5 African Films That Lit Up The Lights, Camera, Africa Film Festival

The eighth edition of the Lights, Camera, Africa Film Festival, concluded its three-day celebration of independent African cinema, on 30 September in style. The theme of this year’s festival “Who Do You Think You Are”, focused on identity and ethnicity politics and sought to facilitate self-reflection, self-criticism, and reflections upon our shared humanity.

Curated by Ugoma Adegoke and hosted by Lala Akindoju at the Muson Centre, Lagos, Nigeria, the Lights, Camera, Africa festival featured 19 films showcasing amazing talent. In addition to that, the festival which began on 28 September had films by young female directors Ema Edosio and Stephanie Zwane as its opening and closing act respectively.

Here are 5 films you should definitely look out for:

1. Adekunle Adejuyigbe’s The Delivery Boy

Adekunle “Nodash” Adejuyigbe’s The Delivery Boy tells the story of Amir, a young boy, groomed by an extremist group, who runs away with a bomb vest strapped to his chest on the eve of a suicide mission. The other leading character, Nkem, is a prostitute, also on the run, who bumps into Amir. Before the night is over, they traverse the underbelly of the Nigerian metropolis as they search for their identities, their stolen pasts, money, and any semblance of peace they can find.

The Delivery Boy which screened on the second day of the film festival on 29 September was a crowd favourite. Delivered in Hausa, its great use of soundtrack and storytelling left the audience wanting more. The film made its debut at the Nollywoodweek Paris Film Festival weeks ago and was screened at the New York African Film Festival last month.

While its release date in the cinemas is not yet certain, according to the director, we get what we ask for. “We underestimate the power we have as the audience, Adejuyigbe said. “The truth is whatever is given to us in the cinemas is because we don’t push for it. If we said, ‘hey, we want to see this film,’ distributors want to make money, they’ll give you what you want.”

2. Emeka Ed Keazor’s Cafe of Dreams

At number 80 Venn Road South, in the Inland Town of Onitsha once stood the Dolphin Café Hotel, a small hotel which hosted, arguably the most popular and vibrant live music club in Nigeria, outside of Lagos. Simply put, any account of the history of Nigerian popular music is incomplete without mention of this iconic venue. However, not many of us have heard of its story.

This 25 minute documentary by Emeka Ed Keazor celebrates the Dolphin Cafe story, from its inception in 1957, through its heyday in the mid 1960’s when resident Highlife superstars like Rex Lawson, Eddie Okonta, Zeal Onyia, E.C.Arinze, Eddie Okwedi and many more performed. Its demise as a cultural hub in 1967, when the tragic Nigerian Civil War devastated the East, reduced it to a mere shadow of itself in the postwar era. The story is told via the voices of two musical legends that were part of the story: octogenarian Guitar virtuoso, Isaac Onate and Nonagenarian Percussionist Chief Tony ‘Akatapo’ Odili. The documentary also features rare images, music and interviews with some venerable alumni of Dolphin Café, who reminisce about the golden era of Nigerian cultural revolution in the immediate aftermath of Independence.

“It was a difficult to get photos due to the destruction following the civil war, the director Emeka Ed Keazor said while recalling the aftermath of war. “Somebody should set up an industry where they bottle the smell of war: unwashed bodies, dead bodies, sweat, fear—because fear has its own smell. If someone comes along shouting, ‘We’re going to kill you Igbo, Yoruba, or Hausa people’, sit all of them in a room, pump that smell in, let them inhale it for one hour.”

Despite its low budget, this documentary is not one to be missed. Watch out for it.

3. Stephina Zwane’s Baby Mamas

The closing film of the festival, this South African gem tells the stories of Toli, Chantel, Sandy and Joy — a squad of baby mamas. South African filmmakers Stephina Zwane and Salamina Mosese were armed with the passion to change the negative narrative surrounding single mothers in this comedy-drama revolving around the daily lives, loves and drama of four professional women who are all in different stages of motherhood.

“We wanted to produce something that we wanted to watch and also celebrate the uncelebrated—the single mothers, Zwane said. “For the longest time the word “baby mama” has had a negative connotation attached to it, and so we wanted to take the negativity out of the name and then make the woman proud of being baby mamas. They are raising amazing babies and have sacrificed a lot to do so.”

The film has premiered at the Toronto Black Film Festival, the New York African Film Festival and Durban Film Festival so far this year. It will be in cinemas from 12 October.


4. Togbe Gavua’s Lucky

Lucky follows the story of Lucky Barima Mensah, a handsome and Twitter-famous university student who lands the date of the century with the most desired girl on social media, @NuttiFafa. However, he can neither afford his hostel rent, nor a date. With not one Cedi to his name, Lucky teams up with his best friend and hustler Wadaada to sell a Macbook to gangsters and fraudsters. Together, they use lies and good intentions to push through their challenges, but just when Lucky thinks nothing else can go wrong, karma remembers their name. Lucky’s story is one that is as humorous as it is deep, alternating between English, Twi and Ghanaian pidgin, and his reality and priorities, like many in his generation, are shaped by social media.


5. Ema Edosio’s Kasala!

Set over a period of 24 hours, Kasala! follows the story of four young boys who are up to no good in their local area. They are determined to have a good night, and so they steal their uncle’s car to arrive in style at a party. Unfortunately for them, they end up running into trouble.

The movie’s director, Ema Edosio represents the underexplored lives of the young average Nigerian in her film which is closer to reality than most films emanating from the sector. Like Stephina Zwane’s Baby Mamas, Edosio’s Kasala! will also be out in cinemas on 12 October.