By Funmilola Olukomaiya
Nigerian writer, creative entrepreneur and film journalist Oris Aigbokhaevbolo has been invited to the Sundance Film Festival, the popular American showcase for independent cinema.
The invitation comes six years after Aigbokhaevbolo became the first film journalist anywhere in the world to be invited for the coveted film journalism academies in South Africa, the Netherlands and Germany in a single year. At the time, he covered the Durban International Film Festival, the Rotterdam International Film Festival and the Berlin Film Festival respectively.
Speaking of his invitation to Sundance as part of the Press Inclusion Initiative, Aigbokhaevbolo, who holds a Doctor of Pharmacy degree, said he hopes it leads to more opportunities for Nollywood and Nigerian cinema culture.
“Sundance is the biggest independent film festival in the US and Nollywood should be there and at all the reputable festivals in the world,” he said. “So along with my duties as a film writer, I’ll be looking to see what is possible in terms of production and distribution. Good independent American films should show in Nigeria and good Nollywood films should get a chance abroad. There is money to be made both ways and we can learn from each other.”
As one of the most respected writer-reviewers from Nigeria and the African continent, Aigbokhaevbolo has written about Nollywood and other aspects of Nigerian culture for about a decade. His first book—a selection of reviews and essays on Nigerian films, music and literature—is set for release in the last quarter of 2020.
Aigbokhaevbolo’s work has won a number of awards, including the 2015 All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA) prize for Journalist of the Year. Three years later, while he was West Africa Editor at the Goethe Institut-supported platform, Music In Africa, the Felabration festival awarded his work in curating essays and journalism about different aspects of Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s legacy.
Based on his decade-long involvement with the media space and the African music, movies and books scene, Aigbokhaevbolo launched Critics & Bylines, a media and entertainment consultancy firm with a focus on West African countries and parts of eastern Africa.
“C&B is set up to help filmmakers without a huge budget get written about. So many African filmmakers go to festivals and nobody knows about them or their films. No promotion, no press releases, no reviews. We can help. Good films and filmmakers need to be better known. It is one step towards attracting investors and sustaining a career.”
Aigbokhaevbolo also runs a writing workshop aimed at “helping Nigerians and Nigerian businesses produce better writing”. He has hinted at a Nigerian Critics Choice Awards and says he is planning a trade publication to promote filmmakers, review films, cover festivals and analyse the business of Nollywood and African cinema.
As most cinephiles know, the history of the Sundance Film Festival is entwined with Hollywood history. The land upon which the festival is held was purchased by the Oscar-winning actor and director Robert Redford in 1969 and the festival itself has brought such filmmakers as Quentin Tarantino and Steven Soderbergh to the limelight. The latter’s film Sex, Lies, Videotape was the sensation of the 1989 edition of the festival and is firmly implanted in the history of independent films in the US.
“Sundance is a long-running festival with an enviable history,” Aigbokhaevbolo said. “I’m glad it has extended a welcoming hand across these many miles to a film writer based in Lagos.”