We've given coverage to his latest work, the rom-com titled Phone Swap, as he prepares for his next film, an international collaboration (the first for the filmmaker) titled Dead Alive.
Nigerian director Kunle Afolayan is one of a handful of internationally-known Nollywood filmmakers, pushing for a new kind of Nollywood cinema – specifically, a Nollywood cinema that can compete in the international film marketplace, and as we continue to see more and more of these cross-continental (we could even say pan-Africanist) collaborations, between African American or British actors, and African writer/directors (those in Nigeria/Nollywood especially), that movement appears to be bearing some fruit.
But, before Afolayan moves into new territory, it was about 3 years ago that I attended a screening of what was his latest film at the time – the thriller, Araromire (aka The Figurine), which was dubbed as the movie that “… will change the face of Nollywood on the world map…”
Did it? I can't say. I think I saw it at either the New York African Film Festival or the African Diaspora Film Festival, and I thought it was definitely levels above what I had seen of Nollywood cinema up until then – especially in terms of overall production quality – acting, cinematography, sound design, etc. It was definitely an ambitious attempt on Afolayan's part, and while I won't call it a great film, it was most-appreciated by this writer.
Here's its synopsis:
While serving at a National Youth Service Corps camp, two friends find a mystical sculpture in an abandoned shrine in the forest, and one of them decides to take the artwork home. Unknown to them, the sculpture is from the Yoruba goddess Araromire which bestows seven years of good luck on anyone who encounters it, and after the seven years have expired, seven years of bad luck follow. The lives of the two friends begin to change for good, as they become successful and wealthy businessmen. However, after seven years things start to change for bad.
It's really not-so unlike similar genre Hollywood films, with the same zest, thrills, suspense, mystery, and so on, in which some artifact is discovered in some far-off place, is brought back to "the city" and strange things start to happen to those who possess it.
I was engaged and entertained, for the most part; and now you can see it for yourselves, because the entire film is now available for viewing (for FREE) on Ndani.TV, which is, in short, an online video streaming website that features primarily Nollywood cinema – or what the founders call "the best of New Nollywood as well as the classics."
The Figurine stars Ramsey Nouah, Kunle Afolayan, Omoni Oboli, Funlola Aofiyebi-Raimi, Jide Kosoko, Wale Adebayo and Muraina Oyelami. It won 5 awards at the African Movie Academy Awards in 2010, including the awards for Best Picture, Cinematography and Visual Effects.
A suggestion for those who will embark on this journey and watch the film: you can't watch a film like this and compare to the myriad of big-budget Hollywood studio films you've seen all your life – especially if you've never seen a typical Nollywood film. While it, at one time, 3 years ago, represented the best in contemporary Nollywood cinema, you still have to watch it in context, and appreciate it on its own terms. If you nitpick at every single aspect of it, you won't be able to get into it. And that's all I'll say about that!
If you're curious, click HERE to head over to Ndani.TV to watch; and feel free to return and share your reactions to it.