Genevieve Nnaji’s directorial debut premieres at TIFF

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Toronto International Film Festival has kicked off the start of fall again this year, becoming once again the hot spot for global films and celebrities for 11 days. TIFF is not only a movie lover’s dream, but an opportunity for international films to promote their directors, producers and rising stars. Taking place right in the heart of downtown Toronto’s Entertainment District, this year marks the 43rd year of the annual event, taking place from September 6th-16th. As with the film festivals around the globe, the African presence has slowly been rising in TIFF, most notably with the 2015 premiere of Cory Fukunaga’s Beast of No Nation making an international splash. TIFF 2018 displayed over 20 movies and short documentaries from South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tunisia and more. But this year shines the spotlight on one particular African film, one that puts Nigeria in the international eye as a serious player in the film industry both in front of and behind the camera. 

Nigerian mega-film star Genevieve Nnaji makes her directorial debut with her film Lionheart. The legendary actor has long been a staple in Nollywood, and brings her on-screen talent to a Hollywood audience alongside her fellow Nigerian superstars Pete Edochie, Kalu Egbui Ikeagwu, Onyeka Onwenu, and comedic visionary Nkem Owoh. The comedy movie centres around the story of Adaeze, played by Nnaji, who is forced to work alongside her incompetent uncle (played by Owoh) while they attempt to maintain the profitability of her fathers bus company Lionheart Transport after he falls ill.

The movie premiered on September 7th, after which Netflix promptly bought the worldwide rights to distribute, a first for the Nigerian director. This win for Nollywood has set the bar high by showing the value of well-produced movies with high standards. An example of the value of investing and facilitating marketing campaigns for emerging actors and movies, the success of Lionheart can hopefully be followed by more well-backed African movies in the future.

By Yussuf Yanni

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