The Annual Film Mischief 2023 Dispatch #1

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The idea of a festival dispatch is to summarize the proceedings of a day from the vantage point of a unifying theme. The search for a theme that makes sense of everything can be fun, but there’s always the danger of shoehorning varied expressions into a preformed perception. The Annual Film Mischief 2023 (TAFM’23) is a celebration of young filmmakers from all over the continent. And it’s not just the celebration of any kind of young filmmaker; it’s a platform to celebrate those with the guts to challenge the status quo. This year’s theme is Shoot the Culture. Shooting the culture is interrogating established methods, shattering formulas, subverting conventions, and rejigging the old. All in search of new language and expressions that reflect the preoccupations of the current age and the future. To find a unifying theme in such a combustible atmosphere is futile. The mindful critic can only sit, embrace the freedom and document dutifully.

Poster by Niyi Okeowo

Khago Idhebor’s Broken Mask opened film screenings at TAFM’23 in Lagos and it packed the authenticity necessary for the festival’s theme – Shoot the Culture. As the credits rolled, so did the audience’s applause. Broken Mask explores the never-ending topic of the female’s position in culture, society, and in tradition. Director, Khago Idhebor, smartly highlights this dilemma even within the culture of Masquerades. The shocking reveal shows that female masquerades are worn by men, communicating the sad truth that women are still denied a place culturally, even in affairs that concern them intimately.

Khago goes beyond the relegation of the female gender in culture to address a more intimate matter: girl-child abuse. Answering questions from the excited audience, Khago says the premise in Broken Mask is based on a personal question – What would you do when someone close to you abuses your female child? When Tobore (Brutus Richards) learns that his daughter has been abused by his wife’s relative, he is a cocktail of emotions, unsure how to react. The film leaves its options open for interpretation. Is the boy’s death a fitting recompense for his crime or should Tobore’s actions just remain a dream as it appears to be? All together, Broken Mask is worth the watch for the themes it interrogates.

Sunset in Makoko, a short documentary about Makoko, offers fresh insight to Nigeria’s floating slum, an entire town standing on wooden stilts that have become the home of hundreds of people well below Nigeria’s poverty line. 

Official poster/Sunset in Makoko

At first watch, you want to see the story of one of the characters, at least long enough to care about any of them. And when that doesn’t happen for you, you may say Sunset in Makoko is just like every other documentary on the poverty that is in Makoko. And you may be right. What we see is the same, the same famished canoes, the children playing precariously with the filthy water, and the pity for the characters – the ones whose stories we simply cannot imagine as ours. 

But you must understand that the main character in this Documentary is not the people; it is Makoko. It is a creature with personality, character, and effect – for the people who live there and for the city around it. As the narrator says, it is a place where nothing sinks, not the floating plastic waste, seaweed, and ocean debris and definitely not the dreams of the young people who hope to one day make it out of the slum, people like Lil Page. In a QnA after the screening, director Allen Onyige says Lil Page’s life was opened up to better opportunities after people saw his talent. His hope is that it has the same effect on all that Makoko is.

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