Thursday, June 13, 2013

NollywoodWeek Debuts in Paris

This week's blog post is courtesy of Keenya Hofmaier, organizer of Black Expats in Paris!

Last month, France hosted two very different but equally important film festivals - the prestigious Cannes Film Festival and the little-known Nollywood Film Festival. While Hollywood went south to Cannes, Nollywood premiered its festival for the first time in Paris from May 30, 2013 to June 3, 2013.

Entrance to theater for NollywoodWeek
Image courtesy of Keenya Hofmaier

Nollywood is Nigeria's multi-million dollar film industry, second only to Bollywood in terms of film production. I must admit, I never heard the term "Nollywood" before and knew very little of Nigeria's cinematic talents. I searched the film festival's website ( and was thoroughly surprised by the film selection and engaging synopses.

I am the organizer of a group called "Black Expats in Paris," and as luck would have it, one of our members was an organizer of the film festival and arranged for our group to attend.

Black Expats in Paris at NollywoodWeek
Image courtesy of Keenya Hofmaier

We saw the film "Maami," which is a heart-wrenching yet uplifting story about a desperately poor, single mother trying to raise her brave and talented son. Though the acting is overly dramatic at times, the film keeps viewers engaged. The plot twists and turns with secret revelations from the mother's past and the unimaginable acts of a father that the boy never knew.

The director of this film, Tunde Kelani, is more than a director. In fact, many give him credit for creating Nollywood, saying the industry didn't exist until his films did. I had the chance to speak with Kelani personally to discuss "Maami" and his film career. One would be pleased to hear that most of his films are inspired by community story-telling and literature.

Director Tunde Kelani and Keenya Hofmaier
Image courtesy of Keenya Hofmaier

Kelani commented, "I recognized the importance of literature and chose to create a cinematic adaption from literature. Africans, in telling stories, must look inward and use literary resources and celebrate our writers. Since no one reads anymore, it's important to introduce literature through another medium."

I commented that his "cause" seems to be the advancement and prosperity of his community. Kelani responded, "The theme of this film was about growing up in a poor background with very few resources. But that doesn't matter because through education and sports, you can be something in life. Nigerian people are not born wealthy, but we can read stories like these or see stories like these and have hope. That's what it's about."

The film festival may be over, but Nollywood is just beginning. I would definitely recommend passing over Hollywood and even Bollywood for your next movie craving. Nollywood has thousands of powerful and uplifting stories to be told.


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