Michael Omonua at LFF 2019

Michael Omonua at LFF 2019

I am a film writer and director based in Lagos, Nigeria. My debut feature film The Man Who Cuts Tattoos was selected to world premiere at the BFI’s London Film Festival 2019.

I was obviously very excited to know that my film had got into LFF. I knew that it was extremely important for me to attend and represent the film in person. I’d had my short films accepted into many festivals in the past and it’s often the case that you don’t attend. The Film Africa Travel Grants guaranteed that I‘d be able to attend for the duration of the festival.

My first day in London was wet and cold. I had to acclimatise quickly. I did my accreditation immediately at the BFI Southbank. Despite knowing central London quite well, it still took a little while to gather my bearings and know how the festival worked and where things were happening. Luckily the festival staff were really helpful. Like for instance I thought the viewing library was a physical place but was told how to access the library on my laptop.

Throughout the festival, there were lots of daily networking events. The first one I attended was at the British Council’s HQ for the International Filmmakers meet and greet. Some of the people I met at this first event would turn out to be the ones I’d hang out with for much of the festival. I also attended a filmmakers’ dinner. It was great to be able to chat with my peers as meeting other filmmakers is not something you often get the chance to do as we’re usually working in isolation.

The first screening I attended was for another feature film entitled The Lost Okoroshi where I worked as director of photography, so in a way I had two films at the festival. I was extremely nervous for my two film screenings as this was the first time an audience would be seeing the film. But they went really well and I was glad that people stayed back for the Q&A following both screenings. The feedback after was really positive and useful.

LFF also organised a press day for my film where filmmakers and press could mingle and interact. I was fortunate enough to conduct two interviews that day. One was on a live internet radio station and the other conducted by a journalist with a dictaphone. It was a great experience as I’ve not done many interviews in the past.

I’m somewhat of a cinephile, so I was looking forward to being able to catch some art house films on the big screen. I think I watched about 15 films in total at the festival. There were some real gems like Jallikattu, House of Hummingbird, and Waves. I was glad to see that the press and industry screenings for the gala presentations started very early. The Lighthouse and The Irishman screened at like 8:30am. This would often free up my day as I got the film watching out the way early. I then spent the rest of the day having meetings or just meeting up with people I’d met at earlier events.

Overall it was a wonderful experience and by the end I was longing for the festival to continue for a few more days. I met lots and lots of new friends and potential future collaborators.