Director Ike Nnaebue / Photo credit: Jide Tom Akinleminu


No U-Turn: Exploring The Tough Realities of African Migration

Director Ike Nnaebue / Photo credit: Jide Tom Akinleminu

No U-Turn captures the perilous journey thousands of Africans take every year to Europe and why they deem the risk worth it

By Takunda Chimutashu

October 2023

No U-Turn, released earlier this year, follows a poor 20-year-old, who attempts to illegally migrate to Europe by road to seek a better life. In the film, director Ike Nnaebue retraces his steps as a young illegal immigrant, “I had finished my apprenticeship, and I was stranded with no startup capital to start my business. I was frustrated and hopeless.” Nnaebue continues, “So, when I heard that it was possible to travel to Europe by road without a visa and with very little money, I thought that was exactly what I needed,” he added.


Originally hoping to make money and return to Nigeria, Nnaebue quickly discovered it wasn’t as easy as he was told. 


“The desert is a deadly place, and crossing it is almost impossible without being kidnapped. People are being sold into slavery and forced to pay their own ransom. Then, when they eventually get through that and make it to North Africa, they are faced with a different kind of suffering as well. The Mediterranean Sea itself has become the biggest graveyard in the world,” he says.


Nevertheless, people continue to migrate to Europe for a better life. A report by UNICEF places the number of children who die at the Central Mediterranean Sea weekly at eleven, with an estimated 11,600 children having made the dangerous crossing so far in 2023.


Nnaebue’s experience, and that of many West African migrants trying to find safety and a better life in Europe through what is referred to as “the back door,” led the filmmaker to create No U-Turn. “The doc is me retracing the journey I took in my late teens, 27 years ago. It is an opportunity to go back and understand the decision I made. “I [always] wanted to go back [to Europe], and then I realized that 27 years later, people are still trying to go through that route despite the dangers.”


This journey itself led him to filmmaking. He describes how patient he had to be and how he waited for the right opportunity before starting this journey. 


“I also wanted the European audience to understand that migrants are humans with valid dreams and aspirations, just like any other person in other parts of the world. If anybody has ever thought of moving from New York to New Jersey or Houston to Atlanta for a better life, it’s really no different between that and a migrant who thinks they would find better opportunities in Europe.”


There have been articles documenting what it means for Africans who migrate through the dangerous routes from Nigeria to Benin to Morocco, but with No U-Turn, we don’t only hear the stories from these people, but we see how their lives are impacted by their decision to migrate to Europe. For audiences, the journey is equally as emotional, leaving us with the memory of their faces and their stories every time a news outlet recounts a migration tragedy.


It’s a documentary filled with African voices, which Nnaebue says was the goal. “The film was part of a cohort called Generation Africa, founded by the amazing people at Steps, South Africa — a collective of African filmmakers who were encouraged to tell different stories around migration. The goal was to help African voices be heard worldwide instead of African stories being told by non-Africans,” he told STATEMENT. “Steps and Generation Africa helped with the entire fundraising process and were instrumental in the process of making this film.”


While Nnaebue agrees that many people who leave, do so seeking greener pastures, they also decide to leave in part because of the suffering back home. This understanding has led him to be part of a project called “Returning Migrants Reintegration Project,” to provide a safe space, support, and whatever they need when they come back to the continent. “That’s why many people would rather languish in the desert than come home because they don’t have anything to return to. So we want them to know they have a home to return to. We want to help them recalibrate their lives.”


The filmmaker has come a long way since his journey in 1998. He recognizes that he was fortunate enough to have not attempted it more than once. “I recently met somebody who said he would rather die on the road than go back home, and that’s sad. It paints a picture of what Africa has become over the years, where things are getting worse for a majority of the populace instead of things getting better, which is why we’re doing this work. We want everybody to care enough and bring their attention to it.”


No U-Turn had its festival run in 2022 and the first few months of 2023 at the New African Film Festival, the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, Berlin International Film Festival, where it won a special jury mention award, and FESPACO where it won the best film on ECOWAS Integration.

Film & TV

Ellie Foumbi Wants Africans To Tell Stories On Their Terms

Our Father, the Devil explores the effects of violence on children in the Cameroonian director’s new psychological thriller

By Jerry Chiemeke

September 2023

Our Father, the Devil asks – is repentance possible? Ellie Foumbi reunites a woman scarred by unspeakable tragedy with the very man responsible for it. Ultimately, Foumbi grapples with the notion (choice) of devout forgiveness, in contrast to being given the perfect opportunity for revenge through what could be argued is divine intervention itself. 


With an MFA in Directing from Columbia University’s School of the Arts, Foumbi took her first directorial swings with shorts like Zenith (2017) and No Traveler Returns (2019), which caught the attention of the creators of the BET anthology series Tales, and they invited her to direct an episode. 


“The director had seen a short of mine that he loved, but I hadn’t directed a feature, and it’s difficult to get an episode of television without a feature. I was in LA about to start doing a lab when they asked me to meet with the network. I didn’t realize that I was being considered, and I was shocked when they said they would hire me to do the episode. There was a lot of fear going into that episode because it was so sudden,” she tells STATEMENT.


Foumbi’s time at BET was transformative for developing her confidence. She immediately began working on her directorial debut, Our Father, the Devil, which has drawn out all the plaudits. The psychological thriller, which premiered at the 2021 Venice Film Festival, follows the story of Marie (Babetida Sadjo), an African refugee who leads a quiet life in a small French town, but who is reminded of her dark past by the emergence of the charismatic Father Patrick (Souleymane Sy Savane). Described as “stirring” and “a tour de force”, the film has received several awards, including Best Feature Narrative at the 2022 Indie Memphis Film Festival and the Grand Jury Prize at the 2022 Heartland Film Festival. 


STATEMENT spoke to Foumbi about her filmmaking journey, the influence of Nollywood on African cinema, and future prospects for Black filmmakers.


This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


STATEMENT: You strongly identify as Cameroonian. How would you describe filmmaking back home? What do you think can be improved, and how can Africa export storytelling in a more expansive way?


Foumbi: We don’t have the resources that we need. I think the infrastructure just isn’t available; people are finding ways to put out work in the manner they know best, but there is a considerable gap as far as funding is concerned. From a national perspective, we still have ways to go, and I would love to be part of that wave of filmmakers that helps to put the spotlight back on filmmaking. 


Nollywood has also been a model for many African filmmakers. When you have an industry on the continent that has grown and has had the impact that Nollywood has had, in your mind, it becomes less of a pipedream and more of a possibility. We need to keep creating more structures like that, which let African filmmakers know that no matter where you are, there is a model of success that you can follow.


What inspired the screenplay of Our Father The Devil?


My dad did a lot of work in Africa, particularly in Rwanda. When he was there, one of his colleagues got me to make contact with a survivor of the (1994) Genocide. As he shared his lived experiences, those were some of the things I became interested in. I wanted to explore the perspective of child soldiers who get caught up in conflicts of this nature. When I started researching, I found that all the movies were about the conflict and very little about the aftermath. I also wanted to explore this concept of redemption because, in my research on child soldiers, one of the biggest hurdles in their healing process is their shame. A lot of these kids don’t know what they are doing. They are roped into violence, watch their families being murdered, and must do the same to stay alive. It’s a vicious cycle.


The lead actors in this film – Babetida Sadjo and Souleymane Sy Savane – have received praise for their performances, and deservedly so. Sadjo, in particular, brought an edgy dimension to the character of Marie. What influenced your casting choices?


I just follow my gut. In 2015, Souleymane (Sy Savane) and I were in a film together. I felt he was excellent, and I was surprised he wasn’t doing more. Meeting him actually inspired me to write this role for him. A year earlier, a friend of mine had been in a film with Babetida (Sadjo) called ‘Wasteland.’ He had sent me the trailer for the film, and her face completely transfixed me. However, I didn’t connect with her until 2019, and I hoped she would accept the script because if she had turned it down, I had no idea who else would have taken on that role. Thankfully, she loved the story and said she knew what to do with the character.


Would you say that for African filmmakers, things that play out in the home continent influence the kinds of stories we tell?


It’s part of our subconscious framework, how we view the world. Still, part of the reason I made ‘Our Father, the Devil’ is because I felt that African filmmakers are placed in some sort of box, and I think that what this film does is step out of that: we’re doing a different facet of a character. The stories about illegal migration are valid, but they are tired. We have other stories to tell. I think that African filmmakers have to push back against those tropes. When it comes to issuing grants in Europe, the stories that reinforce those stereotypes tend to be rewarded. They (European financiers) need to ask themselves why they do not want to see other kinds of stories.


You are the 2nd Black female director to feature at Venice. What would you say about the opportunities for Black women filmmakers? Are there still glass ceilings to be broken? Are there opportunities for collaboration?   


A whole wave of women are killing it out there: Alice Diop, Chinonye Chukwu, Mariama Diallo, Ekwa Msangi and Nana (Mensah), among others. However, there’s still much to be done in terms of access. For every ten white filmmakers who enter the door, you only find one Black person in the room. Beyond that, I have had several discussions with Black women filmmakers about their respective journeys, and there is still a certain expectation about the kinds of stories that Black filmmakers should tell.  I am curious about the opportunities made available for Black women filmmakers and what they are being ‘allowed’ or encouraged to make. We should have free rein to tell whatever type of story we want, especially since it will still be told through the lens of our Blackness.


Our Father, the Devil is currently screening at select theaters across the U.S.

Photo credit: Adamson

Film & TV

Nollywood’s Stunts Sub-Industry is on the Rise

Photo credit: Adamson

Higher Nollywood budgets have accelerated the growth of a new profession: The Stunt Man

By Wale Oloworekende

September 2023

Over the last 15 years, the scope and trajectory of the film industry in Nigeria has undergone a revolution. Previously synonymous with the direct-to-video format, Nollywood has elevated its production quality to that of global cinematic releases and digital streaming content. As a result, the need for both high octane adventure and realism has never been greater. 


With a new wave of noir productions like King of Boys, Shanty Town, and Brotherhood looking to capture the grit and grimness of Nigerian life, the need for realistic depictions of these experiences has warranted the rise in popularity of stunts coordinators who are helping to bring Nollywood’s elaborate and ambitious action sequences to life against all odds.  “Originally, I was just an actor and stunt was something I only did for theatre and fun,” veteran Nollywood stunt coordinator, David ‘Mr Nollywood’ Patrick tells STATEMENT about his route into the profession. “As I grew up, I heard people say that stunt direction and coordination could also be applied in movies and that was intriguing to me so I started working on short movies as well as home videos before moving to cinema productions and finally movies made for streaming platforms.”


As one of the earliest recognisable faces in the stunt section of Nollywood, Patrick has been choreographing film sequences and coordinating stunts in Nollywood for the better part of two decades and helping to codify what the roles of stunt coordinators should be within an industry constantly in flux. “I spent a lot of time clarifying what we do and building publicity for the role over the years,” says the director who has worked on stunts for productions like Mamba’s Diamond, Merry Men 2, and Shanty Town. “I had to let people know that it shouldn’t be the work of the director to teach people martial arts or fighting on set. The director should focus on the conceptual aspect of the project while the stunts coordinator would focus on the physical aspects that need choreography. All that matters is that they work within the vision of the movie’s director.”


The arrival of streaming platforms like Netflix, Prime Video, and Showmax in Nigeria has opened up a new stream of capital to filmmakers allowing them to be more experimental with their work. “Nigerian producers are becoming braver in how they make movies and that’s what’s bringing stunts to the limelight in Nollywood,” a rising stuntman and fight choreographer, Michelangelo Ilesanmi, says. It’s an opinion that film journalist and critic, Daniel Okechuwku, agrees with: “We care more about stunts looking real these days so the way they are staged and cut in the editor’s room makes them nicer on the eyes. The reasons for this range from more exposure and film knowledge to having more capital to afford better stuntmen and train the actors on their stunts.”


In the last two years, Nollywood has witnessed a return to the Yoruba epic dramas that were a stock in trade at the turn of the 2000s. Films like King of Thieves (Agẹṣinkólé), Aníkúlápó, and Jagun Jagun are tremendously elaborate productions that rely on stunts and fight sequences to translate the bravado of their leading acts. 


It can often be a challenge to ascertain what style of stunts works for movies like this that are situated around the 16th and 18th centuries. Rising stunts coordinator, Adamson Kolade, says that it all comes down to rigorous research and finding a style that works for the movie. “I had to go over the script for Jagun Jagun over and over because I wanted to understand the era,” he explains. “When I finished studying it, I decided to centre our fight sequences on a merger of old Indian and Nigerian methods. So, we created fictional fight sequences for a fictional movie.”


For all the excitement around the rise of stunts in Nollywood, it remains a profession fraught with difficulties and dangers ranging from training accidents to on-set incidents. According to Patrick, the biggest issue is the lack of healthcare insurance for stunt practitioners. “If someone dies on duty, they have literally died on their own so it’s a risk every time we go to work,” he says. “We don’t have a legally binding agreement with any production even for burials in the case of fatality. If I pull up official documents to be signed by productions, they’ll often cancel the contracts and scrap the fight scenes. Effectively, we’re sacrificing our lives and safety.”


Per Patrick, the rise of a new generation of stunt coordinators and directors eager to put their skills to the test could have an adverse effect on the push for better working conditions. “A lot of the new stunt practitioners are martial arts coaches or dancers who decided to transition to this field so they don’t often know the full scope of things,” he says. “I think the industry should have a resolve to improve the welfare of stunt practitioners. It should be reflected in the budgets assigned for the stunts department for movies as well. It should be up to producers and executive producers to ensure that stunt practitioners are protected against health emergencies and incidents.”

Film & TV

How to Apply for African Development Funding for your Film or TV Project

By Sughnen Yongo

July 2023

As an African filmmaker, applying for funding for your project can be daunting and downright intimidating. While it may seem as though the African filmmaking landscape is the best that it has ever been in recent years, with African films leaving their mark on the global landscape and more filmmakers gaining access to capital, obtaining the resources needed to fuel your dream may still seem far-fetched.


The film and television industry in Africa may be growing rapidly, but with that comes the need for additional funding to help projects move forward, and challenges still remain. According to UNESCO, across Africa, the leading challenge that exists for creators include weak or non-existent governmental incentives encouraging African creators to pursue their stories.


With the right funding, projects can further push the envelope and open more doors for the future. Fortunately, numerous African development funding sources are available for filmmakers and TV producers. To help filmmakers on the continent, STATEMENT has compiled a list below on how to apply for African development funding, some of the places to find them, and ways to go about it.


1. Understand African Development Funding


African development funding is a niche sector that hinges on regional organizations and philanthropic institutions to support creators in the arts and entertainment industry. These funds are frequently earmarked to support projects that advance cultural preservation, economic growth, job creation, and social impact. The Alter-Ciné Foundation offers several yearly grants to young filmmakers in Africa, Asia and Latin America to direct documentary films that tell important stories. The African Development Bank has also been on this wave for years. In 2023, the organization unveiled the iDICE program—an ambitious endeavor aimed at fostering the growth of digital and creative enterprises. With a staggering $618 million in investments, this initiative is one of the bank’s attempts to invest in African-powered creativity.


2. Find the Right Fit


An important step to take while applying for funding is to identify the right fit. A practical way to achieve this is to create a spreadsheet of every organization that offers funding, detailing the deadlines and the exact type of projects they’re looking for. This way, you can streamline your hunt and be more intentional about the process. 


There are numerous organizations and charities that provide grants or other forms of financial assistance to African film and television projects, but the right fit is imperative. It’s important to do some digging to find the opportunity that aligns the most with your project. This way, there is a higher chance that you will get an approval. The IDFA Bertha Fund, for example, supports independent, critical, and artistic voices from Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Oceania regions.


To secure a grant from an organization like this, you will need to ensure that your objectives are aligned by honing in on the organization’s mission and goal. This will provide valuable insight into their preferences and priorities, and the mission they are aiming to fulfill. In your application, it will also be important to highlight the potential impact your film can have on the organization’s target audience, and how it aligns with their goals. Highlight any research or data that supports the positive outcomes your film can achieve.


Showcasing opportunities for collaboration and partnerships with the organization by highlighting how your project can provide mutual benefits by involving the organization in various stages of the filmmaking process. This could include involving their members or beneficiaries as actors, consultants, or advisors, or providing opportunities for promotion or outreach through joint initiatives.


3. Know the Ropes


To navigate the world of African development funding effectively, it’s important to become a savvy investigator. Eligibility criteria differ for each competition or grant opportunity, so make sure you read each application thoroughly, so that you can share your work with investors in the most concise, yet effective way. Organizations like the African Development Bank (AfDB) are pouring into grants that foster creativity and freedom of cultural expression in budding filmmakers. On an international scale, the prestigious Sundance Institute offers several resources to creators including a grant that prioritizes films led by artists from Africa, China, India, Latin America, and the Middle East, according to its website. Creators living in the diaspora can also apply to this fee-free opportunity. By staying on the pulse of current funding programs, eligibility criteria, and application deadlines, you can increase your chances of securing financial support.


4. Build Relationships


In an industry built on collaboration and storytelling, investing time and effort into building relationships is not just important — it’s essential. Good old-fashioned relationship-building can help to foster trust, inspire creativity, and open doors to new opportunities. Strong relationships enable filmmakers to assemble talented teams, secure funding, access resources, and navigate the intricate web of the industry. A great way to navigate this is to keep your ear to the ground. Industry events like Sundance’s Collab online events that draw in creators globally to learn from, and engage with industry experts, network and get your name and brand out in the open. Another major event is the prestigious African Film Festival. It can get really expensive to attend these events, so it is a great idea to offer to volunteer at these events. Volunteering creates a win-win situation, because it gives you first-hand access to many film power players and other rising creators who are looking to get their name out.


5. Know Before You Go


Before crafting a proposal, it is imperative to know the pulse of your work. What do you stand for? What is the crux of the film or TV project? You need to also have a concise explanation for your work- an elevator pitch, if you will -that is compelling enough to draw attention. In crafting your pitch, be prepared to highlight an in-depth overview of the project, its goals, and its potential impact. Know the answers to questions about the project’s budget, timeline, and creative vision, because this will keep you ahead of the curve. Additionally, it is important to treat your project as a full – fledged business, and that means knowing, and highlighting any potential risks or challenges that may arise during the development and production of the project.



Exploring Ghana Through Film

Ghana’s Cultural Diversity and Strife on Film

By Takunda Chimutashu

July 2023

  • Gold Coast Lounge depicts Ghana’s transition to a less corrupt economy after independence from Britain.

  • My Mother’s Heart a colorful representation of the diversity of Ghana’s tribes.

  • Aloe Vera invokes humor to explore the tribal conflicts that have long plagued Ghana.

  • Azali sheds light on human trafficking in Ghana.


Ghana is a country with a deep history, complex socio-political structures and a vast population made up of many cultures and tribes. These films are a fantastic resource for navigating Ghanaian social and historical nuances, and for gaining valuable understanding beyond the cliches often portrayed in mainstream media.


From the subtle political commentary of Gold Coast Lounge and the tribal diversity of My Mother’s Heart,  to the awareness raised on issues of tribalism and child trafficking in Aloe Vera and Azali, these filmmakers lay the truth of life in Ghana bare for us to see and experience. 

Gold Coast Lounge (2019)


Figuring Out the Independence Thing


Daniel (Alphonse Menyo), adopted son of a ruthless drug kingpin, money launderer and owner of Gold Coast Lounge is forced to legitimize his business or face the wrath of an anti-corruption government. He is opposed by his siblings, Wisdom (Pascal Aka) and Akatua (Zynnell Zuh), who choose to continue down a dark path.


This Cain and Abel film noir allows us to understand the fundamental sentiments that existed during Ghana’s early years as the very first country to gain independence from Britain in the mid-1960s.


Gold Coast Lounge takes place during the coup of 1966, which saw Ghana’s transition to a militant anti-crime government, led by Jerry Rawlings. The film is more than a stylized surrealist exploration of film noir. It pushes further, to help us understand post-colonial Ghana, through the eyes of a family of gangsters.


My Mother’s Heart (2005)


A Magical Film Explores Ghana’s Rich Cultures


Nana Yaa (Akofa Edjeani Asiedu) moves from place to place to avoid a war that is consuming the magic-filled lands of her country. Half-starved and desperate, she finds a village to call home, and becomes its queen.


My Mother’s Heart is a well-composed testament to Ghana’s rich cultural diversity—one of its most significant treasures. Ghana has more than 100 ethnic groups and tribes, and boasts one of the world’s most culturally diverse populations. Each has its own set of cultural beliefs, while still sharing incredible stories of their ancestors, histories, and traditions.


 Despite its magical elements, the film is for mature audiences. Sadly, even the most beautiful light casts a dark shadow and Ghana’s cultural diversity has a dark side that is addressed by the next film on the list: tribalism. 


This classic Ghanaian film captures the nostalgic Ghollywood editing and music, to the old-school green screen effects and folklore-based storylines, My Mother’s Heart still holds a special place in many a Ghanaian’s heart. 


Aloe Vera


Confrontation: A Romeo-and-Juliet Tale of Tribal Clashes in Ghana


The forbidden romance between Aloewin (Aaron Adatsi), a man from Aloe, and Veralin (Alexandra Ayirebi-Acquah), a woman from Vera, symbolizes the confrontation of two communities in the village of Kelelewe that are forced to confront the absurd reality they adhere to. Aloe vera is a romantic comedy with a stellar cast and a big heart that uses a simple, effective approach to address tribalism.


The film is a clever representation of tribal clashes in Ghana. The Aloes (who believe the chicken came first) and the Veras (who believe the egg came first) quickly create stereotypes and propaganda about each other and train future generations to hate everything about each other. The tribes even go as far as resolving conflict using intense tug-of-war competitions. The village of Kelewele (the name of Ghana’s beloved crispy plantain snack) is divided over the very trivial yet popular debate of the chicken and the egg (literally) and ultimately each side builds their lives and identities around the villagers’ failure to resolve the conflict.—a clever representation of tribal clashes. 


As with the confrontation between the Aloes and the Veras, relations between Ghana’s 100+ vibrant ethnic groups is far from perfect. The roots of tribalism, which existed before colonial times, were reinforced by both colonial and post-colonial governments. Ghanaians recognize this problem and, through education, aim to stress national unity and an understanding of different cultures and traditions.

Azali (2018)


Fighting Child Trafficking: Tackling Ghana’s Brazen Crime


In a desperate attempt to give Amina a better life, her mother (Akofa Edjeani Asiedu) gives her to a woman who claims to find young girls lucrative jobs, but instead traffics and sells them. Follow the sad tale of Amina (Asana Alhassan), 14-year-old from a poor village who has no prospects beyond child marriage.


Efforts to combat child trafficking in Ghana have been significant but slow. In 2008, the Ghanaian government established its first Anti-Human Trafficking Unit, to coordinate and implement national efforts to combat human trafficking.  


Organizations such as the IOM are trying to educate and engage people from around the world to raise awareness and find solutions to trafficking worldwide. 


Ghana has a deep history, complex socio-political structures and a vast population made up of many cultures and tribes. These films help viewers to navigate Ghanaian social and historical nuances. They offer a valuable understanding beyond the cliches often portrayed in mainstream media.


These filmmakers lay the truth of life in Ghana bare for us to see and experience. From the subtle political commentary of Gold Coast Lounge, to the tribal diversity of My Mother’s Heart,  to the awareness raised on issues of tribalism and child trafficking in Aloe Vera and Azali.



How to Find and Apply to African Film Festivals

By Wale Oloworekende

July 2023

There has never been a more exciting time to be an African filmmaker. With the eye of the world tilting towards cultural output from the motherland, titles from Africa are already starting to have global traction thanks to the impact of streaming platforms and the global brand of African actors. The rise of African films has similarly inspired a number of festivals across the continent dedicated to curating, celebrating, and platforming some of the most exciting movies made by Africans with a focus on their technical merits and narrative styles.


At STATEMENT, we decided to compile a list of some of these festivals, where to find them, and how to apply to them.


The Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO)


Founded in 1969, The Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO) is a film festival that takes place biennially in Burkina Faso with a specific focus on African filmmakers and works chiefly made in Africa. Accepting all sorts of entries from short films to documentaries and feature films, the festival traditionally holds two weeks after the last Saturday in February but held its 2023 edition from the 25th of February to the 4th of March. The next edition of FESPACO is scheduled for 2025 and filmmakers can keep up with more information on the festival’s website.


African Film Festival


Committed to spotlighting films that capture the infinite possibilities in African films and stories, the African Film Festival founded in 1993 has grown to become one of the leading tastemakers and authorities on movies, shorts, and documentaries coming out of Africa. The 2023 edition of the festival was held from May 10 to June 1 and was billed as a “journey through a landscape of cinematic possibilities, where creativity knows no limits and boundaries are mere suggestions.” The African Film Festival welcomes submissions in both feature and short film categories. Applicants looking to showcase their work next year might find some information on the About page and look out for more extensive information on the Submissions portal.


Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF)


Alternatively known as the Festival of the Dhow Countries, the Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF) is the largest film festival in East Africa and is held in Tanzania annually. Film entries are considered from all over Africa and the African diaspora with entries from parts of the Arab world and Asia also considered. The Zanzibar International Film Festival places a primary focus on feature-length movies and is especially popular for its Golden Dhow award given to the best movie at the festival. The deadline for 2023 entries has already passed with the event taking place from June 24 to July 2, 2023, but filmmakers interested in applying in the future can check for updates on the ZIFF website.


Durban International Film Festival (DIFF)


Founded in 1979 by Teddy Sarkin and Ros Sarkin, Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) is one of the oldest film festivals in Africa. DIFF accepts entries from African and international filmmakers but African filmmakers are given priority. The 44th edition of the Durban International Film Festival is set to take place from July 20 to 30th at the University of KwaZulu-Natal after a three-year hiatus and the deadline for application has since elapsed. With the 45th edition sure to come along next year, filmmakers can follow the festival’s social media pages and website for more information for admittance.


Carthage Film Festival


The Carthage Film Festival, alternatively known by its French name Journées Cinématographiques de Carthage (JCC) is an annual film festival founded in 1966. Originally held biannually, the festival has taken place annually every year since 2014 in Tunis, the capital city of Tunisia with a hyper-focus on shorts and feature films by African and Arab filmmakers. 2022’s edition took place from October 29 to November 5, 2022. Preparations for this year’s event are happening in earnest with the festival expected to take place from October 28 to November 4. Applicants for the festivals are encouraged to apply through the application links on the festival’s website.


African International Film Festival (AFRIFF)


Widely regarded as the most popular film festival in Africa, the African International Film Festival (AFRIFF) was founded in 2010 by Chioma Ude with the task of providing total immersion into the world of African filmmaking from shorts to documentaries, feature films, and student films. Since its inaugural edition was held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State in 2010, the festival held annually in Nigeria has grown to be an annual celebration of African filmmaking across these formats. The 2023 edition of AFRIFF will be held from November 5-10, 2023. Applicants for the festival can head to the AFRIFF website where updates about upcoming events and instructions for registering for the festival are shared.


Africa in Motion (AiM)


Africa in Motion (AiM) is an annual African film festival that celebrates the best of African talent across all visual formats with a strong focus on feature-length movies. Traditionally taking place in Scotland and open to African-based filmmakers and diaspora-based Africans, it has been running for over 15 years. Last year’s edition was its 17th with a series of screenings and panels held from the 11th of November till the 20th of November. Details have not been announced for the 2023 edition but filmmakers and prospective attendees can keep an eye on the Africa in Motion Instagram page and website for additional info.


Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF)


Founded in 1976, the Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) is the only international competitive feature film festival recognized by the FIAPF (International Federation of Film Producers Associations) in Africa. CIFF places a heavy focus on feature-length submissions with its highest prize, The Golden Pyramid, being awarded for the best film at the competition. The 45th edition of the Cairo International Film Festival will be held from the 15th to 24th of November 2023 with submissions from Africa and the Middle East being considered. Submissions are still ongoing for CIFF and prospective attendees can find more information on the application process on the festival’s website and social media pages.



Rogers Ofime on Queer Love in the Nigerian Series Wura

A queer love story on Nigerian TV and the man behind it

By Chisom Peter Job

July 2023

“Am I being Western?” he asks. “No. We’re talking about love, and it is between two people. And as far as I’m concerned, whether it’s a man and a man, a woman and a woman, a man, and a woman, I don’t think there’s anything wrong as long as it’s genuine love.”


In Wura, Rogers Ofime brings queer characters out of the shadows, challenging Nigeria’s long-held social norms.


Dubbed as Showmax’s first Nigerian telenovela, with plans on making it their longest-running one, with over 200 episodes, Wura follows Wura Amoo-Adekola (Scarlet Gomez), a mother and ruthless businesswoman who is ready to do whatever it takes for her gold mining business to succeed.


In Wura, Femi (Seyi Akinsola) and Lolu (Iremide Adeoye), two queer characters, are allowed to exist as they are without the implication that they are abominations, a common theme in mainstream Nollywood. While there are a few productions where queer characters are beginning to be respected, humanizing them has always been a problem, something Wura takes seriously.


While creating the show, Ofime wanted to stay true to its South African adaptation, The River, where these characters also exist. “So, when we were going to adopt it, we asked questions like ‘Would it be accepted in Nigeria?’ ‘Should we change it to a boy and a girl?’ ‘A love triangle?’ But then, we had to remind ourselves that there wasn’t anything wrong with two people of the same sex being in love and that the fact that it isn’t accepted in Nigeria doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist,” Ofime tells STATEMENT.


This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


STATEMENT: You’ve worked on many projects and have been in the industry for years. What has it been like for you so far?


Ofime: Well, I think it’s been fun. It’s always interesting when you do what you love to do and what you’re passionate about. And that’s the one thing that has kept me going. I’m doing what I love and have carved a niche for myself in the industry regarding the stories I tell.


I like to tell provocative stories. Stories that can change the status quo. So I think it’s been an interesting journey so far.


The story of Femi and Lolu was provocative. What was it like to tell it? Were there any challenges faced?


Honestly, there was no challenge. There was nothing. We don’t face challenges telling the stories of a boy and girl in love, so why now? Why are we giving it attention? Why are we making it feel like there’s something wrong that we’re doing? There’s nothing wrong with the story. There’s nothing wrong with the creative approach because it is what happens in our day-to-day existence. We all must come to the acceptance of it because it is what it is.


This is the first Nollywood show on a major service that isn’t offensive when showing queer love. And we know there’s still a long way to go, so what do you think about that?


On the contrary, Nollywood has come to embrace it. Do we have many confident producers telling these [queer] stories? Maybe not, and perhaps not many of us, but it’s been accepted. Like, a friend recently won a Berlinale award for his gay drama, and that’s not the first. As I said, it’s not Westernization but the fact that we must embrace this part of our existence. 


Do we have queer people in Nigeria? Yes. Do some of us accept them? Yes. I’m not here to tell people; please accept queer people because they’re in love. They’re in love, and you have to take it or leave it.


Why was it essential to bring The River to Nigeria?


Firstly, The River was very successful. And secondly, we knew it would work in terms of our social milieu. The only area, as you pointed out, was the queerness. The River is in its 6th season in South Africa; it’s done about three seasons in Kenya and two seasons in Portugal, if I’m correct. And so when they approached me to do this for Nigeria, I checked and saw the good ratings, and thought, “why not?”


Were you involved in the casting process?


Yes, I was. So our casting process was very long and tedious, but yes, I was involved, and of course, Mnet was involved too. So we called for an open audition, and then we streamlined to the number of people we wanted from the open audition. And in fact, you’d be amazed at how many actors wanted to play the part of Lolu and Femi. 


I was shocked, but seeing people auditioning to play these characters was also encouraging, as we had about 15 actors for the role of Lolu and about 20 for Femi before we pruned down to three and then from three to the final two. And the actors we eventually got for the role knew what it entailed. They got close, would call themselves babies, and held hands, which made the on-screen chemistry believable.


What stood out between both actors?


We didn’t want stereotypes. Do you know what I mean? We tried to avoid stereotypes about queer men and how they must look or sound. So we looked out for good screen chemistry and screen presence in delivery. Also, they were more convincing than the others, so they landed the role.


So what should viewers expect in the next season?


It is going to get better. I mean, we saw people complain about Femi and Lolu. Meanwhile, we didn’t show them doing anything. But wait for it; our viewers won’t be disappointed. We had two queer characters in The River and got to see more. So, expect the same.


Wura is currently streaming on Showmax.



African Women are the Future of Global Cinema

“This is just the beginning”: African female filmmakers make big strides

By Seyi Lasisi

July 2023

  • African cinema has historically marginalized women 

  • The new generation of women in film seek broader representation

  • Box office success has paved the way for more women in the industry

  • Queer characters signal the expanding roles of women


“It’s extraordinary…but at the same time, it’s not. It’s like saying the sun shines bright. We all know the sun shines bright…. same thing about female filmmakers.”


This is according to Oge Obasi, producer of Mami Wata [Nigerian debut indigenous premiere at Sundance Film Festival], as she tells STATEMENT about the accomplishments that African female filmmakers are continuously achieving.


In traditional African cinema (as in culture), female characters have one purpose: to indirectly uphold masculine dogmas. When not being the submissive housewives, or bearing the burden of infertility, women in African cinema are used as mere plot propellers. “At the beginning of African cinema, people did not understand the role of women, nor did they accept them, but people are now beginning to understand their importance,” Malian actor Maimouna Helene Diarra  said in an interview. The new generation of women in film are openly leading “unconventional lives,” thereby challenging the existing patriarchal dogma and paving the way for other African females.


In 2019, Nigerian-American director Chinonye Chukwu left the Sundance Film Festival with an award for her film, Clemency, becoming the first African female filmmaker to win the Grand Jury Prize. In the same year, French-Senegalese filmmaker, Mati Diop became the first Black female director to be in contention for the Cannes Film Festival’s coveted prize, The Palme d’Or for Atlantics. Although Diop didn’t win the Palme d’Or, Atlantics won her the  Grand Prix Award at the Cannes in 2019. 


In the Nigerian film industry, female filmmakers directed or produced films that dominated the box office. Funke Akindele’s Battle on Buka Street is currently Nollywood’s highest grossing film, replacing her other film, Omo Ghetto: The Saga. Genevive Nnaji and Jadesola Osiberu have an unprecedented deal that will forever be imprinted on their CV. Nnaji, with Lion Heart, made the first Netflix Nigerian original. And in 2023, Osiberu, with an impressive catalog of films, made the debut Prime Video African original.


South African filmmaker Sanduelela Asanda, whose film Mirror Mirror was screened at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, confronts the conventional tropes of “the strong Black woman, the sassy Black friend, the struggling mother, the angry Black girl” by depicting same sex relationships. “It starts first by centering the stories of African women that we don’t usually see on camera” Asanda tells STATEMENT.  “The easiest reference I can think of is Wanuri Kahui’s Rafiki [it’s the first Kenyan queer film to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival] which brought us a love story between two African women onto the world stage.”


The future of African cinema is bright, as more African female filmmakers on the continent and the diaspora from Alice Diop to Nosipho Dumisa, Mo Abudu, Christa Eka Assam, Akosua Adoma Owusu, Emamode Edosio, [and a host of others] continue to make films that celebrate the representation and diversity of African stories.


“Whatever you think is happening, or whatever greatness you think you’re seeing, just know that we’ve barely scratched the surface,” Obasi said. “As we say in old Nollywood – this is just the beginning.” 


Mandon Lovett Helps French Montana Tell his Personal Story

For Khadija: Sacrifices only a mother can make

By Chisom Peter Job

July 2023

Moroccan-American rapper French Montana—the most streamed African-born artist—credits his mom for making some huge sacrifices that have had a major impact on his life. This changed the direction of Mandon Lovett’s documentary, For Khadija, to focus more on the rapper’s mother and how her love helped propel her son to stardom.


For Khadija premiered at the 2023 Tribeca Fest on June 17.


As director Mandon Lovett explained to STATEMENT about his process for making the documentary, “over the course of time, as French and I got to spend more time together, and I got to observe him just in more personal spaces, I was able to understand that he had a very unique relationship with his own mother.”


STATEMENT sat with Lovett to discuss his process for filmmaking, shooting in Africa, retracing French Montana’s steps in the Bronx, and his upcoming projects.


This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


STATEMENT: You’ve worked on a couple of documentary projects over the years. What’s your process for directing a doc like this or for directing documentaries in general?


Lovett: First, it’s finding a story. It all starts with the story which can come from different places like my own personal research, newspaper clippings, books, or word of mouth. Sometimes stories are pitched to me by other production companies or studios or by other people. I always do my own research if it’s a story that interests me, and from there, I come up with my own take on the story by asking what it is that I want to say about the story, or how I would tell it.


So how long does it take to carry out your research? What is that process also like?


It depends, as it could either be a long or short process. Sometimes I’ll start researching, pitch an idea, and then we’ll start producing the project, while research is still happening. So the research process can go on for a while and take place over the course of filming. You could be finding out other pieces of information during this time because you can’t find out everything that you need to know or understand about a story all up front.


Right. So what was it like blending and balancing the different styles in this doc? That is, the interviews with people, the French, the shots.


That was a really fun process in the edit. I think the documentary is unique in that it’s not just reviews and archival footage. There’s a lot of really stylish broll, and we were able to travel to different parts of the world, so you got to see the juxtaposition of the two continents, Africa and North America. So we just played with a lot of different things in the edit and really landed on a style that I felt like fit the film and fit the story.


Why are documentaries an important part of filmmaking? Why is this a medium you mostly work on?


I love authenticity and real stories. Sometimes I joke about whenever I go to see a movie, like a scripted movie, in the theater. I can be disappointed when certain things doesn’t ring true to me, when they feel like it’s too fabricated or too made up. I think there’s lots of people around the world that love fantasy films or crazy action sequences, but what I appreciate the most is reality and authenticity. And I feel like real stories can be as compelling as any sort of fictional story. So it’s just a personal preference of mine because I love real, authentic, true stories. I find a lot of value in them.


What’s your favorite part about creating documentaries?


It’s really getting to know my subjects on a different level. I love people. I like to observe people, and I like to find out more about people, especially celebrities and stars. I think there’s a lot more depth to artists and famous people [and people in general]. They put out so much content that we see, but a lot of it is curated, so I just love telling real stories about real people and allowing people to look at their lives in a different way.


Okay, so away from documentaries you’ve made, do you have any favorite documentary out there that you’ve seen and you loved so much?


Sure. One of my favorite documentaries is OJ Made in America. It came out maybe five or six years ago, I’m not exactly sure when.


What I loved about it was fascinating because it took an event and a person that I think a lot of us here in the United States already knew, who was a big American football star named OJ. Simpson, who was accused of a crime. And this crime had sort of captured the attention of American society for a long period of time, and there was so much media attention given to it at that time that I think all of us who experienced it thought that we knew the story, the beginning, middle and end of the story.


But what I thought was interesting about this film and the filmmaker was that he took this event and was able to show it from a totally different, much broader perspective and how it affected different parts of America, and how the life of this person might have come to shape that event. It took an event that we all knew, gave it a much broader perspective, and then shed a lot of new light on it. So that’s a documentary that I really sort of hold in very high regard.


As the director of For Khadija, what are some of the conversations you hope people have after watching it?


I want people to walk away being inspired because French really did go through so many obstacles, starting from the first time he set foot on American soil. I think there’s this idea that when people from other countries come to America, it’s going to be a path full of roses. Everybody has to work hard and everybody has their own journey, and America represents a lot of opportunity, but it doesn’t happen freely. It’s not just given freely in the sense that it’s handed over to people as they have to work and sacrifice, and French, his mother, and his family really did that with their dreams coming true, despite all of the setbacks and the personal tragedies.


So I want people to see these things and understand that, yeah, this is a real story. This really happened to a person that you all know, and he went through all of this, but he persevered and had a spirit of resilience that I think that we all have inside of us.


What were some of the difficulties faced while filming?


Sometimes, when you’re traveling internationally, you run into some issues. I know there was a funny story where the film starts off with these aerial footage of Casablanca, Morocco, and I had brought a drone which I was able to get into to the country and film freely. However, on my way out, for some reason, the customs confiscated it. I’m still not sure exactly why they did, but I know they did. They told me it wasn’t allowed, and so I had to think on my feet, and I took the memory card out of the drone right before they went and took it from me. The drone is still in Morocco in the airport somewhere.


But what was more important than the drone was the memory card, which contained the footage that I shot. Yea, so that was just one of the early obstacles we went through. But in general, it was a very collaborative and fun process, but it was also a lot of hard work.


Yes. So you mentioned the drone, the confiscation and everything. So what was it like filming in Morocco and the Bronx?


It was a lot of fun. I’m blessed that film, the camera, and these ideas have been able to take me to so many different places. I’ve been to so many countries in the name of my work, and I feel incredibly blessed in that regard.


Shooting in Morocco was my first time in Africa, and I was ready to take it all in. As a person from the United States on the continent for the first time, I was just seeing it like a child. I wasn’t taking any of what I was seeing for granted, so I really wanted to shoot everything.


I had a lot of fun just walking around the city with my crew and filming the culture, the people, anything I saw, and not necessarily knowing at that moment where this stuff might be placed in the film. The Bronx was great as well. I spent some time in New York after college, so I knew that part of town, but getting to see it in a new light and sort of retracing French’s steps — going to his old apartment where he lived with his family, and the playgrounds that he played on, talking to some people that knew him, — in a place that is very much alive and full of so much culture was cool.


Right, so what’s next for you?


I’m working on a couple of films that are just in the development and the production process right now. It’s too soon to say what they’re about, but I have some really cool projects up my sleeve, and I’m super excited about them. I love music, sports, and love to do projects that are interesting to me. So I can say that the projects I have coming out are around the two [sports and music].

Film & TV

From YouTube to Netflix, African Folktales Open Doors for Loukman Ali

A solo filmmaker learns how to collaborate with large studios

By Chisom Peter Job

July 2023

  • A new partnership with Netflix offers up and coming filmmakers the chance to reimagine African folktales.

  • Loukman Ali gained valuable experience working with Big World Cinema, learning the ropes of a large scale production.

  • African Folktales is now available on Netflix.


“We were working with guns and shooting in an area going through disarmament, with a couple of crazy warriors in the region who had guns while the government was trying to take them [the guns].”


Loukman Ali is a successful solo filmmaker who was prolific on YouTube. In 2021, Netflix launched a short-film competition with UNESCO in Sub-Saharan Africa, focused on African Folktales, Reimagined. The winners got $75,000 toward mentorship opportunities and the projects, which premiered on March 16th.


The Ugandan filmmaker’s film, Katera of the Punishment Island, was selected as a finalist. The story follows a woman who exacts revenge on the powerful man who leaves her and other unmarried, pregnant women on a remote island to die. The film, based on “something that used to happen in Uganda a long time ago,” is an exploration of the grief these women endured. The idea came after Ali watched a documentary about a woman saved from the island. “Something in my brain sparked when I watched that documentary. I wondered what would happen if one of the girls escaped and came out to seek revenge.”


Ali felt the competition and mentorship helped him develop deeper skills when it comes to story structure. “During the whole process of writing and editing, I learned a lot from the Netflix and Big World Cinema team because there are many things I’d never thought about that way,” he tells STATEMENT.” He explained that those companies can anticipate problems before it becomes too costly to make changes.


Ali shared his major problem dealing with filming scenes with guns, after the stuntman quit. “There’s a point where we used a gatling gun. We thought we would hire one from the police or the army, but then we quickly realized that they wouldn’t let that happen, which led us to make one. And as you can imagine, that’s illegal, and we were trying to be as legal as possible,” he says, “which led us to create bits of a gun and then assemble and disassemble after because we wanted to be in a gray zone where we weren’t breaking any laws.”


Working with Big World Cinema allowed Ali to understand how collaboration operates on a larger, studio-level scale. As a filmmaker, he knew quite a lot, but he also got to experience working with a team and understanding how the feedback loop works, things he wasn’t familiar with as a solo artist.