Orah, a Nigerian crime thriller, has been chosen as the opening film of the 12th edition of the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) scheduled for November 5–11, 2023, at the Landmark Centre on Victoria Island in Lagos. According to Chioma Ude, AFRIFF’s Founder & Festival Director, the film is a daring attempt to emphasise the festival’s theme — Indigenous 2.0 Global.
The festival’s annual opening gala night will be graced by movie fans from Nigeria and other countries.
The celebrated Nigerian/Canadian director and writer Lonzo Nzekwe (Anchor Baby) is the director and writer of Orah.
In late 2022, Nzekwe Floyd Kane (Diggstown), and Amos Adetuyi (The Boathouse), produced the film and it was filmed in Canada and Nigeria.
“Filmmaking is evolving rapidly in Africa with Nigeria at the forefront of the renaissance and this year’s edition is designed to continue to reiterate the opportunities for African films and storytelling to reflect ‘global’ perspectives for the sustained success of more local films globally,” Ude said in anticipation of the festival.
“We intend to continue to empower our storytellers to explore ideologies and techniques that connect with the larger global audience. Orah is positioned as the open night movie to drive this expectation.”
In this character-driven crime thriller, Orah tells the tale of a Toronto-based female taxi driver who decides to go on a revenge tour in order to exact revenge for her son’s brutal murder at the hands of a well-known Nigerian criminal involved in a drug trafficking scheme.
Nzekwe explains how the film turned into a revenge drama after his brother was killed in real life in 2016 by a stray bullet shot by a dishonest police officer associated with the infamous Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Nigeria.
“That’s when the revenge angle became more intense. I had to travel to Nigeria to get to the root of how my brother was killed.
“That’s when the rage I had inside, and the pain I saw on my mother’s face led to revenge thoughts, to getting my pound of flesh, and I realised the only way to deal with that was to channel it through a film, and I poured everything into my script.”
Starring Oyin Oladejo as Orah Madukaku (Star Trek-Discovery), additional cast include Lucky Onyekachi Ejim (Kim’s Convenience) as Bami Hazar; Agape Mngomezulu as Tariq Hazar (The Parker Andersons); Morgan Bedard (Hard Rock Medical) as Eli Pope; Somkele Iyamah-Idhalama (Titans) as Lace; Oris Erhuero (We Were Once) as Agent Garuba; O.C. Ukeje (Brotherhood) as Agent Uche Odi; Femi Lawson (Because We Are) as Jimoh Sholola; and Christopher Seivright (Take Note) as Vincent Bailey.
Lonzo Nzekwe, director and screenwriter whose work took eleven years to complete, expressed during principal photography that he was “very grateful to finally begin shooting with the talented cast and crew assembled and honoured to be able to shoot part of the film in Nigeria which plays such a key role.”
“I set out to create a tragically gripping and gratifying crime thriller with a gritty look that gives the audience a visceral, authentic experience into the life of our hero and her journey to avenge the death of her son. The exceptional talent of the actors cast in each role truly brings the story to life.
“Not only does the script offer a strong and smart female role model in the lead role, but the supporting characters are well-rounded with traits of real, everyday people drawn from diverse ethnic backgrounds and walks of life.
“I hope that ORAH’s themes of justice versus revenge, redemption, freedom, corruption and family separation will have a lasting impact on its viewers and inspire them in a positive way.
“As a Nigerian-born Canadian filmmaker, I felt I was uniquely qualified to tell this story of an illegal immigrant who was smuggled into Canada and sold into sex trafficking at age 15 by her uncle.” Nzekwe said.
Additional principal photography for the movie was conducted in Lagos, Nigeria in December 2022, with additional filming taking place in and around Sudbury, Ontario in the fall of 2022. With Ricardo Diaz (Subjects of Desire) providing the cinematography for ORAH, Mark Kowalsky (Frat Pack) handling production design, Chantel Bedward (Stupid For You) handling costume design, Marc Roussel (Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities) handling editing, and Felipe Téllez (Tomorrow) providing the music.
Produced by Circle Blue Entertainment and Freddie Films in collaboration with IronFlix Inc., ORAH also features participation from Telefilm Canada, ONCreates Film Fund, and the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC). The distributor in Canada is Level Film.
Latasha Ngwube, Head of PR & Media for AFRIFF 2023, said that with participation from all over Africa and the Diaspora, the film showcase offers a full immersion into the world of filmmaking.
The festival was established in 2010 by Ms. Ude, a businesswoman and passionate moviegoer. Its goal is to be the largest annual gathering for African filmmakers in the area, honoring the best African stories and films.
African films, filmmakers, and African cinematic impulses that are competing in international film festivals in genres like feature, shorts, student shorts, documentaries, and animation are the focus of AFRIFF’s programming.