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AFRIFF Dispatch 3: Broken Mask, Over The Bridge And Dreams Shine
For the third day of AFRIFF, Matilda settles in to watch as many shorts as possible and of course, the highly anticipated Tolu Ajayi-feature, Over The Bridge.
The third day of AFRIFF began with a short film for me – Broken Mask which was shown at the FilmHouse, Twin Waters in Lagos, Nigeria. I made my way to the compact cinema and immediately the warm feeling that comes with seeing a film with a group of close friends, descended on me.
I couldn’t place my finger on it at first but halfway into the first film, I realized what I was experiencing was the cozy energy that comes with watching a cool short film in a small cinema hall.
The film had me hooked with its layers. In about 17 minutes, director Kagho Idhebor explored the subjects of art, spirituality, sexual abuse, a father’s rage, and most of all, vengeance. Broken Mask built and held the audience’s anticipation till it climaxed with the most satisfying of endings. Unfortunately, the filmmakers couldn’t wait long for a proper Q&A.
Still reeling from the experience of Broken Mask, I decided to stay back for the next short film. Now I had that cozy experience, I wanted more and Chioma Paul-Dike’s Dreams delivered.
Dreams explored the African supernatural and horror genre and it was a satisfying breath of fresh air. The 20-minute story was effectively executed by the masterful acting of Kelechi Udegbe who played Obinna, Onyinye Odokoro as Nelo and Amanda Oruh as Nkem. I found the suspense quite thrilling and this excitement coursed through me, solidified by the artistic use of lighting which added the desired effect.
There was a proper Q&A this time and I didn’t hesitate to direct my questions at the director. I asked her about her decision to cast those three specific actors. She explained and said, “there was no question at all about Onyinye as I had proposed to work with her since I saw her in a film and immediately the script for Dreams was ready, Onyinye came to mind instantly. Kelechi was a direct yes as there was a relationship there before and for Amanda, she was an unexpected gold I struck.’
After the Q&A, there was more I wanted to know, so I walked up to Chioma Paul-Dike and asked her a few more questions. A pertinent one was to understand her perspective on being a woman exploring an unusual genre in an industry like Nollywood. I wanted to understand how she felt and what motivated her and she gave me what I consider an honest and precise response, ‘I see myself as a person who loves stories and all my stories come from the heart. So the narrative of horror as a new genre or me as a woman exploring a rare genre is not the active thought in my mind when telling a story.’
This interaction with Paul-Dike made an impression on me. She is a lover of the art of film at the very core.
Chioma Paul-Dike speaking to the audience during the AFRIFF screening
Sope Aluko’s Chidera was next and this time, the cozy feeling was almost depleted in the room because this film didn’t have as many people as the first two watching it. Chidera is a film about a high school teenager who struggles with the weight of cultural expectations by her society and her family. It was interesting to see the interpretations of spirituality and how it ties to hair love from a diasporan perspective, a great part of which seemed a little at odds with the realities back home. I had questions and didn’t hesitate to ask Aluko’s representative. It made more sense to discover that the film is an autobiographical story that would be explored as a series in the future. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for that.
I had my fill of shorts for the day so I headed to Landmark where the feature films were being screened. While waiting, I had only one film in mind - Tolulope Ajayi’s Over the Bridge. The lady seated beside me said “hi” and we struck up a conversation. I would discover that she wasn’t a festival head like most but came to support her husband who was a cinematographer on the project. He shot the first frame we see in the film.
The director and cast of Over The Bridge
Every minute spent watching the film was worth it. The word I’d use to describe Over the Bridge is different. I was first struck by the frames and the overall excellent taste in the cinematography. Then came the acting with Ozzy Agu doing justice to his role as Folarin. The depth of the acting was so palpable and almost unusual. The other actors, Segilola Ogidan, Deyemi Okanlawon, and Chimezie Imo had good outings too.
The highly emotional film affected the collective energy of everyone in the room. Even one of the actors claimed he might have shed a tear or two. If an actor could shed a tear after seeing a film he starred in, I think I’d speak with my tear ducts for staying stubbornly dry. Nevertheless, I left that cinema satisfied.