Film review: Lagos at Large, short 360 degree film, directed by Jumoke Sanwo

Creativate Digital Arts Festival on 2020 The National Arts Festival (South Africa)

Available: View until July 31 at

Tickets: Free. No charge

“Can we build an Africa for Africans in the midst of business deals with Far Eastern countries, climbing the ladder of development, on the backs of Nigerians? Just keep asking – keep moving on the streets, in offices, on fields, on commerce… and you will be rewarded – generations are yet to be rewarded – clean streets, smooth streets – no potholes… enjoy a good drink … be inspired by good food, art and literature…it is all there… come to the island.”

This is what one of the narrators poses in Lagos at Large. The island is a fictional oasis in Lagos at Large. Yeah, where does Africa fit into the confusing world that we find ourselves during the global pandemic of Covid-19? The pandemic has decimated economies and Africa, well, yes Africa. The narrators of Lagos at Large – Njideka Iroh and Pelumi Lawal-  intone that it is important to  keep moving; to keep working and innovating and the rewards will come. Njideka Iroh –is a poet who lives in Austria. Now, watching through the lens of Covid-19, I wonder how the streets, markets and hubs have been impacted by the virus and how the shape of “the ladder of development” will shift in Covid times.

Lagos at Large taps into the notion of home, Africans living in exile of a diaspora of longing and yearning to return home- torn between physical and emotional spaces.  The viewer becomes immersed in the physical Lagos – the dirt and dreams of the market and the nirvana of  an island where every kind of vegan option is on tap. The film is a bricolage of narrative documentary, fiction and poetry. It is lyrical. That lyricism is presented against the cold and hard reality of dust and grime. And yet within the crowds of the market, there is a tap to wash your feet: “Open the tap. Be sure to close it tightly.” There is the warm embrace of a community and a community hard at work; going forward and getting things done. “No space for anxiety. You have to keep moving on these streets, No space for depression… it is that simple…”, we hear. “Manoeuvring identity “is like walking past the gutter at night in heavy traffic.” It is about “love and loving without condition…” Is it possible to find that intensity, belonging, away from the streets of Lagos, in the diaspora, outside Africa? Is it possible to be so present and alive – away from Lagos?

I watched three times- enchanted by the dialogue and images. Although I was unable to watch in 360°, I felt immersed in this multi layered film experience. I would love to see this film, screened in 360°- in a cinema.

It is the first time that I have viewed a film, made by director Jumoke Sanwo.  Sanwo has a BA in English from the Obafemi Awolowo university Ile-Ife. Her medium of expression includes photography, video art and virtual reality. According to, “she navigates her postcolonial environment, reflecting on self-perception and division, experienced through time and space. Her work engages Afro-aesthetic concerns, while querying pre-existing notion of self and identity, she focuses on enlightenment, spirituality, technology and mobility; while rethinking and engaging ongoing narrative on the decolonisation discourse. Her conceptual framework and process are largely informed by ‘global localization’ or ‘Glocal with a local approach to storytelling where the individual cultures, histories, traditions are presented as independent frames within a global picture.”

Lagos at Large had its world premiere at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) 2019. The South African premiere is on now -at the virtual National Arts Festival 2020 which is taking place digitally in the time of Covid-19. The film was supported by Electric South, imisi3D and IDFA DocLab.

When this film premiered at http://IDFA in November 2019, the world was in a very different space. The 2020 edition of IDFA – the world’s largest annual documentary festival is slated to run from November 18-29, with some films beings screened in venues and some events happening in-person.  That is the plan. Let us hope that this will be possible, by November.

Lagos at Large

  • Genre: Format: 360° video
  • Duration: 9 minutes 31seconds
  • Language: English
  • Ages: PG
  • Available at the NAF: July 31, 2020

Production credits

Director: Jumoke Sanwo
Producer: Caitlin Robinson
Executive producers: Judith Okonkwo, Ingrid Kopp, Steven Markovitz
Editors: Joey Ekunwe, Olayeni Balogun
Spoken Word: Njideka Iroh, Pelumi Lawal
Original music composer: Osarumen Osamuyi
Production Director: Judith Okonkwo
Cinematographer: Joey Ekunwe
Developer: Isiaq Gbadamosi
Sound Design: Osarumen Osamuyi, Joey Ekunwe
Technical Artist: Olayeni Balogun
Animation: Sebastian Lõrscher