ONE of the world’s prestigious film festivals – Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) will open in Toronto on September 7. TIFF is regarded as one of the big five film festivals in the world. The others are Venice, Sundance, Cannes, and the Berlin International Film Festival.
TIFF, usually a 10-day long festival, will feature films representing 70 countries around the world. Nigeria will have its flag flying at the festival, thanks to screen diva, Genevieve Nnaji and the Nigerian-Canadian writer, director, and producer, Lonzo Nzekwe. Both filmmakers have their films selected in different festival sections that shine the spotlight on imaginative storytelling, exceptional performances, and out-of-the-box filmmaking.
‘Orah’, a revenge drama written and directed by Lonzo Nzekwe, will screen at the industry select programme at the TIFF, while Nnaji’s ‘I Do Not Come To You By Chance’, adapted from of Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani’s 2009 debut novel, b same title, has been unveiled as part of the line-up for the festival’s Centrepiece programme, with 47 titles screening from filmmakers representing 45 countries.
Moviedom previews these entries which would be the reason why Nigeria and Nollywood will be on the lips of festival goers attending TIFF 2023.
‘Orah’ By Lonzo Nzekwe
‘ORAH,’ a revenge drama, has the signature of Lonzo Nzekwe, a Nigerian-Canadian writer, director, and producer at IronFlix. His films include ‘Anchor Baby’, ‘Meet The Parents’ and ‘Orah,’ which is being screened at TIFF 2023 as part of the Industry Select programme for accredited buyers during the festival and worldwide acquisition.
Produced and directed by Nzekwe, who has over time created transnational Nigerian content, with his first being ‘Anchor Baby,’ starring Omoni Oboli, Nzekwe collaborated with Circle Blue Entertainment, Freddie Films and IronFlix Inc. on the movie, which features a rich blend of Nigerian and international actors such as Oyin Oladejo, Tina Mba, O.C Ukeje, Lucky Onyekachi Ejim, Oris Erhuero, Somkele Iyamah-Idhalama, Kelechi Udegbe, Morgan Bedard and Christopher Seivright.
Nzekwe revealed in an earlier interview that ‘Orah’ had its first principal photography in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, while the second unit was shot in Lagos in November 2022. Nzekwe also revealed that he had been brewing the movie since 2011 but that the producers, Floyd Kane (Diggstown) and Amos Adetuyi (The Boathouse), later joined the team.
According to Nzekwe, the story begins in 2005 when the title character – Orah Madukaku – kills a man in Nigeria and flees the country, leaving her son, Lucky, behind. 17 years later, Orah, who is an illegal immigrant, is found working as a cabbie for an attorney and his Nigerian client, Bami Hazar.
Orah’s work with Attorney Eli Pope and Bami Hazar includes international money laundering in a bid to help bring her son to Canada. Her teenage son gets murdered back in Nigeria, and she is now on a mission to bring down the international money launderers’ responsible for his death. This becomes the beginning of the revenge journey with Orah.
An elated Nzekwe shared the news of the selection of the movie on his social media handles thus: “Breaking News. Our film ‘Orah’ has been selected at the prestigious TIFF in the industry select programme. Feeling blessed. Couldn’t have asked for a better festival to launch this great film. Congrats to our wonderful cast and crew in Canada and Nigeria. You are all amazing.”
‘I Do Not Come To You By Chance,’ By Genevieve Nnaji
SCREEN diva and latter-day writer, producer, and director, Genevieve Nnaji is returning to TIFF with a new offering, almost six years after her debut as director, ‘Lion Heart,’ premiered at the TIFF.
‘Lion Heart’ is regarded as the first ‘Netflix Original film’ from Nigeria and the first Nigerian submission for the Best International Feature Film category at the 92nd Academy Awards.
Although ‘Lion Heart’ emerged as the first film to be submitted by the Nigerian Selection Committee for the Academy Awards, it was disqualified in November 2019 for failing in the language criteria. The academy declared that the movie was dominated by English rather than Igbo, which is spoken for only about 10 minutes. However, Nnaji, a recipient of the national honour award of Member of the Federal Republic (MON) didn’t make any other film after ‘Lion Heart.’
So, ‘I Do Not Come To You By Chance,’ which has been unveiled by TIFF as part of the line-up for its Centrepiece programme, with 47 titles screening from filmmakers representing 45 countries, is her third offering as a producer, the very first being the 2015 feature titled, ‘Road To Yesterday’.
Nnaji’s latest movie is a book adaptation of Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani’s 2009 debut novel, I Do Not Come to You by Chance. The contemporary African novel tells the story of a young man burdened with family responsibilities and the extent he goes for his family. It gives us an insight into the world of Nigerian email scams and the people behind the operation. Ishaya Bako directs the film with Femi Awojide as Director of Photography and it stars Paul Nnadiekwe and notable Nollywood actor, Blossom Chukwujekwu.
Co-written by Chika Anadu and Ishaya Bako, Nnaji serves as co-producer on this project with Chioma Onyenwe and her long-standing manager and partner, Chinny Carter. The screening time released by TIFF indicates that Nnaji’s movie will screen on Thursday, September 7 and it will have its last showcase on September 16 at Scotiabank Theatre Toronto, after a screening on September 9, 10 and 13.