Thank you for agreeing to this interview. First of all, we’d like to congratulate you on winning Best Voiceover at the CWFF. Thank you for this compelling short film, which takes the form of a political platform, albeit an apolitical one. Toyin Elebe, can you tell us how this film came about?

I follow world politics, avidly follow international news and study politics. I’m not a politician and I don’t want to become one. The story of this film was shaped by my view of the people of my homeland, Nigeria, who have enormous potential in every respect, a potential that has not been exploited for all sorts of reasons. However, the year 2023 could mark an inflection point that will shape the future of Nigeria and Africa in general.

That’s the message of this short film/documentary, from a personal and historical perspective. I was pleasantly surprised and happy for everyone who worked on this film, as it has now won three awards: the Grand Jury Prize at the New York International Film Awards for Best Director, Best Voiceover at the World Film Festival in Cannes and Best Actor at the Berlin Independent Film Festival. The film was named a finalist at the Boden International Film Festival in Sweden and at the Lisbon Film Rendezvous in Portugal.

David Symmons, do Toyin Elebe’s powerful words: “an honest and heartwarming reflection on a country’s history, its challenges, its dreams and its quest to find its true place in the world” inspire you to reflect as a director? How did you get behind the camera for this short film?

From my first conversation with Toyin, I felt totally involved. The script was compelling and emotionally engaging, and Toyin’s enthusiasm and passion for his craft proved infectious. We discussed different ideas, fine-tuned the script and shared the same vision. It had to be simple and punchy, and the images had to enhance the script without distracting the viewer from the power of the words.

Toyin, “Nigeria’s independence began with a promise (in 1960). And then it became this (…)”, “Our stories are about ordinary people doing extraordinary things against all odds (…)”. Could you tell us more? What do you think a “change of direction” would entail? Will the leader of the Alliance for Democracy succeed in breaking the cycle of autocratic regimes?

I’ll start by answering the last part of your question. Nigeria has not had an autocratic regime, but a fully-fledged democratic system of government since 1999. The Alliance for Democracy party you refer to has evolved over the years into a party with a much wider readership, the All Progressive Congress, under the leadership of its visionary leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, now the duly elected President of Nigeria. The message of change of direction at the end of the film is a call to action for Nigerians to stand up and try to realize their full potential. The country boasts an enormous amount of human ingenuity, natural resources and brilliant people. It’s no exaggeration to say that Nigeria should be on a par with most EU countries in terms of GDP and quality of life. Unfortunately, as in most African countries, people focus on short-term gains rather than long-term benefits. The film castigates this type of mentality, because lasting change comes from the bottom up, not the top down. In my opinion, it’s these issues that the newly-elected president is now tackling in the right way. Perhaps he’d seen the film.

David, this film is so well constructed that it has an Orwellian grandeur. Have you ever been inspired by legendary orators and speeches?

Toyin and I spent many hours going through the text. Each word’s pronunciation, timing, rhythm and inflection had to be scrutinized. The interpretation had to be honest and sincere, linked to thoughts and truths. There was no room for empty words. The script gains in intensity and, as is the case with all good speeches, starts by grabbing the audience’s attention and ends with a transition in the middle section, which takes the audience on a historical journey and ends with a message of hope and aspiration for the future. Compressing all these compressed elements into a film lasting less than 3 minutes represents a remarkable effort on the part of everyone involved.

“Who am I? I am you. And there are 70 million of us.” That’s a powerful statement. What do you hope to achieve? Toyin, would you tell us if you feel a secret mission beyond awareness and sensitization?!

Well… that’s an excellent question. I think every time I see this film again, I appreciate more how we’ve managed to weave a powerful message with a human story into a politically engaging message, while making it apolitical. But this is a film first and foremost, so it needs dramatic effect and a climax at the end, and that’s what we’ve achieved with this statement. More importantly, it is based on the fact that the population aged between twenty-five and fifty-five in Nigeria is estimated at between seventy and one hundred million people, or even more. Interestingly, viewers may also draw different conclusions about the purpose of this statement, hence your question here. It’s magnificent. I can cross out the “secret agenda” part of this list of conclusions and confirm for the first time here that there is none.

Let’s digress for a moment. Is membership of the Commonwealth a good or a bad thing for Nigeria, not least because it protects it from the intrusion of powers such as China and Russia? Isn’t the fact that Nigeria’s neighbors are all French-speaking and therefore not part of the Commonwealth a cultural problem? Are signing the Blue Charter and joining the Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance and Mangrove Ecosystems and Livelihoods Action Groups a game-changer for Nigeria? David, what do you think?

Perhaps I’m not as well-informed as others about international relations. However, I know that the Commonwealth Blue Ocean Charter is a commitment by Commonwealth countries to protect the oceans, as part of sustainable development and improving the habitability of our planet. In my opinion, this is only a good thing. Of course, as you’d expect, such a commitment will have political implications. Nevertheless, this can only be a boon for Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy and one of the world’s biggest emerging markets.

Would you both like to tell us about any upcoming projects? Are they related?

TE. We were all very encouraged by the success of Vote True. We are working on several projects through our production company, Telefectiv Productions, on a major film franchise or saga, documentaries and TV content.

David, what’s your vision of post-Covid cinema? In a few words. And you, Toyin, what is your vision as a producer?

DS: I don’t think Covid can define the future of cinema. As terrible as the pandemic was, it made people realize the importance of making the most of every opportunity, of continuing to tell stories, and of taking advantage of the creative freedoms and opportunities available to us as filmmakers.

TE: The aim is to produce films that help shape the cultural narrative and bring untold stories to a global audience. Films that prepare us for the new frontier, a world of unlimited possibilities.


Toyin Elebe, writer, producer and Keycast, and David Symmons, director, for Vote True (top to bottom)

Toyin Elebe is a writer, producer and Keycast.

A dynamic, creative, passionate and meticulous series producer, David has a proven track record of producing quality content.

“In this project, I was attracted by the indisputable honesty of the message that shone through in the writing and, beyond the story, by the passion of a man.”


Vote True (2023)



Vote True (2023)

ITV 2023

Keep in touch

Subscribe to our Newsletter