A Nollywood film festival which the Program of African Studies’ Nollywood Working Group and Northwestern University’s Block Museum of Art will cosponsor on October 26–27, will highlight the work of acclaimed Lagosian filmmaker Femi Odugbemi.
Long recognized as a film industry leader in Nigeria and beyond, Odugbemi has served as president of the Independent Television Producers Association of Nigeria (from 2002 to 2006) and chaired the Lagos International Forum on Cinema, Motion Picture, and Video in Africa.
He has been an Emmy Awards juror and served on film festival boards and juries in South Africa, Uganda, and Ghana.
Born in Lagos in 1963, Odugbemi traveled to the United States in 1979 to study film and television production at Montana State University.
After receiving his BS in 1984, he worked as a producer at a local TV station but grew increasingly uncomfortable with the derogatory representations of Africa and African culture that he saw in US media. Determined to counter these misrepresentations, Odugbemi returned to Nigeria, convinced that he must “live [the African] experience, not just carry its identity.”
His return coincided with the economic devastation of Nigeria’s structural adjustment policies that, ironically, spurred resurgence in grassroots cultural production—including the birth of the Nigerian film industry that came to be known as Nollywood.
After his mandatory year in the National Youth Service Corporation, Odugbemi joined the staff of the Nigerian Television Authority, gaining experience in producing and directing a wide variety of programs.
Since 1999 he has worked as an independent producer and director, and in 2008 he cofounded and coproduced Tinsel, a long-running Nigerian TV drama that remains one of sub-Saharan Africa’s most popular programs.
He has also produced commercials and noteworthy Nollywood films, including Maroko (2006) and Gidi Blues (2016). Odugbemi has carved a niche for himself among Nigerian filmmakers with his documentaries.
Works including Ibadan— Cradle of Literati (2009), Bariga Boys (2009), and Literature, Language, and Literalism (2013) range widely across the Nigerian cultural landscape, from the intellectual production of Ibadan-based writers and publishers, to Lagosian street performers, to the Yoruba novelist Daniel O. Fagunwa.
Odugbemi’s documentaries have won numerous accolades, including best film at the 2009 Abuja International Film Festival and the 2010 US National Black Programming Consortium’s AFROPOP Prize for documentary.