Monday, 23 March 2009

‘With Child Soldier… I’ll get the Oscars’

DICKSON Iroegbu, the 2005 AMAA best director, a notable Nollywood, is working on a new flick titled Child Soldier. Iroegbu who has directed a lot of well acclaimed works such as Mayors (which gave him the AMAA crest in 2005); Women’s Cot (which clinched a number of awards at the 2006 edition of the award), said he is fired by the need to build a future for the African child, who is often conscripted into the army. Iroegbu is shopping for ‘as low’ as $2m to shoot the film on the 35mm. “We have a huge vision and plans for this forthcoming film project,” Iroegbu said, inside the Ladi Kwali Hall of the Sheraton Hotel Abuja venue of the 2009 edition of the BoBTV . He had taken up a stand at the film market held as part of the event to network and find partners for the project, he also thinks will redefine and reposition Nollywood film production. He spoke to SHAIBU HUSSEINI.

Why child soldiers?
Well, it’s not about making just another film. It’s an intervention. I mean our own modest contribution to the development of Africa. I consider the project our bold attempt at discouraging the prevalent trafficking in persons, which includes the recruitment of children through force means to the army; fraudulently maltreating them; using them for forced labour or sex slaves in conflict areas. The statement credited to a 16-year-old girl-child soldier, who was forced to join a rebel group in the Central Africa region in a magazine I read, moved me. The girl recounted of how she still dreams about a boy from her village she was forced to kill; and how the boy still talks to her every day on how she killed him. I mean it’s that bad.
We have for some time now been reflecting on the ugly trend. The statistics provided by UNICEF estimates more than 300,000 children under 18 are currently being exploited in over 30 armed conflicts all over the world. The scary part is that even children between 7 and 8 years are involved. The question I asked, and have not stopped asking is; what kind of future are we building, if we allow this situation to continue? We also asked what kind of mindset would a child soldier possess as an adult, and what legacies are we building for succeeding generations if we permit the use of children in armed conflicts. So, as a powerful tool of social transformation, we are hoping to use the movie to discourage this ugly situation, a reason we seek the involvement of Nigerian and Africans in this regard.

How do you hope to achieve this?
Well, we have a huge plans for this forthcoming project far removed from the normal Nollywood film production concept. The vision is to use Child Soldier to re-define and reposition Nollywood. To achieve this we have decided to shoot on 35mm with other state of the arts equipment. We are also going to use international crew to ensure international standard practice, and the adoption of global exhibition and marketing strategies. The issue is a topic that attracts global concern. The movie would be exhibited worldwide with its attendant media hype. I believe that partnering with us on the project will open up a world of opportunities.

Funds for the project
The film project will cost a little over $2 million. This is not one of those usual Nigerian budgets, but by Hollywood standard; it is a low budgeted film. We need to start somewhere. I just need people to partner with me. I can’t do it alone. It’s not my project. It’s our project. It’s not another film. This is a vision that we must build and prove that power is shifting to the blackman. The blackman needs to position himself for the world to understand that he has for long been maltreated. So, funding will come from people who care about Africa, and the African child. It will come from those who mean well for Africa. For us, it is a progressive fight against recruitment of minors into rebel armies. This action is vital at this time because as I suggested elsewhere, if we neglect to do this, our children’s future would be jeopardized.
There is the need to galvanize our people into taking action to redress this situation now. I think time has come for Africa to unite and fight this dangerous cankerworm.

Plans to get this off
We are at the level of creating awareness. We have gunned for change in Nollywood. We have identified that these talents abound in Nigeria. It’s not a secret anymore. But the next stage will be how we can sit side by side with our colleagues out there. How can a Nigerian film go for international film festival? There is so much talk about rebranding Nigeria…yes, but is it by saying what is not Nigeria? We need to identify quality products that we must put forward as real Nigerian products. So, I am talking to Mr. President, who talks about rule of law all the time. Rule of law without the right of the child is no rule of law. The child is abused everyday in Africa with Nigeria the giant of Africa doing nothing; Nollywood is the only other visible thing that has come out of Africa, so, let us use this medium to inform Africans even the children about the effect of child soldering. I intend to take the film round schools so that we can get the children to understand that the society has to be rebuilt. It’s dangerous to rebuild the society without the child because when you finish building and can’t keep an eye on the structure, they will start destroying it. We can’t have a better environment if we don’t look at this particular issue as the very key.

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