Driven by the tastes, expectations and usage patterns of an extremely young demographic, innovative business models and rapidly rising consumer adoption of pay and satellite television, the continental African marketplace is now said to be worth over half a billion dollars in annual TV content wholesale sales – double the figure from 2010. Meaning, this should be a great time for content creators across the continent, and we will begin to see even more of the diversity that exists within it, represented in stories told in film, as well on TV, as the growth of Africa’s content industry and its role in the international marketplace continues to accelerate.
As South Africa’s Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile, stated earlier this year, “… Our continent is increasingly being viewed as the continent of hope, the continent of the future and a new growth frontier. We have no doubt, therefore, that emerging […] will be effective partnerships and programs aimed at accelerating the growth of film and TV production across the African Continent.”
Enter Mo Abudu, also known as “Africa’s Oprah Winfrey” (not my words; that’s what she’s been called by the local and international press, although she’s originally from Nigeria, born and educated in the UK primarily).
Abudu, whom I’ve profiled on this blog in the past, is a talk show host, TV producer, media personality, and more. Her talk show, “Moments with Mo,” was launched in 2006 on South Africa’s subscription-funded TV network M-Net, and is said to be the first syndicated daily talk show on continental African regional television.
The talk show was an instant success, immediately drawing comparisons to the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” covering numerous topics ranging from lifestyle, health, culture, politics, entertainment, and much more, with guests including celebrities, Presidents, Nobel Laureates, and even the 67th US Secretary-of-State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Abudu is also Executive Chairman & CEO of EbonyLife TV – no affiliation with Ebony magazine – a multi-platform broadcaster, and subsidiary of Media and Entertainment City Africa (MEC Africa) in Cross River State, Nigeria, and home to the “Desperate Housewives: Africa” series that premiered successfully earlier this year.
The EbonyLife brand also now includes EbonyLife Films, a newly-formed movie production company, which “strongly commits to telling African stories as they have never been told before,” and “is set to further expand” on the vision of a connected global audience that includes continental Africa’s offerings, “through a shared identity and common values by ushering in a movement that revolutionizes the trends in the African entertainment industry as it fixes its gaze on becoming one of the world’s s most influential film powerhouses – one blockbuster at a time.”
And with that, EbonyLifeFilms is set to premiere its very first feature film project, titled “Fifty,” which will make its world debut at the upcoming BFI London Film Festival this fall, it’s been announced.
Directed by Biyi Bandele (if his name sounds familiar, it’s because he also directed the film adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s acclaimed novel “Half of a Yellow Sun” starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton and Anika Noni Rose), “Fifty” captures a few pivotal days in the lives of four Nigeria women at the pinnacle of their careers.
Here’s a summary: “Meet Tola, Elizabeth, Maria and Kate, four friends forced at midlife to take inventory of their personal lives, while juggling careers and family against the sprawling backdrops of the upper middle-class neighborhoods of Ikoyi and Victoria Island in Lagos. They live and work in the resurgent, ever-bustling, 24-hour megacity of Lagos, the commercial capital of Africa’s biggest and most vibrant economy. Tola is a reality TV star whose marriage to lawyer Kunle never stood a chance thanks to an invidious family secret. Elizabeth is a celebrated obstetrician whose penchant for younger men has estranged her from her daughter. Forty-nine year-old Maria has an affair with a married man that results in an unexpected pregnancy and Kate’s battle with a life-threatening illness has plunged her into religious obsession. In this tender but unflinching exploration of love and lust, power and rivalry, life and loss in twenty-first century Africa’s most populous city, and to the pulsating beat of the compelling and entrancing grooves of World Music superstar King Sunny Ade, Afrobeat titan Femi Kuti, German-Nigerian wunderkind singer-songwriter Nneka who all appear in the movie together with pop icon Tiwa Savage and the irrepressible Waje. We see our four lead characters muster courage, put on their six-inch heels, working hard and partying too, and strut confidently to tackle life’s curveballs head-on. Tola, Elizabeth, Maria and Kate rise triumphantly to the challenges of contemporary life faced by women everywhere and remain unbowed.”
Starring in the film are Nigerian actors, Ireti Doyle, Dakore Egbuson-Akande, Omoni Oboli, Nse Ikpe-Etim, Emmanuel Ikubese, Wale Ojo, Kachi Nnochiri, and Kemi Lala Akindoju.
Taking place over 12 days, the 59th BFI London Film Festival will run from Wednesday October 7 – Sunday October 18, 2015.
No word on whether the film will see a USA release, but I would expect that at some point in the coming months.
In the meantime, a new 12-minute featurette on the making of the film, featuring producer Mo Abudu, director Biyi Bandele, and the film’s starring cast, has been released and is embedded below.
First, check out the trailer for “Fifty” to get some sense of what’s coming, and then watch the featurette underneath for some of the backstory:
And here’s the 12-minute featurette on the making of the film: