In 2021, former Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria, Shimon Ben-Shoshan, together with the vice-president of Nigeria, initiated a collaborative project between the Israeli and Nigerian film industries. The project was developed with the encouragement and support of Sharon Bar-li, Head of African Affairs Division and her deputy Iddo Moed from the Foreign Affairs Ministry, marking sixty years of diplomatic cooperation between the two countries.
Ben-Shoshan contacted Ronia Man, an Israeli actress, producer and entrepreneur who lives and works in Nollywood – the term used for the film industry in Nigeria – to start the project, with the goal of producing a full-length film in which professionals from both countries would take part.
The Israeli side of the project team included, among others, Eran B.Y., an Israeli director and screenwriter, and producer Elad Peleg from Daroma Productions (producers of “The Mossad”).
In the first phase of the project, four representatives from Nigeria visited Israel, including Bolanle Austin-Peters, a Nigerian movie director, theater producer and cultural entrepreneur who has five Netflix films to her credit; Frank Donga, well-known comedian and actor, director Peter Fada and Edmund Peters, representing the National Film Institute.
Bolanle Austin-Peters will direct the film with Eran B.Y., and Frank Dunga and Eran are collaborating on the script. The Nigerian delegation presented the Nollywood industry at the Haifa Film Festival, toured various locations in Israel and held a conference in collaboration with the Directors’ Union and the Producers’ Union in Tel Aviv to get to know the local industry. The hybrid conference included additional Nigerian representatives on Zoom.
Also present at the presentation at the Haifa Festival were Nurit Tinari, Head of the Cultural Relations bureau at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, who led the ministry’s support for the project, and the Nigerian Ambassador to Israel, Mr Nart Augustine Kolo, who was accompanied by Nigerian students from the University of Haifa.
An Israeli delegation from the film crew travelled to Nigeria for the project’s second stage to present Israeli cinema and examine possible locations for filming. The conference in Nigeria was attended, among others, by the president of the directors’ union, Victor Okhai, who delivered opening remarks; the producers of the International African Film Festival (which recently hosted the African premiere of “Wakanda”), as well as many producers and directors.
Michael Freeman Ambassador of Israel to the Federal Republic of Nigeria says that both conferences were a success, and following them, additional co-productions have already begun to take shape". Currently, the script for the first production is being completed, with filming scheduled for the summer of 2023. International distributors and broadcasters are already showing interest.
The story, written by Ronia Man, brings together an Israeli tour guide who has lost her hope for attaining happiness, with a Nigerian tycoon and his young business manager, a workaholic who believes that only money brings happiness, who came on a pilgrimage trip to Israel.
The relationship between the tour guide and the business manager becomes complicated when the pair discover that they are stuck with each other and share something unusual in common. When the tycoon’s wife threatens to sell his assets and bring down the empire, the pair are forced to join forces to save the empire, learning in the process that what they didn’t believe in turns out to be the most important truth.