The African Movie Academy Awards saw quite a bit of NYFA graduate Kunle Afolayan’s feature film, The Figurine, during their 2010 ceremonies. Out of the ten awards for which it was nominated, The Figurine took Best Picture, Achievement in Visual Effect, Heart of African Award for Best Film from Nigeria, Achievement in Cinematography and Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. The film has solidified Afolayan’s future in filmmaking and attracted well-deserved attention to Nigeria’s rapidly growing film industry, Nollywood.
Son of Ade Afolayan, the famed Nigerian actor, Kunle Afolayan didn’t exactly start out following in his father’s footsteps. A banker by profession, the Nigerian filmmaker at first regarded entertainment as more of a hobby. He spent a few years taking small acting jobs while working in banking. It wasn’t until 2005 that Kunle took a leap of faith and left his career to study digital filmmaking at the New York Film Academy in London.
Irapada, his first work, gained recognition at a number of international film festivals and won the Best Indigenous Award at the 2007 AMAAs. Set in modern Nigeria, the film is colorfully injected with elements of Nigerian myth culture. After a successful building contractor tragically ignores an old relative’s devastating premonitions, he is forced to reassess his long-standing rejection of ancient superstitions.
Kunle once again peppers a contemporary story with Nigerian folklore in The Figurine. A group of friends finds an effigy of Araromire, a goddess believed to grant good luck, and must confront the negative aspects of supernaturally bestowed fortune.
Boasting relatively enormous production values, Afolayan’s work on The Figurine has made him a special effects pioneer in Nollywood. His intentions to revolutionize and promote the Nigerian film industry have also extended to his method of distribution. The film was shot with a movie theater audience experience in mind. In a move to reinvigorate Nigerian cinema culture, Kunle Afolayan has pushed for The Figurine to remain in theaters for as long as possible, in contrast to the usual DVD distribution goals of the average filmmaker.
Kunle Afolayan’s unconventional approach to filmmaking and film distribution has put him at the top of the African film industry. Having recently run a filmmaking program in Abuja, those of us at the New York Film Academy are excited to see one of our graduates work to further advance the Nigerian industry.