IT was a good outing for Nigeria at the just held 39th Goteborg International Film Festival in Sweden. Six movies from Nigeria – Fifty, O-Town, Beyond Blood, Falling, Code of Silence and Flower Girl featured on the festival schedule and showed side by side with other films. About 400 films from 84 countries were screened during the intense 11 days that the festival which closed on February 8, lasted.
“I was impressed with the reception accorded Nollywood movies in Sweden,” said award-winning writer, Onyeka Nwelue who attended the festival. “All the movies played to a full house and the questions and answer sessions that followed each of the screening sessions helped a lot to clear some negative impressions and assumptions about Nollywood, especially how some foreigners perceive our style of filmmaking. At least with what they have seen, they now know that in that heap of what some of them term rubbish, there are good products. I’m glad at the selection and the fact that even the Nigerian films were in contention for the audience choice award. I think we should attend more festivals and international film fora so we can change some of the negative narratives about the industry”.
Emerging filmmaker, C.J Obasi, who helmed O-Town, one of the six Nigerian movies that featured at the festival, was in Goteborg as a festival guest. He described his experience at the festival as ‘amazing’.
According to Obasi who is best known for the effort in his debut feature Ojoju, “Sweden was amazing. It is a beautiful country, and people of Göteborg are particularly a very warm, cinema-loving people, which make the festival a great annual celebration of cinema. It was interesting to see the diversity in the film programming, and how advanced and evolved the Swedish audience is in terms of cinematic tastes. It would seem that every film has an audience over there”.
Obasi’s O-Town screened to a full house in all its three screenings during the festival. He described the reception for the movie and the other Nigerian movies screened as ‘massive’. In his words, “The reception was massive. Almost all the three screenings were sold out, and all the feedback regarding O-Town was positive. Honestly, I didn’t expect the massive love and acceptance O-Town enjoyed in Göteborg. Kind of took me unawares and humbled me at the same time. I think the general reception for Nigerian films was quite positive”.
For Obasi said the special panel session on Nollywood organised as part of the festival helped a great deal to fill the knowledge gap about the industry. “I think the panel to a large degree bridged and will bridge that knowledge gap,” he said, adding, “but, of course, we can’t expect to cover an entire industry in just one hour of discussions. So, there is still a lot of education that needs to take place aimed towards the West, especially as regards their perception about us, and what we do here. But the conversation has started, and that’s the most important thing. I was only honoured to be a part of that conversation”.
He described his experience on the set of O-Town thus, “Mixed in the sense that it is such a personal film that I have borne for years and I was thoroughly excited making it. But the down side was finding out that we couldn’t get funding to make it to the level we really wanted to, production wise, and having to compromise on that. Because we had something to say, and at the end of the day, it is about the craft, and if you have a voice, you don’t want to be shut down. You want that voice to shine through, no matter what”.
On what he took home from Goteborg festival, Obasi maintained that he’d become emboldened that there is an audience for his kind of film. “I was present at the screening of my film and I enjoyed the question and answer segment. And just seeing the crowd sitting through the film, one is encouraged to conclude that there is audience for my kind of film and also that the world is desperately hungry to see African storytelling in a new, dynamic and fresh light. I hope to do more travelling around the festival circuit with O-Town, gauge more audience responses, before we find a resting home and platform for it”.