BPM Mourns Nollywood’s Loss

by Leslie Fields-Cruz

Black Public Media joins our colleagues across the African diaspora in mourning the loss of two prominent Nollywood filmmakers last week. The sudden death of Biyi Bandele (54) on Sun., Aug. 7, and Otu Njama III (early 30s) on Tues., Aug. 9, sent shockwaves throughout Nigeria and the global film industry.

Bearded Black man in glasses and a black coat clutches camera while walking down cobblestone street
Biyi Bandele/ photo from Instagram

Bandele, who grew up in Nigeria’s Kandu state and moved to London after studying drama at Obafemi Awolowo University, was an acclaimed author and filmmaker. He won early success in London as a writer and weekly newspaper editor and soon landed a screenplay deal with the BBC. In subsequent years, he wrote and directed several TV and film productions including the film Half of a Yellow Sun, based on the award-winning novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

The filmmaker’s documentary credits include Fela Kuti: The Father of Afrobeat (BBC 2020), acclaimed for the filmmaker’s artful use of archival footage from the musical pioneer/liberation activist’s colorful life. Bandele’s upcoming feature, Elesin Oba: The King’s Horseman (2022, EbonyLife Films), is an adaptation of Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka’s play, Death and the King’s Horseman, and is scheduled to premiere on Netflix next month.

Otu Njama/ photo from Faceboook

Njama’s career was just gathering steam. In 2015, the young writer/actor/director starred in a short film titled Experience Marathon, created to promote the 10th anniversary of The Experience, a free gospel concert held annually in Lagos. His directorial feature debut came in 2019 with the thriller, Inhibition.

His upcoming documentary, Sweet Mother: The Untold Story, is about Nigeria’s beloved panco musician Prince Nico Mbarga, whose chart-topping mega hit “Sweet Mother,” is reported to have sold at least 13 million copies across the African continent in the late 1970s. Njama spent his final days preparing for an Aug. 11, concert celebrating Mbarga’s music.

BPM sends condolences to the families, colleagues and friends of these trailblazing filmmakers. Their work amplifies the voices and experiences of contemporary Africans, offering invaluable counter-narratives to the stories outsiders and colonizers have told about them for generations.

If you are a creative committed to decoloniality in the art world, the ACM SisGraph Digital Arts Community is accepting submissions for its upcoming exhibition: The Future Past vs. Coloniality: Decolonial Media Art Beyond 530 Years. This open call welcomes works of all types, including videos, podcasts, websites, apps, AR/VR projects, and more. Go here for details.

— Fields-Cruz is the executive director of Black Public Media

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Black Public Media

Black Public Media (BPM) develops, produces, funds, and distributes media content about the African American and global Black experience.