Aboard the flight AF-149 (Nigeria) – Red Carpet, glitters, photographers, star interviews and champagne: all the ingredients of Hollywood glamour gathered for the premiere of “The CEO”, the last thought of Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry, but with a detail: a viewing at 11,000 metres in an Airbus A340-300.
Directed by Kunle Afolayan, “The CEO” (Le “PDG” in French) was premiered on the night of Wednesday to Thursday aboard Air France 149 linking Lagos to Paris Charles de Gaulle before figuring at the top of the list of the Parisian festival Nollywood Week (from 2 to 5 June at the cinéma de l’Arlequin).
The swarming departure hall of the Lagos airport took a party-like ambience: red carpet by filmmaker Kunle Afolayan, frenzied DJs, cocktails and glasses of champagne galore, and actors dancing with the crew.
“This has never been done. It is the first to have the premiere of a movie on a plane. We wanted to show the world that Africans are innovative and that Nigerians are unique,” the director crowed just before getting into the air.
During the flight from Paris to Lagos after the film show on the mini-screen, the actors went to meet with their audience, the passengers, for the now traditional selfies and other signings.
– High ambitions –
With a budget of over one million dollars (900,000 euros), and thanks to private donors, The CEO is far from random productions that characterised the Nollywood of the past, the second movie industry in the world in numbers of movies produced each year (about 1,000), behind Bollywood.
The screenplay also made in originality: good bye ro the flat intrigues, scenes without surprise. In The CEO, one traverses Africa in search of the future CEO of a successful telecommunications company.
With the support of Air France, sponsor of the film, the director was able to shoot around the continent, Kenya, South Africa, but also in France. The cast of the film is also “Pan-African”.
Beninese singer Angelique Kidjo, winner of three Grammy Awards, is probably the most familiar face on the international stage. She plays alongside Kenyan, Nigerians, Ivorians, Morocco and Haitian actors.
Better funding of the African film industry will, in the future, forget the flickering shots, awkward soundtracks, and a laborious montage that has long been the hallmark of Nollywood.
“I have the feeling of belonging to a new territory to explore new territory (…), it’s very interesting to meet new filmmakers,” he told the South African actor Nico Panagio. “The passion of the Nigerian filmmakers is contagious. It is a pleasure to work with them because top, you feel that everyone loves his job.”
Between Hollywood and Nollywood, there is not only a difference of a letter. Nigerian filmmakers have sometimes shot with a budget of just $ 8,000 per film, against $ 67 million on average from the other side of the Atlantic, according to the South African actor.
Once produced, most of the movies are pirated, processed directly on DVD and sold at the traffic lights at intersections or on market stalls. In Nigeria, one prefers to watch movies from the sofa due to the lack of cinemas across the country.
Today, with the development of internet, retailers are turning increasingly to legal platforms and paid downloads or to cable channels, to offer content better and try to counter piracy.
For lack of public funding, or any support for the development of culture in Nigeria, producers are turning to private sponsors.
For the director of Air France-KLM to Nigeria, John Raoul Tauzin, the partnership was “obvious”: “Nigeria is a very important country for Air France … It was in our interest to give our support to Kunle Afolayan and his team to help them in their film ambitions.”
Nollywood’s next challenge after this launch 20,000 miles above sea: a soft landing in the Parisian halls.