Canada’s romance with Nollywood at Toronto International Film Festival

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The 2013 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival may be one of the most memorable Nigerian film practitioners have been part of. This is not just because Half of a Yellow Sun, a film adapted from Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie’s novel that goes by the same title, was premiered there on Sunday.

Perhaps more important is the fact that the Canadian government and the Nigerian film practitioners are exploiting the festival to discuss ways they can work together to strengthen the sector otherwise called Nollywood.

The Deputy High Commissioner at the Canadian High Commission in Nigeria, Marcella DiFranco, says the Nollywood mission to his home country is a product of several months of discussion between the stakeholders and the High Commission. It is intended to explore concrete ways that relevant Canadian organisations can help in developing the film industry.

“What we have done in the last six months is that we looked at what areas will be mutually beneficial,” DiFranco notes. “Canada has been working with Holywood for over 50 years, helping to develop it. For instance, in the area of film production, a lot of films used in Hollywood is produced in Canada. A major reason for this is that the cost of producing film is cheaper in Canada than in the US.”

The deputy commissioner adds that over the years, Canada has built a progressive investment track and partnerships in Nigeria. For instance, its impact is felt in the areas of education and information technology. Noting, for instance, that the Black Berry is manufactured by a Canadian company, he says that education, IT, among others, have connections with the creative sector, which has now caught the fancy of the Canadian authorities.

He further notes that in the course of discussing with Nollywood, the practitioners indicated that one area they are lacking is skill development. He believes Canada will be able to intervene here too, based on the expertise that it possesses. Saying the interaction with Van Cuver, TIFF and Ontario experts will help to move Nollywood to the next level, DiFranco says the involvement of the Nigerian Entertainment Business School and the Bank of Industry will further strengthen the arrangement.

“We asked what we can do to facilitate the idea because TIFF was coming up. We asked, ‘Why don’t we start with a mission of Nollywood to Canada?” he explains.

In the delegation are the producer of Fuji House of Commotion and Chief Executive Officer of Amaka Igwe Studios, Amaka Igwe, and her husband, Charles Igwe, a veteran producer and marketer; G-Video/Gabosky Films C.E.O., Gabriel Okoye; Temple Productions CEO, Nwakaego Boyo; film critic and the Editor-in-Chief ofNational Mirror, Mr. Steve Ayorinde; FAD Productions CEO, Fidelis Duiker; Festival Officer of the Film Festivals Nigeria, Paul Alebiosu. Officials of NEXIM Bank, the Bank of Industry and the Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board are also on the list.

Earlier before the Half of a Yellow Sun premiere, the group was billed to have a session on ‘Spotlight: Nigeria Beyond Nollywood’ at TIFF. On Monday, it was billed to visit the Pinewood Studios and hold a meeting with the Sheridan College SIRT; Lonzo Nzekwe-led Alpaha Galore Films, the Digital Media Industry of Ontario, Ontario New Media Development Corporation or EDC Toronto Office and the Ryerson University, School of Image Arts.

Apart from meeting with financial institutions, the practitioners are also expected to meet the TIFF team on Friday.

While DiFranco believes that the visitors also have much to benefit from the animation subsector in Canada, he says that the encounters can be so extensive that some of the delegates may stay beyond the duration of TIFF.

“Distribution is also one of the areas we will be looking at, because distribution is key. Of course, we wre also disciussing co-production. For now, there is no co-production agreement between Nigeria and Canada. What the Canadian government does is to lay the foundation for companies to be able to succeed. It introduces foreign organisations or business interests to Canadians. We support them by matching what they need with opportunities.”

DiFranco notes that Nollywood has a great potential, primarily because Africans, whose story it tells, are in all parts of the world.

“He says, “The industry is not just about Nigeria. It is going to be an industry that will have an impact worldwide.”

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