Two of Nigeria’s top actresses — Patience Ozokwo and Ini Edo — brought “Greetings from Nollywood” to United Nations Headquarters today at a morning press conference celebrating the Eleventh Annual African American Women in Cinema Film Festival.
Joining the actresses was the founder of African American Women in Cinema, Terra Renee, actress Phyllis Yvonne Stickney, and Hardy Jimbes, the founder of Save Africa Concerts Foundation. Raff Bukun-Olu Wole Onemola, the Deputy Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations, whose Mission sponsored the press conference, also participated.
The Nigerian film and video industry, or Nollywood as it is often called, had come a long way with few resources, according to Ms. Ozokwo. “We do movies of the people, by the people and for the people,” she said. One of those films, “Deeper than Sex”, would have its world premiere at United Nations Headquarters later today.
According to the Nigerian Mission, the movie, produced by Ms. Ozokwo, helps educate audiences about sex-related health issues that plagued Africa today, such as HIV/AIDS and gonorrhoea. The story follows a young woman who must deal with the consequences of sexual ignorance, after having sex as a younger woman and contracting a sexually-transmitted disease. The role and responsibility of men is also explored and the film shows how love, knowledge and understanding can overcome the obstacles that sexually active individuals might face.
Ms. Ozokwo’s body of work, including her new film, would be honoured at the African American Women in Cinema Film Festival this year, along with the work of Ms. Edo and Ms. Stickney. The founder of the film festival, Ms. Renee, said this year was the first time that the festival had partnered with the international organization, Save Africa Concerts Foundation, to bring awareness to women of colour from around the world. As Mr. Jimbes put it, being able to honour those women, particularly two of the most well-known actresses from Nigeria, was “one of the best things that ever happened to us”.
Ms. Edo, who has appeared in more than 50 movies, said that the synergy created between the two organizations for the film festival was something that had been needed for a long time. “We try to expose what most of you…don’t really know: the heritage and cultures of our people.”
As an African-American actress working for more than 25 years, Ms. Stickney was equally excited about the possible benefits of such African-American synergies. Throughout her career in Hollywood, Ms. Stickney said she saw very few actresses like her –- African-American women who embraced their origins and the “traditions and cultures of home”, instead of embracing a European culture.
The partnership between the two organizations present at the press conference represented the “beginning of something”, she said. With greater synergy between filmmakers in North America and in Africa, artists would be able to work together, shoot movies together and express themselves to audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. “Finally, all the things that I’ve been talking about, people will see, feel, and embrace.”
Ms. Ozokwa drew attention to the possible improvements that could be made in the quality of Nigerian cinema if better technology from America was available for use.
Closing the press conference, Ambassador Onemola said that whenever he mentioned to someone that he was Nigerian, they invariably asked “Where are your Nollywood films?” He would always reply “We have to get them”. Now, he hoped that with greater synergies would come more support to bring Nollywood to New York.
The actresses at the press conference will be honoured on Saturday, 15 November, at the closing awards ceremony of the Film Festival at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, in New York.