This programme showcases five films from Nigeria that explore two powerful themes: love and war. Through captivating storytelling, Love & War blurs the lines between the two extremes, creating a compelling duality and posing challenging existential questions that aren't easily answered. The shorts highlight Nigerians’ resilience amidst multiple dualities and the universal strength of love amidst hardships.
Amidst Nigeria's dry season, two recruits plan to escape their boot camp's harsh training. But fate strikes as the camp's water source dries up, leaving them stranded. With the only jeep gone for help, eerie isolation sets in, forcing them to ration water and confront their own demons. Survival is a battle of body and mind.
A Quiet Monday Dika Ofoma / Nigeria 2023 / 22' / DCP / colour / English / Fic
When the leader of a secessionist group in south-eastern Nigeria is jailed, his loyalists mandate a compulsory «sit-at-home» on Mondays in protest. Siblings Kamnonu and Ogbonna face danger when they defy the Monday restrictions.
Do You See Me Walé Oyéjidé / Nigeria 2023 / 6'30" / DCP / colour / English / Fic
While wrestling with the loss of a loved one, a boy finds solace in waking dreams.
You Matter to Me Immaculata Abba / Nigeria 2022 / 10'45" / DCP / colour / English / Doc/Exp
A meditation on my parents’ engagement with their community through everyday rituals around food, music, religion, work, and play. It is accompanied by interviews with my parents, and a lyric essay on the tensions and grief from which Nigerians’ joy still blooms. Sonically, it is situated at home – casual banter with my parents and piano soundtracks reminiscent of Nollywood dramas from the 2000s.
Memory XX Ewoma Great Oro/Olamide Akinjare / Nigeria 2023 / 15'45" / DCP / colour/black & white / English / Exp
In the surreal realm of «Memory XX», a captivating romantic tale unfolds. A relationship, once vibrant and full of promise, is now confined to the recesses of memory. As the film explores the depths of recollection, the partner who remained behind embarks on a journey of introspection.
A Study on Love Olayinka Eno Babalola / Nigeria 2023 / 3'48" / DCP / colour/black & white / English / Exp/Doc
«A Study on Love» is an experimental documentary art piece that explores the topic of love in an elementary fashion.
Although there is some controversy concerning the exact year Nigerian cinema was born, there isn’t a lot of debate about the year of its first major commercial success. The year was 1992, and the film was «Living in Bondage». The film’s themes – love, avarice, malevolent spirituality, Christian redemption – were all part of the Nigerian lexicon and would come to define much of what was produced in that decade. They remain familiar today: The media still report on young people dabbling in the diabolic for wealth; things pertaining to the spiritual still command fear and worship.
But if both fear and worship were the principal dictators of how Nigerian cinema pursued stories about spirituality, a useful word for today’s approach is irreverence, which, nevertheless, commingles with an ever-present engagement. Younger filmmakers may query the mystical beliefs of their cinematic forebears and their own parents, but they are not quite ready to dismiss or ignore their cultural pervasiveness. Whatever they might think of spirituality, they agree it is part of their inheritance.
Michael Omonua’s «Rehearsal» offers an irreverent look at that inheritance. The film follows a group of young people practising reactions to a faux spirit-filled pastor. It isn’t the type of story mainstream filmmakers of the 1990s would have told. Its methods are just as different. There is the naturalistic acting, a departure from the melodrama typical of mainstream Nollywood. There is the oblique criticism of a religion that, offscreen, commands ardent discipleship in a poor country, even as its leaders have erected massive edifices the unbelieving observer might call capitalist cathedrals.
«Rehearsal» is among the shorts by the Surreal 16, a filmmaking trio whose disavowal of how-it-is-and-was-done has made them the face of non-mainstream Nigerian cinema success. The group’s three-part «Juju Stories» addresses some of the most common superstitions of their 1990s childhood. All three stories tell of young Nigerians dealing with the unpredictable consequences of over-familiarizing themselves with the mystical.
Other filmmakers with projects outside the mainstream include Femi Johnson and Ayo Lawson, the duo behind «Nightmare on Broadstreet», in which a group of friends is traumatized – to death – at a popular outdoor venue on Lagos Island.
While that film wears its western influence in its title, others are more subtle in that respect. Sonia Irabor and Lakin Ogunbanwo, who have both earned degrees in the west, make films in the liminal spaces between cinema and art projects. Walé Oyéjidé, in turn, claims both Nigerian and US culture as formative influences.
For these filmmakers, some of whom have also made features, short films present an opportunity to try outré ideas away from a mainstream superstructure that may not be welcoming. This is arguably evidence of an ambition different from that of their 1990s forebears as well as a sign of a bravery. It takes a level of audacity – and maybe ignorance – to work outside a well-known space like Nollywood.
That bravery provides its own benefits. For example, Olive Nwosu’s «Egúngún (Masquerade)» tells a quasi-queer tale and may never find wide release in Nigeria for that reason. Knowing that beforehand gives a level of freedom to the filmmaker. Like for Nwosu, who doesn’t live in Nigeria, home is something to break away from for many young filmmakers. Today, some consider Nollywood a genre and insist that they do not make films in that mould. While the cinema of the 1990s catered to a local audience, today’s filmmakers have at least one eye on the west. While stories from the past were often set in villages, many young directors are concerned with their cities.
One final difference involves the pipeline for newcomers. Informal apprenticeships and theatre departments once fed Nigerian cinema; today, foreign film schools have become a major source of behind-the-camera talent and training. And when foreign tutelage isn't accessible, watching and imbibing doctrines from western films will do.
And yet, the commercial and cultural dominance of 1990s Nigerian cinema has left a lingering aesthetic mark. In Immaculata Abba’s documentary «You Matter to Me», the old Nollywood aesthetic shows up in the film’s texture and its setting in a village in Eastern Nigeria. The short also discusses family, one of the main concerns of traditional Nollywood.
Eastern Nigeria is also the setting for Dika Ofoma’s «A Quiet Monday». It is the one short film in the selection to address a contentious political issue that is still making headlines, even if the problem’s origin is rooted in the 1960s. In the film, a young tailor promises to deliver on a Monday but is intercepted on her way to a client by two young men, both members of an armed group agitating for the release of their imprisoned leader. Violence ensues. Although the central characters in «A Quiet Monday» are fictional, the narrative’s political atmosphere is all too real for Eastern Nigeria’s residents. Ofoma’s tale relates what tragedies are possible when supposedly remote political issues turn up in intimate settings.
Love & War
This programme showcases five films from Nigeria that explore two powerful themes: love and war. Through captivating storytelling, Love & War blurs the lines between these two extremes, creating a compelling duality and posing challenging existential questions that aren't easily answered. Moreover, the films offer a thought-provoking reflection of contemporary Nigeria.
The armed conflict of war is commonly associated with negative emotions, while love is typically seen in a positive light. The short film «A Study of Love» unravels the complexities within love, revealing its dual nature and showing that love can be equally beautiful and terrifying. It exposes the fears that can accompany loving someone and the battles that can arise within relationships.
In «Harmattan», at a military training camp in the middle of nowhere, the scarcity of resources, specifically water, leads to severe consequences. This struggle over resources serves as a microcosm reflecting a much larger issue. Nigerians are no strangers to conflicts over valuable commodities such as oil and gold.
How can love flourish in an environment dominated by fear and intimidation? «A Quiet Monday» delves into a dystopian world, exploring the challenges of nurturing love amidst turmoil. The film portrays the harsh reality of stay-at-home orders in the eastern parts of Nigeria, where the population of entire states is forced to remain confined due to the presence of militants or freedom fighters.
What unites these films is their profound exploration of duality. Nigerians frequently navigate through various dualities, like the struggle between loyalty and affection for their country versus solidarity with their ethnicity, or the complex linguistic situation that forces them to juggle between local dialects and English, the official language and lingua franca. Yet amidst the hardships portrayed, love remains resilient and universal.
A short film is not just a shorter film. Shorts are a distinct art form, which we showcase at our annual festival.
Short films come in all shapes and genres, and how long – or short – they are, varies quite a bit. Simpler production processes allow filmmakers to capture the zeitgeist and quickly respond to trends. Shorts can be entertaining or surprising, they can analyse society, take a political stance, or offer glimpses of worlds unknown to us.
We compile our short films into thematic programmes or specific sections, such as our competitions, paying close attention to the selection and sequence of films in each programme. All you need to enjoy short films is an open mind for new discoveries and surprises.
Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur is Switzerland’s major short film festival. For six days every November, we transform the city into a dynamic short film hub.
Kurzfilmtage offers discoveries for everyone: our thoughtfully compiled thematic programmes address current events or topics that our curators are passionate about. The competition programmes showcase the latest filmmaking from around the globe, while installations, performances, and other specials highlight the diversity of audiovisual forms. And a programme of special events including concerts, readings, and more enhance the festival experience.