The Nigerian film student and staff of the Nigerian Film Corporation, Ishiaku Gunmut, is conspicuously absent from the Talent Laboratory initiative currently holding as part of the ongoing Toronto International Film Festival. His visa application was rejected by the Canadian Deputy High Commission in Lagos for being single and for holding a virgin passport. Gumut, who is studying filmmaking at the Nigerian Film Institute had been accepted as part of the Talent Lab programme by the Toronto festival this year for the promise in the short film he submitted for the festival.

He is the only one missing from the list of 24 young filmmakers from all over the world who are meeting in Toronto, courtesy of the initiative designed to give artistic development to emerging filmmakers in a four-day intensive programme that gives them the opportunity to build their networks in a creative environment and learn from some of the most esteemed filmmakers and artistes in the world.

It was a depressed Managing Director of the Nigerian Film Corporation, Mr. Afolabi Adesanya, who expressed his disappointment that Gumut was disallowed from participating. But Gumuts visa denial was not the only one that pained Adesanya. His Industry Support staff, Yomi Durojaiye, was also denied, thereby leaving the MD as the only official manning the Nigerian stand at the Industry and Sales section of the festival inside the Sutton Hotel. All other stands such as the ones by South Africa, Japan, Britain, Italy and Hong Kong, had various staff members to give information and promotional materials out to festival goers. The Nigerian stand is left unattended each time Adesanya had to go to the conveniences or for lunch.

I am forced to miss meetings and crucial networking functions because the whole reason for hiring this stand at a huge cost would be defeated if there is no one to attend to enquiries,he said. He is disappointed the more that the same thing happened in 2006 when he was the only NFC at the festival.

I think it is most unfair that the visas were denied after several letters were written, from the Nigerian government and the festival organisers. We go to festivals all over the world, and no NFC staff had ever defected. When I heard that the former Ambassador to Ethiopia and culture patriach, Chief Segun Olusola, was denied a visa to give a talk on refugees in Canada, I just wonder what this is all about, he said.