Director Kunle Afolayan's romantic-comedy Phone Swap, will screen on November 10 at the Film Africa film festival in the UK; and ahead of that premiere, the UK's Guardian newspaper profiled Afolayan and his film (which we've covered a bit here on S&A), and, in reading it, towards the end, I read this:
Afolayan is aiming to shoot October 1st, a serial killer movie set in 1960 against the backdrop of Nigerian independence, in February, but he is trying to secure a foreign co-producer outside the country first, to better his international chances. "It is difficult to get a mainstream distribution deal, no matter how fantastic your film is, because it's a cartel, it's a clique," he says, "If you don't belong, it's tough."
It's a new face for Nigerian cinema (Nollywood) when international co-production deals are being sought (a trend we've written about in the recent past), in an industry that has long been almost entirely self-reliant in both the production and distribution of its movies. But I'm obviously drawing your attention to this next film of his, October 1st, which he wants to shoot next February, provided he's able to get the deal that he wants.
I remembered an August post in which we announced that Afolayan was planning an international collaboration (his first) for something titled Dead Alive. It's not clear if this is the same project, but with a different title.
In an interview, Afolayan added that Dead Alive will be something totally different from anything he's ever done, as he collabs, for the first time, with producers and production companies from outside Nigeria, as well as an international cast of actors.
My research revealed that one actor he was chasing earlier this year (although it's not clear if it was for this project) was Danny Glover.
He also added that he thinks it's the film that will get him "there" – "there" being, a film that can compete on the international cinema stage, and that, as he boldly claimed, could get Oscar nominations.
I'm going to just say that these are all connected, and each reference thus far is connected to what is now called October 1st. No word on Glover's interest; although he's been very generous with Diaspora projects recently, and it wouldn't be a surprise if he's later announced to be involved.
Afolayan's last film, the thriller, Araromire (The Figurine) was dubbed as the movie that “… will change the face of Nollywood on the world map…”
According to what Tambay said, it was definitely a few steps up, compared to what he'd previously known of Nollywood movies – especially in terms of overall production quality – acting, cinematography, sound design, etc. He called it an ambitious attempt on Afolayan's part, enough to warrant paying attention to what the filmmaker does from here on.
Nollywood filmmakers are certainly aware of how the rest of the world views their product; some care, and others don't. As long as there's a market for what they create, even if that market only exist within specific parts of the Diaspora, that's more than enough for most. It's business; and if money is being made and you're content, why change what's working for you?
But there are those like Kunle Afolayan, Jeta Amata, Tony Abulu and others we continue to follow, who want more; specifically, to be able to compete on the international cinema stage, and give a new face to Nollywood cinema.
As for Afolayan's Phone Swap, which stars Nigerian-British stage/film vet Wale Ojo (Meet The Adebanjos) and the very lovely Nse Ikpe-Etim (Guilty Pleasures) in the lead roles, UK and USA distribution rights for were acquired over the summer by London-based OHTV for both UK and USA release, with a UK release planned to happen before a USA release can be expected.
OHTV is an international TV network providing contemporary entertainment, reflecting the black experience worldwide. Based in London England, the OHTV Network comprises of OH UK & Europe (broadcast via Sky Channel 199), OH USA (broadcast via the OH Box, an IPTV player) and OH Africa (broadcast via satellite Eutelsat W4).
This looks like a subscription only TV service, so, we're probably not talking about a theatrical release of the film.
Since it's still on the film festival circuit, it could very well debut in a USA festival soon – one of the African Diaspora film festivals is likely.
The synopsis for Phone Swap reads:
Akin and Mary meet for the first time at an airport where they accidentally bump into each other and mistakenly swap their identical Blackberry phones. This leads to a destination mix up after they receive one another’s text regarding a travel destination. Consequently, Akin ends up traveling to where Mary is supposed to go and vice versa. Neither knows about the swap until they have reached their opposite destinations and “the phone” stops ringing (In Mary’s case) and “Won’t stop ringing” (In Akin’s case). As a result of the phone swap, they agree to help carry out each other’s missions, armed with the information and data on each other’s phone.
But it’s not as easy as they both think as new obstacles and complications rise at every turn as they both struggle to adapt to their alien environment and situation. Mary has to walk in Akin's shoes and represent him in a company meeting while Akin has to represent Mary in her family meeting. This they do with hilarious results…
Two looks at Phone Swap follow below: