Monday, 10 August 2009

Heavens Gate returns on screen

After months of resting Heaven’s Gate, a TV soap produced and directed by filmmaker, Zik Zulu Okafor, the production team has resolved to bring the programme back on air due to popular demand. Starting with Silverbird TV where it debuted five years ago, arrangements have been concluded for the drama to be aired on other national stations as well as some leading cable networks. In a chat with the filmmaker, Okafor hinted that the production crew would soon be going on set to shoot more episodes of the Christian-oriented drama made possible by the City of David parish of The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Lagos. On why the programme went off air for sometime, Okafor explained that, “it was rested, quite often without informing us, the producers; the church was also not informed either. I wrote to them a couple of times, to protest such treatment, but the problem kept repeating itself for a very long time and the producers of the programme decided to try another station.” Originally, the team planned taking the soap to stations in Abuja, Port Harcourt and other parts of the country, but later ended up with MBI, which unfortunately went off air. With the soap returning back to Silverbird TV, it seems the relationship between the producers and the station has ones again returned to normal. Okafor recalled how he was inspired to script the drama, which is presently running on Silverbird TV. “Something woke me up about 2:00am in the morning and at that point, something told me ‘I think you are trying to develop a story for a soap opera, why don’t you use the serenity of the night offers.’ So, I started writing. And by the time I became conscious of myself, it was already 6:00am in the morning and I found out that the whole story that I wanted to write has come. So I went to show the man (Pastor Eskor Mfon) and he liked the story and told me to go ahead that he wants to shoot it. I made my budget and we went to locations. That’s how it started. So the idea of doing a Christian soap opera was late Pastor Eskor’s.” To him, Heaven’s Gate is not just a drama, but a ministration. “It is an instrument for disseminating the gospel. Its something that has to do with God, and City of David has pastors who are deeply rooted and entrenched in the service of God than I am. They pray for the government, artistes and anything and I know that God directs them appropriately on where to go at anytime.” Asked if pastor Eskor’s demise will in any way affect the production, especially as the crew plans to return to location, Okafor declared, “Eskor’s death was perhaps, the greatest shock I have ever received. It shook me by far more than my own father’s death. At the age of 74, my father was old and I was prepared for his death. Pastor Eskor was my inspiration and mentor. Therefore, I never thought he was going to die soon even though death is inevitable. “I have never for one-minute nurture the fear that pastor Eskor’s demise might affect the running of Heaven’s Gate. At City of David, we work like a family. Even though Eskor inspired it, there is a collective support for it. They call me, watch me, advise me and also appreciate me, while pointing out my errors. When he was ill, I was so confident, he would get better. I don’t envisage or believe that City of David would discontinue the soap now that Eskor is gone. It is a ministration and they are supporting it.” He continues: “Everyday, we are dreaming of improving on the quality of our production and we have consistently done this every quarter. I want to believe that someday Heaven’s Gate will play in some of the stations in the U.S and Europe. I have no doubt; it’s already running on DSTV for the benefit of other countries.” The story of Heaven’s Gate is intriguing and enthralling. Chukwuemeka Dan Phillips (Alex Usifo) a billionaire business man has achieved everything in life. He has an oil company, a bank and over 10 other companies in addition to successful children. However, he eyes only one thing now–– to become the king of his hometown, Isu. But he has huddles to cross on his quest to Kingship of his community. Nnaife, his rival, is strong and seems poised to win the crown even as his nephew, a pastor prophesies that even if all the contestants step down for him, Dan Phillips may still not be king. Worse -still, his cult member and icon tells him that he could win but that his wife, separated from him, may pose a threat to his victory. Still, hard-heated Dan-Phillips is prepared to battle man and if need be, God too, to clinch victory.

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