Monday, 6 April 2009

‘Nollywood is the biggest Minister of Information, Culture and External Affairs Nigeria ever had’


HE is one of the few Nollywood’s directors, whose works have featured in festivals across the globe and; he has consistently been on the nomination list of African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA). Just last week his epic story Stronger than Pain, which gave Kate Henshaw-Nuttal, and Nkem Owoh their acting crest at the 2008 edition of AMAA was among the five Nigerian films that showed at the 23rd Fribourg International Festival in Switzerland at a special session for films from the Nigerian movie culture dubbed Nollywood. Tchidi Patrick Chikere was not in Fribourg, but gists from there is that the movie was well received. “I am happy it went well…I was busy at home brewing Telephone — my second album, “he explains even as he hands a promotional copy of the work, the follow up to his debut album Gold. Tchidi spoke with Shaibu Husseini about his new work and other projects.

What’s new?
I have just finished work on my new album titled Gold. It’s going to be released soon... For now we are just going into the promotion of the song Telephone as a way of heralding the entire album. Motivation for me has always been that restlessness that I have to do more to explore Tchidi’s limits if there are any... How does one live with a song in his head till his grave? It should be heard; else it’s like chewing without swallowing. And trust me; these songs in the Gold album are evergreen. Better by leaps than my first album, which was more like a learning process for me?

What ever happened to your debut album?
My first album went unsung, mostly because of poor promotion. That’s all I can say. A lot of people are still asking me if the album is out! And I say, it’s been out for long that now, it just wants to go home and rest! But thank God, Telephone is getting airplay now...We know it will just keep getting better. And soon everybody can sing the chorus, Lay Back!

Are you gradually kissing bye to moviedom?
No! I won’t quit the movies. My careers are sister careers, thank God for that. I intend to even make the standard of my movies more international, in terms of content and performance, to the best of our finances. The world has seen my movies, but it is time to see them even in a newer light and disposition. “Nollywood is the biggest Minister of Information, Culture and External Affairs, Nigeria ever had!” As for my quitting the industry, my involvement in music is complimentary to my movie, for instance, the editor who worked on my music video is also working on my other movie yet to be released. Before I went into music, there was no much consideration for my movie because it involved extra cost, but now I have seen the need and so on… the association is quite very symbiotic as each positively rubs off on the other. The only challenge is that I hardly find time to rest these days, but never mind, I will rest when I am old!

AMAA 2009
Yes, three of my movies, Assassin, Beautiful Soul, and Live To Remember were nominated in 10 different categories for the AMAA awards. I feel happy and sad. Happy that some people or somebody, somewhere has recognised hardwork, and the impact we are making in Nollywood, where quality has dropped to the barest minimum. I pray for more awards like this to further raise the bars because 90 per cent of the practitioners in Nollywood have no business to be there. I just pray that the viewers don’t lose faith in Nollywood yet. The pruning will come naturally and the movies will be better and worth the buyer’s hard earned money. I feel sad because, at this stage in Nollywood, where we are getting so much recognition by the western media, western viewers, and movie pundits across the globe; now that we are being invited to all sorts of film festivals abroad — I was in Germany recently, and was directed to teach High School students about Nigeria, our culture, our people and our movies — the government and its agents are still allowing piracy to further denigrate our movie industry.
Nowadays our movies are all over in copied CD’s. There is even one they call 50-in-1 best of Nollywood that is hawked openly on the streets, yet the government and the police are doing nothing. It’s a shame.

AMAA awards, what are your expectations?
A wise man attends an award ceremony with an open mind. I am good, but I am not the only one who is good. A lot of the contenders for the awards also know their onions. I will go with an open mind. If my movies win anything, thank God; if they don’t, okay. We will get better and try again next year. I am never satisfied with whatever I have achieved; there is always room for improvement. I am happy to have even been among the few movie makers nominated in the whole Africa! I will still pop champagne for that. This year AMAA screenings, I hear was tough and will still be tough for the final awards. But we got 10 nominations; there is a possibility we will win some of them. As for Pee Cee and Tchidi, my name is still Tchidi, friends call me Tee. Peecee is not a name, I will consider for all… it’s just a kind of acronym from my English name Patrick and you know, the rest… It‘s just that sometimes you just get so restless with one name that you will just decide to change it one day and the next day bring it back... only true artistes will understand what I am talking about... it’s a crazy world — the arts!

Next Project
I am going to get more international. Henceforth you can see anybody, just anybody in my movies...Tanzanians, Kenyans, Americans, name them... We want to rebrand Nollywood for Afrowood. We need wider reach and acceptance. The viewers need to see new and talented faces merged with the faces they are used to. Also my stories will change. Love doesn’t have to be an end in itself in every story. Let us tell stories of human challenge in a hectic world. Stories of courage and victory. Let love come in just as a passenger to the tale! I am at the forefront of content re-direction.

Favourite track
My best tracks in this new album are Telephone, High, Another House and Rain in your Jeans. They are my kind of music. Cool, thought provoking and evergreen. But I did ‘popular stand’ too. You know the Nigerian kind of thing!

Nollywood is like a fire. If you handle it well, it can light up this nation for the world to see and love, but if you handle it wrongly, it can burn all of us! Film is propaganda. Film is history. Film is Public Relations. Film is prophetic and sets ideals for the future. It is a teacher; it can direct or mislead a whole generation! Film is everything to a nation. It’s amazing that people in power are not seeing this.

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