmmakers are Janobest Isaac, Tosan Anyafulu, Victor Eyike, Korede Soyinka, and Sanni Ayodeji.
All of the filmmakers’ five short films were screened last Thursday at Filmhouse Landmark Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos, as part of AFRIFF 2023. These titles are Arodan, Better Place, From the Shadows, Obinmapu, and Road Trip.
Sanni Ayodeji’s Arodan is a horror film that follows the story of a troublesome boy whose mother sends him on a needless errand during which he has a scary spiritual experience. Melding African spirituality with a sense of dread with modern existence, Arodan is a didactic take on the moral responsibility of children to their parents.
“The Project provided me with a stepping stone by funding my horror short film, a genre I was told would never sell in Nollywood some years ago,” said Ayodeji about the impact of the project on his film. “Now I plan to use this opportunity to break boundaries because if I had doubts in my storytelling style before, I don’t anymore.”
A Better Place, produced and directed by Korede Soyinka, tells the story of a family man in debt whose frustration drives him to suicide, leaving behind a wife and a son who also later contemplates suicide.
Korede Soyinka’s years of dealing in short films have provided the necessary skills for executing A Better Place. According to the filmmaker, “filmmaking has always been a part of me. As a boy who began acting at the age of 4, I have directed and produced several short films that have screened at local film festivals and won awards.”
Written and directed by Janobest Isaac and produced by Bolanle Onifade, From the Shadows centers on a local food seller who is faced with bullying and depression until she experiences the long-anticipated and symbolic Light. Spotlighting a journey of human struggles which culminates in an eventual breakthrough, the film is a reflection of Janobest Isaac’s “lowest moments.”
“I vividly remember going in to pitch my idea and Kemi Adetiba, one of the judges, expressed interest in directing what I saw as a short film, seeing it as a feature-length project instead,” Isaac said, recounting her experience while pitching the film.” “However, I also had my doubts, thinking that I might not make it to the final because they (the judges) saw it as a feature-length film. But making it to the finals was an incredible experience.”
Tosan Anyafulu’s sports film Obinmapu is about a struggling female boxer and mother who loses her husband to drugs, with her life spiraling downwards until she bags a win in the ring.
Written, produced and directed by Victor Eyike, Road Trip spotlights debauchery, but also prostitution and organ harvesting. It is about a cash-strapped taxi driver , played by Gregory Ojefua, who is sent by a young man in the business of organ harvesting to pick a “runs girl” who turns out to be the taxi man’s estranged lover.
A number of seasoned filmmakers facilitated this year’s Accelerate Filmmakers Project,including Tolu Ajayi, Kenneth Gyang, Chris Odeh, Joke Silva, Judith Audu, KC Obiajulu, Xavier Ighorodje, Tunji Afolayan, Lawrence Adejumo, and Pius Fatoke.
Head of Accelerate, Colette Otusheso explained that “The Accelerate Filmmakers Project was born out of a passion to support and nurture the incredible talent residing within our young filmmakers.” She further reiterated the vision of the project “to provide a platform for emerging filmmakers, empowering them with the resources and mentorship necessary to bring their stories to life on the big screen.”