Who is Kunle Afolayan?

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“I wasn’t fulfilled as a banker, in 2005 I resigned from the bank” Kunle Afolayan, actor, film producer, and director, said in a 2010 interview at the premiere of his film- The Figurine (Araromire) in Atlanta, GA, USA. Kunle Afolayan, born on the 30th of September 1974, is from Igomina, Kwara State. He is married to Tolu Afolayan and together they have four children.

His father, the famous theatre and film director-producer Adeyemi Afolayan, popularly known as Ade Love, belonged to the traveling theatre between the late sixty’s and the early seventies before he began making films. Kunle Afolayan’s desire to be in the film industry was partly a natural progression because he grew up in the industry and was involved in the business of film making while working on his father’s projects. Although, in a 2010 interview he expressed that his father never encouraged him to produce films because filmmakers weren’t financially buoyant at the time.

In 1997 Kunle Afolayan’s interest in acting was piqued; he approached some producers who were not enthusiastic about hiring him, all but one Tunde Kelani- a filmmaker Kunle grew up seeing on his father’s set. In 2005, after acting in projects like Saworoide and Agogo Eewo, he quit his banking job and enrolled in the New York Film Academy to study Digital Film Making. Once he finished at New York Film Academy, he returned to Nigeria and set up a production outfit called Golden Effects Pictures. This decision was spurred by him identifying a need for a change in the way Nigerian films were produced and decided that participating in the actualization of that change would be more worthwhile than condemning would have been.

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In the same 2010 interview, he referenced the film saying, “Now I think it’s the only thing I can do”. This was after the release of Irapada in 2006 and the more recent successful premiere of The Figurine (Araromire) in 2009, which went on to win the Africa Movie Academy Award for Best Nigerian Film. Since then, Golden Effects Pictures have produced multiple household favorites like Phone Swap in 2012- winner of Best Film in the Abuja International Film Festival Golden Jury Award in 2012, the 2014 Nigerian Independence Day title – October 1, which won the 2015 African Movie Academy Award for Best Nigerian Film, and The CEO in 2016. Additionally, the production company created The Tribunal and Omugwo in 2017 before putting out Mokalik in 2019.

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Kunle Afolayan’s has worked with Nollywood veterans and hot shots like Ramsey Nouah and Omoni Oboli, who led the cast of The Figurine in 2009; Wale Ojo, Joke Silva, Nse Ikpe Etim and the legendary Chika Okpala who constituted the cast of his 2012 picture, Phone Swap. Other honorable mentions are Angelique Kidjo and Patience Ozokwor. His achievements include the Nigeria Entertainment Award for Film Director of the Year (Nollywood) in 2015 and the 2017 City People Movie Special Recognition Award.

Afolayan has been referred to as “The Kubrik of Lagos” by The Guardian UK as he is dedicated to creating films that raise the bar for what can be expected of Nollywood films. His films have also featured in international film festivals like the African Film Festival, New York, Abuja International Film Festival, Durban International Film Festival, and the Pan African Film Festival.

In his bid to transform the Nollywood industry, by not only putting out real Nigerian stories, he entered a partnership with the million-dollar streaming platform, Netflix when it launched in Nigeria in 2016. His films, The CEO, October 1, and the Figurine (Araromire) are available on the platform, and in 2020 the partnership with Netflix led to the creation of Citation. The success of the initial partnership has led to a 3-movie partnership with Netflix that will begin with the production of Seffi Atta’s third novel, Swallow, which has already commenced production.

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The film is set to feature industry favorites including; singer Niyola, Eniola Akinbo, Chioma Akpotha, Deyemi Okanlawon, Mercy Aigbe amongst many others. Afolayan divulged that one of the other two titles is a story of folklore and fantasy and that the third deals with dementia in a manner that includes an African spiritual influence.
Kunle’s latest film Citation is a high-grossing film and we can only expect more from the new Netflix partnerships in the works. Kunle Afolayan is a free-thinking Nollywood actor, director, and producer who is making his name on the international film scene as he takes Nollywood titles to the world and showcases African stories and culture in their true form.

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