THE NIGERIAN FILM INDUSTRY IS A PRIVATE BUSINESS, GOVERNMENT SHOULD DO MORE TO EMPOWER FILMMAKERS- UCHENUNU

Ambrose Uchenunu, PhD is a versatile lecturer and practicing filmmaker who has acquired academic and field experiences over the years. Starting at the University of Calabar Theatre Arts department where he proceeded to the prestigious University of Ibadan to study film at Masters Level. His passion for education led him to pursue a second Master degree in Film Studies at the University of Nottingham U.K. where he bagged a PhD in Film studies. While in the U.K. Dr Uchenunu bagged a teachers Training degree awarded by City Guilds UK. He proceeded to obtaina Diploma, vocational training in Film and TV Production at New College, Nottingham. Upon his return to Nigeria, he secured a job at the National Film Institute (NFI), Jos before he moved to Western Delta University, Oghara to start the Film and Mass Communication department. Now, he lectures at the University of Benin. A 7-time screener for Africa Movie Academy Award(AMAA).Dr. Uchenunu shares his views with Acheme Ramson, on the Nigerian film industry.

Q: How would you compare studying Film in overseas and in Nigeria?

A: (smiles) It’s incomparable, the U.K. is a developed nation and we are still developing. The facilities over there are conducive for teaching and learning, aside the comfortable lecture rooms they made provision for well equipped studios where practical sessions are conducted. Here, we are faced with inadequate lecture rooms, ill-equipped studios, and little financial incentives. When I returned home I had to adjust to limited facilities, poorly equipped studios and few cameras. Lecturers resort to more theoretical work than practical. Many studios in our institutions could boast of only one camera and are often scanty.

Q: Having attained a PhD and secured a lecturing job in an eminent University, you still handle camera in the field,what motivates you into it, passion or economic reasons?

A: Photography runs in my pedigree, most of my family members have had a knock with photography. My uncle owned a photography studio while growing I toyed with his camera and work in his studio as at 1973. While studying in the U.K., I was the official photographer of my church, God’s Vineyard Church Nottingham. I have shot photographs of Nigerian pastors or men of God in the UK, the likes of Enoch Adegboye, Mathew Ashimolowo, Adegboye Odulele and a host of others. When I first returned to Nigeria I was hoping the right opportunity will come where I will put my skills into practice by making film full time basis. There was no support in that regard besides;all the job offers I got were in academics. There is no way one will go through film studies and not catch the passion for it. For me, from the very start, it’s always been passion for film.

Q: Any regret on lecturing job so far?

A: Lecturing job is not financially rewarding in Nigeria and it’s more or less a humanitarian job. The worst part of it is that you are not treated with respect in the society. Many of us are working to impact knowledge at our own loss. Though, the zeal is low we forge ahead with resilience, even though we train the executive in the office that turns back to look at us with disdain; or the oil worker who earns three times the salary of the professor that taught him.

Q: Recently the Nigerian minister of information, Lai Mohammed admitted in an interview with Richard Quest that our home video industry, Nollywood is a potential income-generating sector for the government next to crude oil. Do you see film, Tourism and Destination marketing as the real thing for government?

Ambrose Uchenunu

A: Film making is a big business though, we don’t have records to prove what they have sold, and this is because the film industry is a private business which is growing in the hands of individuals into multinationals. Its benefit to government will not come in raw cash but through other subtle means. Nollywood creates job for many Nigerians directly and indirectly. The actors, technical crews, writers, supporting staff, are directly employed while the bootleggers who hawk CDs on wheelbarrows are also leaving off the film industry. The film industry also complements tourism and help boost hospitality marketing. Where the industry needs help from the government is not through special budget but other ways the filmmakers will benefit from directly. If you capitalize on budget from government, every sector and groups will come demanding for their share of fund. Government need to provide moral support for filmmakers, for example, they go through a lot to obtain permit at the airport to shoot films, and face the problem of insecurity at locations from hoodlums. Also they find it difficult to obtain loan from banks. These are the kind of challenges film makers need the government to help with.

Q: Makers of documentary film in Nigeria are finding it difficult to cope, how would you articulate this problems, and what are the prospects for them?

A: Documentary is a culture which came in Nigeria and died, now it’s coming back. The fact is, all over the world documentary films are hardly premiered on the big screen, so it is difficult for marketers and sponsors to partake in it. Documentary doesn’t sell the way feature movie does and we don’t hold the culture of watching documentary in high esteem. People here want to be entertained and documentary does not provide hilarious entertainment. Documentary is basically informative and educative. With all these it is difficult to do a documentary film with a prospect of financial breakthrough. Another reason is that there is no support from the powerful political class who are afraid of their hidden acts which documentary may expose. This class will not release certain information to the documentary film maker. So those in the field of documentary learn not to expect too much from it, they just follow their passion. Nollywood would have died but for passion. Critiques like Prof. Wole Soyinka, Eddie Ugbomah criticized the home video format at the early stage, the film makers held on tenaciously and came out triumphantly. Passion, that was what kept the film makers going. So it will be with documentary.

Q: You have made a couple of documentaries, what is the central focus of your works?

A: Generally documentary doesn’t have central focus, they are mostly about societal problems my documentary on Ugborodo (Excravos), for instance, is about the woe of the oil-rich community. Most time a documentary film maker handles camera, he sees things against the government, for example, my documentary on Sapele, titled “Sapele: The Lost Jewel of the Niger-Delta” was about oil spill, environmental hazards and government neglect. Though, there are few exceptions of documentary on government. For example, I did a documentary in the UK on bicycle theft which was a mere societal problem not a government related issue

Q: In one of your lectures published in the International Journal for Multidisciplinary Scholarship, you attributed the decline of cinema in Nigeria to religious rejection, poor infrastructure, ethnic loyalty, erratic political climate and the rise of crime. How can film makers revive the lost cine-culture?

A: The prevalent crime rate in our society is not helping matters. Kidnapping, car snatching and terrorists related activities are rising by the day coupled with undue harassment by law enforcement has made night life unsavouring revellers for many people to patronize the cinemas. It is so disheartening to see that the problems which led to the decline of celluloid film making are still prevalent. On the other hand, there is hope for cinema film makers. Business is a gamble, the cinema could succeed and fail like every other business. Some businesses failed and make a return.

Those in the cinema business should keep trying. Like the economy of film,filmmakers should make strategic moves, such like proper timing, analyze the target audience before embarking on production, casting, for instance young unmarried girls would prefer to see certain star actors in a romantic movie. With the right demographic studies coupled with aggressive marketing they will make it through.

OYINKASOLA ELEBUIBON; CULTURE UNPLUGGED IN OYAWANDE

Movie lovers should expect another paradigm shift from the conventional story telling techniques with the release of ‘Oyawande’,  a traditional story woven in a unique fabrics from the stable of Oyinkansola Elebuibon the daughter of Araba of Osogbo -Yemi Elebuinbon.

‘Oyawande’ is a simple traditional story  that treats the old concept of traditional value, romance, strength of the deities and how they  affect our day to day lifestyle and issues without any forms of ambiguity and stereotypes .

According to Oyinkansola, popularly known as omo baba onifa,  “we neglect  our cultural values and norms yet we wonder why things go wrong, some families are spiritually empowered to solve regular human problems, but modern lifestyle and the adoption of foreign  beliefs have affected our ability to carry out such functions”.

The TV goddess and a graduate of Federal University of Akure attributed the inspiration for her unique storyline to her father- the Actor, Writer, the Ifa mouthpiece and  a master story teller of the Ifa Olokun Asorodayo fame in the 90s.

‘Oyawande’ parades notable Yoruba acts such as; Suara, Sanyeri, Araba Yemi Elebuibon, Muyideen Oladapo and others. The movie is marketed by Almaroof Standard Investment and available in all leading movie stores.

wale Adebayo sango the legendary African king

1.My favourite movie till date will be my debut film which is “Sango” The legendary African King by Femi Lasode, reason being that I have not been involved in any other movie that has that passion and strength.

2.Well for me am a child of nature and my environment is of the essence, I tap into everything around me to fuel and enhance my creativity because what comes out of you most times is what goes into you one way or another…….

3.I would have been practising my Law profession I went to the university to study.

4.I will tell my younger version “When that fame comes and I know it will please be better prepared to handle and take advantage of it.

5.Wale Adebayo “the gentle giant” well that explains it all I think.

6.Well the fact that am answering these questions already shows that am alive dispelling the rumour that my enemy had died after shooting the movie sango .Also am not a practising lawyer yet, but am a graduate from the faculty of Law Obafemi Awolowo University ile-ife Osun state Nigeria. Anything else I remember I will forward to you guys (laughs).

  1. I cope well they are my biggest inspiration and always have good words to make you feel good with yourself or hash criticism that will make you sit up and achieve your set goals so I truly value them a lot and I don’t let them forget it.

8.Mouth closed and I plead the 5th amendment  of the American constitution.(check it out yourself)

  1. Well lets say that it has its perks, some doors that would otherwise be shut against you are opened and stays opened so I must with no equanimity say Its interesting having a celeb status.
  2. Do I feel fulfilled with where I am right now in the Nigerian Movie Industry? Answer is no I want to continue to play a major active role in the industry and God willing, I will be around for a long time to come. Thanks for having me and My name remains Wale Adebayo: Actor, Director, Filmmaker.

ff on twitter:@sangoorginal

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Gospel film makers in Nigeria started their own film festival 5 years ago

Gospel film makers in Nigeria started their own film festival 5 years ago with the aim of meeting the global standard of film making and celebrate themselves. In this interview with OLUWAFEMI DOSU, the festival director, Olaitan Faranpojo shed more light in the film festival.

 

Can we meet?

OLAITAN: Faranpojo Olaitan, the festival director and the team head, Calibrator media that organizes gospel film festival in Nigeria.

What is Gofest all about?

OLAITAN: It simply means the name; Gospel and film festival. Its for people that make Gospel films. It is ā festival for Christian side of Nollywood. So, that’s just the meaning.

What is the main reason for this festival?

OLAITAN: Hmm, the vision is to enlighten, to gather together towards what we call iron sharpeneth iron, to build our capacity, to build ourselves, to brainstorm, to see how we can share ideas, to see how we can encourage each other, celebrate our works and to also glorify the name of the Lord by giving thanks and facing the challenges that is being put ahead of us by our environment.

As the main brain behind the film festival, what motivated you?

OLAITAN: I am not the main brain, God is the main brain behind the festival, we are just organizing the festival. I am not the main brain.

What actually motivated you?

OLAITAN: what motivated me? Its God that motivated us, gave us the ideas, stood behind us and gave us the template on how we could do it and achieve certain things. That’s just it.

Any challenge so far?

OLAITAN: challenge… on e of the challenges is that a times we ask God that why is it we doing it, why can’t we do other things. Another challenge is that we have not gotten the exact person to meet, we are still waiting for God to tell us who to go and meet to sponsor the festival. So, we are still asking God to help us and direct us.

Could you please tell us the categories of awards available?

OLAITAN: we don’t lay emphasis on the awards like that. They are just normal categories, directing, all those things. It is called appreciative award, it is not award like that. Its to recognize your effort that you’ve done this aspect of production well and we are just recognizing it.

What are the things you look out for in giving that appreciation?

OLAITAN: I am not the one that decides o. there are set of people that look at it and make that decision. So, they will be in better position to tell us what exactly they look out for. What we do is, we put in people, professionals that are efficient and experienced in the ministry and industry to look at all these things and make decision on our behalf. We don’t interfere.

Any advice for movie makers in the industry?

OLAITAN: the advice is that they need to come to the festival and celebrate themselves, they need to come and network, they need to come and understand the industry, improve themselves, share what they are doing, share the love of Christ, appreciate the name of the lord in their lives.

Thank you

OLAITAN: you are welcome, God bless you.

 

GOSPEL FILM FESTIVAL TAKES ITS STAND.

The Gospel film festival, Nigeria recently holds its 5th festival between 5th and 8th June, 2013 at jogor center, Ibadan, Oyo state. The film festival according to the festival director, Olaitan Faranpojo is for people that make gospel films. “It’s a Christian side of Nollywood”. Olaitan further stressed that part of the vision is to enlighten, build capacity, brainstorm, share ideas and celebrate Gospel film makers. He thereby advice movie makers to come to the yearly festival, celebrate themselves, network, understand the industry and improve themselves.

WOMEN ARE THE CENTRE OF MY FOCUS – Tunde Kelani

 A Culture Advocate and ace Cinematographer, TK as fondly called by his admirers across the globe has carved a niche for himself in Africa, even before the contraption dubbed Nollywood. A family man and seasoned filmmaker is the CEO of Mainframe Film and TV productions. “Elder” Tunde Kelani , a multiple award winner is also an advocate of  Alternative Technology’ in motion picture production, and has successfully produced and directed several films (short and feature). TK fielded questions in our THE 10 STAR QUESTIONS FOR CELEBRITIES series. Enjoy it.

 

 

Which among your WORKS is your favourite and why?

I don’t consider any of the works a favourite, so the answer is NONE

The reason is the fact that the works are experimental and progressive. Each one progressing either from the point of advancement in technology or technique. None of them was made the same way because of the resources deployed technically, materially and economically at the time of creation.

What inspires your creativity?

I am inspired by my cultural experience and my environment. I have also been inspired by literature and indigenous cinema from all over the world

If you are not doing what you are doing now as a profession, what would you have done?

I certainly would be in Information Technology. Computing comes third, after photography and literature. I recognized the importance of information technology from far back in the 80s and bought many computer systems and paid to learn DBase 2 plus in the 80s. I see myself now as a guru in Oracle database and I certainly envy the tech guys now.

If you could go back in time and tell a younger version of yourself one thing, what would you tell?

I thought I should have been more business-like. Try to find a comfortable balance between commerce and art. Filmmaking must and should be sustainable.

If your biography is to be commissioned, what will you want as the title and why?

I am not interested in biography at the moment because I still need to do more work.

What is it that you want to put straight and for the records of the press and publics?

I cannot remember any controversy outside of my work.

How do you cope with opposite sex and what do you have to tell them?

Women have always played important roles in African communities which explains why women are at the centre of my focus. I enjoy working with women but they have a serious rival in my work which comes first at all times.

What is your most annoying daily routine?

Listening to call-in program on radio. The discussions fall on deaf ears.

Do you enjoy your celebrity status?

I am not a celebrity or star, I am simply TK at home, industry and the community.

What havent you been asked before? Say it and answer the question.

What is funny about you?

I sometimes wear my wife’s shirt or flat shoes.