The Toronto film festival is one of the best and diverse film festivals in the world. Since its establishment in 1976, the festival has grown and is arguably one of the most Oscar-friendly film festivals, with many movies kicking off their awards seasons campaigns there.
Despite the diversity it boasts of, the African showing in the festival has been abysmal. This is probably because African stories have not quite been up to standard. The Nigerian film industry has only recently started pulling it weight in the international scene, but there still seems to be a recurrence of the type and quality of movies released in these parts.
This year however, Nollywood is having two representatives in The Toronto International Film Festival; Royal Hibiscus Hotel by Ebonylife TV and Still Water Runs Deep by Melissa Adeyemo, Abbesi Akhamie and Lala Akindoju.
Still Water Runs Deep was written and directed by Akhamie, a Tisch Graduate of New York University. It is a captivating drama eloquently portraying a family in turmoil. It’s the story of recovery as a family loses their son and the father that has had clashes with him has to preserve his pride while navigating the demons of his fear and sadness that haunt him. It is the perfect middle class Nigerian story and asks a question of what happens when African parents become too strict as it is the way they have been brought up especially as the ‘only’ flaw of the hardworking father.
Royal Hibiscus Hotel was directed by Ishaya Bako, a Nigerian director on the rise. It is the story of Ope; a chef that wants to set up a restaurant in London, England. After making zero headway, she moves back to Lagos, Nigeria and is shocked that she is able to achieve her dream and quite quickly too. On the film, Mo Abudu; the Executive Producer and Head of Ebonylife TV enthused, “The Royal Hibiscus Hotel has been a passion project for me – the chance to tell an intimate story that has heart and soul, and explores romantic love in the older and younger generations. The film addresses some of the challenges around communication in relationships, while managing to be funny, warm and entertaining. Many of us have forgotten what it feels like to fall in love – I hope The Royal Hibiscus Hotel re-ignites this feeling in us all,” she said.
This is a welcome development as Nigerian films and Nigerians are beginning to live up to the greatness they are made for.
Oluwatosin Adeshokan is a freelance journalist and writer reporting stories about West Africa. He was previously the Culture Editor for YNaija. He tweets at @TheOluwatosin