‘City’ built with local coin

Helmer taps into private African funders

When Nigerian-born helmer Andrew Dosunmu was looking to produce his first feature film — a story of African immigrants hustling and living in New York — he ran into the same trouble as other African filmmakers.

“For a couple of years, it was just so difficult to raise the money,” says Dosunmu, an accomplished photographer and musicvideo director who had already received critical acclaim for his 1999 docu “Hot Irons.”

After struggling to scrape together funding and grappling with broadcasters who, he says, wanted too much creative control, Dosunmu concluded he needed a new approach to financing.

Eschewing TV coin, he tapped into other resources of his native country, Nigeria’s entrepreneurs and arts patrons.

“There’s so many people that have got money, and they don’t even know what to do with it,” he says.

Through a network of Nigerian and Libyan investors, Dosunmu raised enough coin for his film, “Restless City.” Pic screened Jan. 23 in Sundance’s Next competition.

Dosunmu is not the first Nigerian helmer to utilize that country’s financial resources. Private investors bankroll most “Nollywood” productions; helmer Kunle Afolayan used product placements in his 2007 hit “Irapada” to offset nearly half of the production costs.

The announcement last fall of a film fund spearheaded by the Nigeria-based African Film Academy has also raised expectations of greater investment from the private sector.

Dosunmu says his experience with “Restless City” proved that enormous amounts of capital were waiting to be unleashed in Africa. Private coin, he believes, could help supplant the donor-driven financing method that has dominated African cinema for decades.

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