Saturday, 24 October 2009

‘My N50m Figurine story’

FIGURINE has received commendations and critical acclaim from those, who have seen the film. The film had its premiere in Abuja recently. Producer and director of the film, Kunle Afolayan, whose other film, Irapada, was also a success spoke with ABOSEDE MUSARI, on his latest cinematic baby.

Message of Figurine
As a producer, the first thing I consider when making a film is to entertain people. You build that into your story and try to interpret it the best way you can. The intention of a filmmaker is to get people entertained and also, to get them go to the cinema and not want to leave until the film is over. Just like the Figurine, after people saw the end credit, they still sat to see more. They were entertained. For anyone to buy a ticket and come to the cinema; it means the person wants to be entertained, not because the person wants to learn morals. Notwithstanding, the reason this story was put together was to let people into my thinking. I’m of the school of thought that says you reap what you sow. We should always take measures in whatever we do so that when the effects begin to come you will know that we had put some things in place to safeguard us. Often we are the cause of our own challenges. If anything happens, people call God. God is the Almighty, He has put us on this earth to be good and excel. But out of our own inefficiency, we derail. Then we blame either God or Satan.

Are you saying that for the good things that happen to us, God or the gods do not have a hand?
God has created you and given you knowledge to know right from wrong. God has His own doing but often, if we had checked ourselves, maybe some of those troubles will not happen. In Figurine, from the beginning until almost the end, everybody thought it was actually Araromire that was responsible for all the tragedies. The gods have their own roles to play in our lives and we also have our own roles as well. These days everybody runs to God for one help or the other without watching our own sides as well. Maybe when we begin to perform our own roles, we will put less pressure on God.

One of the characters, Femi, described all the tragedies that happened in the film as a coincidence. One may wonder how all that could be a coincidence. Does that mean that the gods are not really responsible for the things we think they do?
That is the reason for that sentence in the end that asks ‘What do you believe’? You have to watch the film like three times for you to decide where you want to be, for you to take a stand either to believe that it was Araromire who was responsible for the tragedies or whether it was a coincidence. You totally can’t rule out the fact that there are gods and that they have roles to play. You can’t demystify the power of those gods but at the same time, we realize that one of the characters, Femi did his own evil. So, it is left for the audience to have their own belief.

Talking about the ending sentence ‘What do you believe?’, does it mean that you don’t want to decide for the audience? You want to leave them to decide what really happened?
I’m not in position to judge or to condemn the power of the gods. I’m only trying to tell a story that revolves around belief. For me, it’s whatever you believe that saves you. Different people have different reasons for their beliefs. If you see that kind of film, it is left for you to think whether Araromire exists or was responsible for the tragedies or not. One of my friends who had watched the film about four times said to me that the professor was responsible for all that happened because he was the one that put fear in Mona and that was how the whole problem started. However, in the beginning there was an established folktale that says the god existed and we saw it. In the end, you are just to decide what you want to believe.

Is the film a real life story or a fiction?
It is a fiction.

One wouldn’t have believed that you who played the gentle Aresejabata in Saworo Ide, would have been able to play that rascally role?
Let me tell you the interesting thing about that movie. When we were casting, Ramsey Nouah (Femi) was actually meant to play the role I played and I was to play the role he played. After the story got ready, I had him in mind because he is quite popular and a good actor. When they gave me the casting list I told them I was going to switch the roles. They asked why and I told them that Ramsey had already been stereotyped to always play the lover boy and the handsome guy. A lot of people see me as a quiet, slow guy and that is not who I am. Even if that is who I am, as an actor you need to be versatile. There was an argument and people asked if I was switching the roles because it was my film. They didn’t believe in my idea but I made them understand that people would appreciate the film more if the stereotyped actor is playing another role. When I gave the script to Ramsey, he too thought he would be playing that role but I told him he wouldn’t and he understood. In the end, they all came to me and said ‘Kunle you seem to know what you are doing’. For that role, even if anybody doesn’t commend me, I commend myself because I produced, directed and played the role well. It was hectic. It was very tasking.

You were not the writer
No, but it was my idea.

Why did you come up with the idea of mixing English and Yoruba in the conversations of the characters instead of doing either a pure English or pure Yoruba film?
It is because we are Nigerians and we should stop being fake. Most of these so-called English films will not see the light of day in the international film market because for Nigeria to even have a chance to get into these big international awards, the only category we can be placed is ‘Foreign language’ or best picture. The foreign language slot is automatically zoned to this region. That was why Slumdog Millionaire and Totsi from South Africa won Oscars, as well. We converse and act better when we are real.
I watch other African films where they speak their language and if at all they are going to speak English, it will be with their accent. And that I appreciate and everybody around the world appreciates so much. We are always forming fake accent, we want to speak Queen’s English which is not our tongue. I always want to put people in their natural selves.
When I got Ramsey on set, he was going to do the Nollywood kind of thing and I said no, let’s come home. Just speak naturally, speak and act like a Nigerian; and in the end they saw reason. There was a day we had an argument over the scene where Linda (Funlola Aofiyebi) and Femi got to the house and his father came out of the house. They said why didn’t I allow the elderly man speak English since Linda was speaking English; I said Femi and his father should speak Yoruba because that is how it happens. But now everybody seems to be enjoying the whole thing.

How much time did it take to make the film and how much did it cost?
It took us four years to get the film ready. Three months to shoot and five months to edit. It was almost five years. It costs about N50 million.

You have shown the movie in Lagos, now Abuja, where next?
The grand opening was in Grand Deluxe in Lagos, it was well embraced with a good turnout. We have just done the premiere in Abuja and we plan to be in Port Harcourt, Ghana and London all this month. We have sent Figurine to some film festivals and we are awaiting confirmation. We intend to feature it in A-class film festivals around the world. That is the way it can get exposure to the international market. Right now it is released in box office. For now, it is strictly cinema, not home video and its topping in all the cinemas in Nigeria. We need support, the industry really needs support. Not many people will take the risk I took in raising funds to shoot this film. I’m sure a lot of people will not even consider putting N10 million in a movie because they are thinking where will I sell it? But now that we have more cinemas springing up, there is opportunity to recoup the investment before releasing the film in VCD or DVD. As for fellow filmmakers, I think they need to start thinking beyond home video because if you make a N10 million film and you go into home video, you are going into the same market with someone who invested N500,000 or N1 million his own movie. We need to start thinking of using the cinemas and also making films that will represent the country in the international market.

Apart from recouping your investment, is it also an attempt to revive the cinema culture?
Exactly. That was our major intention. I remember how I felt with the upsurge in the manner people have embraced cinemas. This will not only open a lot of opportunities, but people’s eyes. This will send out positive messages to filmmakers and investors. Now you can have the record of your films showing in cinemas and present the figures to investors when you want to do your next project.

Your career in the movie industry
I started acting in 1998. I started film making professionally in 2005 after I graduated from film school. I did my primary school in Lagos African Salem Primary School then Government Secondary School, Kwara. I did HND in Business Administration at the Lagos State Polytechnic. I also did another Diploma programme in Digital Filmmaking.

Actors Guild presidency, One bride, two suitors

IT used to be one of the most vibrant guilds in Nollywood. In fact, from inception, the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) was a model for all other guilds in the sector. But this is not the story today, as internal strife has gradually rocked the foundation of the guild. Members are currently divided into camps: Those loyal to Kanayo O. Kanayo and those loyal to Segun Arinze, who emerged ‘President’ from an election in Port Harcourt superintended by the veteran actor, Sam Loco. Delegates from 22 out of the 25 states where the AGN has presence attended the congress. Kanayo, installed by the Ifeanyi Dike Trustees (BOT), after the board sacked the Ejike Asiegbu-led Executive Council, has described the election as a ‘sham’. In fact, he has called Arinze an ‘impostor’, who was not qualified to hold office on the ground that ‘he is not a graduate’. Well, Arinze, who has been busy holding wide consultation in a bid to stem the tide, has maintained that he will not join issues with anyone but will work towards returning the guild to the right path. However, mum is the word for the BOT, which many have accused of orchestrating the crisis in the actors’ body. Asiegbu declined comments on the matter and simply requested moviedom to seek clarification on the election from the congress of the guild made up of state chairmen and their elected delegates. ‘I am resting and enjoying myself in retirement. I have passed the baton and carried out the wishes of the congress and so they will be in a better position to make any clarification,’ was Asiegbu’s terse remark. The council of chairmen says it stands by its decision, irrespective of the views expressed by the Lagos State chapter led by Ernest Obi. Obi has also described Arinze’s emergence as President ‘a sham’. Moviedom present verbatim what the gladiators are saying…

Segun Arinze:
‘I won’t let go this mandate’

I HAVE a mandate and that is to return AGN to the path of progress and no amount of side talks or comments will make me lose focus. I have always maintained that I will not join issues with anyone. I am just not going to be pressured to joining issues with anyone. The challenge for me is to see how I can get all those firing darts to understand that we need to move AGN forward. We need to reposition the guild. We are actors and not politicians. We need to begin to think about the future of our profession and the growth of our industry and profession. The talk before now was that Ejike was holding on to power… ‘hey, he doesn’t want to leave and all that…’ now he is out of office, so why can’t we get together and see how we can move the guild from the point where he stopped. So, I am ready to work and same for my executives. We are not going to allow anyone distract us. We will try as much as possible to carry everybody along. Ours will be an all-inclusive administration. I have offered the olive branch and will continue to do so. That I am doing it, is not a sign of weakness. It doesn’t make sense for all of us to be firing darts. If that happens, then we will all be bruised and that is not what members of a responsible association such as the AGN should be engaged in. So, I have the mandate of the congress, which is made up of the state chairmen and their elected delegates to make the AGN the envy of all. We must all join hands to stop things from further degenerating. I went into all this convinced that I could cause this change. All I ask for is support of all and sundry. I have been reaching out and will continue to reach out to as many people as possible.

Kanayo O. Kanayo:
Segun Arinze is an impostor

Segun Arinze is an impostor. The purported election that brought him to office is a complete sham. We consider his actions so far as impersonation of the highest order. The former president, Ejike Asiegbu, in a bid to put the AGN in disarray, went ahead though aware of a pending matter in court to gather hoodlums at a location in Port Harcourt and picked Arinze and others as new executives of the AGN. But the fact remains that Arinze, from records available at the Lagos State chapter of the guild is not a registered member and that makes it impossible for him to qualify to contest the national elections. You must belong and be a registered member of a state chapter to be eligible to contest election. Besides, to vote or be voted for, you must be financially up to date. You also have to possess a first degree. That is the minimum qualification. That alone disqualifies Arinze. He is not a graduate. I understand he holds just a diploma. I hold a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Lagos. You can check with them if you are in doubts. We are going to hold our elections in December where the real actors’ president will emerge. We have just released the election timetable and we have people, who have expressed interest in vying for different positions. We will not lose sleep over Arinze’s continued claim to a mandate he got from hoodlums. We will allow the court decide on the matter. But it is worth restating that we the caretaker committee and the entire body of the AGN with the support of the Board of Trustees consider Arinze’s actions as impersonation of the highest order.

Around and about Nollywood...

Curtain draws on American Film Week in Jos
AS the first edition of the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC)/National Film Institute (NFI)/American organised Film week ended in Jos on Wednesday October 14, there are strong indications that Nigeria and America are set to consolidate on their cultural diversity in promoting mutual partnership in the area of film production. Managing Director/Chief Executive of NFC, Afolabi Adesanya said, “the week served as a platform of industry intervention to enhance professionalism, content and technological development within the motion picture industry through a clinical attention to the select film culture and exchange of ideas.” According to him, the week was also to stimulate, appreciate, and deepen the understanding of a wide range of films from Hollywood, the source of the world’s popular entertainment and provide yet another opportunity for Nigerian motion picture professionals to up the experience. Brian Etuk, Head of Public Affairs of the NFC, remarked that expectations of the film fiesta were summed up in the address of the representative of the United States Mission in Nigeria, Mr. Anthony Eterno. Eterno told guests and participants at the capacity filled NFI auditorium, during the opening ceremony, that America would continue to leverage on its popular cinema and film culture (Hollywood) to drive its cultural diplomacy in countries of the world where it has missions. Nigeria, he said, is one of such countries whose rich cultural diversity, combined with other positive factors, stand tall as a giant partner of the US. While commending the in-road Nigerian films have made across Africa and other parts of the world, Eterno said Nollywood could gain much if it understudies Hollywood structure, which the American Film Week did highlight. NFC, in the past five years, has initiated active collaborations with foreign missions in Nigeria in the area of cultural exchange using film as a platform. The Spanish, Chinese, French, Egyptian, and Indian film weeks have been held in the past, which underscores mutual and cultural partnership aimed at creating opportunities for Nigeria Motion Picture Practitioners.

A day with the Figurine in the Garden City
THE Rivers State Action Congress leader, Prince Tonye Princewill, on Friday night, greeted hordes of fans as he led the cast and crew of Figurine down the yellow carpet at the movie premiere, which held at the Silverbird Cinema, Port Harcourt. In his remarks at the occasion, Prince Tonye congratulated the producer of the movie, Kunle Afolayan, for the successful screening of the movie in Lagos and Abuja prior to its Port Harcourt outing and most importantly for its earlier significant outing in Ghana and London. Tonye also expressed delight at the newly found confidence the Nollywood community has in the state with its decision to hold premieres of such magnitude in the capital city. He recalled that in the last couple of weeks, Port Harcourt has played host to movies such as Nneda, Motherland and now Figurine. On the quality of the movie, he stated that in terms of artistry, content and creativity Figurine would hold its own on the world screens, competing favourably with any Hollywood film in its genre.

Film meets football in Abuja
COME October 27 to 30, Abuja will witness the convergence of two great events in one city. It will be a meeting point for film and soccer enthusiast as the 6th edition of Abuja International Film Festival and the FIFA U17 World Championship take centerstage. The festival will be declared opened by the Honorable Minister of Information and Communication, Prof. Dora Akunyili at the Bolingo Hotel and Towers Abuja by 5pm on October 27, with a red carpet and opening cocktail for the invited delegates. Expected at the festival are delegates from over 20 countries who will partake in the festival screenings, awards, exhibitions, panel discussions and seminars that will run for 4 days. The Theme of the festival is Nollywood, What Next? According to Fidelis Duker (Festival Director), Some of the confirmed speakers include the Director General of The Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, Otunba Segun Runsewe; DG Censors Board, Mr. Emeka Mba; President, Association of Movie Producers, Mr. Paul Obazele; Managing Director of VIASAT Network Ghana, Mr. Lenon Jack; President, Actors Guild of Nigeria, Mr. Segun Arinze; The CEO of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council; DG National Broadcasting Commission Engr. Bolarinwa and DG, Nigeria Copyright Commission, Dr. Adebambo Adewopo; among others

Nollywood Outstanding Personality Award (NOPA) holds December 4
THE Association of Movie Journalists (AMJ) has concluded plans to hold its third edition of the yearly Nollywood Outstanding Personality Award (NOPA). The award, according to a statement signed by the association’s National President, Stanley Okoronkwo, will hold on December 4 at Terra Kulture, Taimiyu Savage Street, Victoria Island in Lagos. Okonkwo disclosed that awards would be presented to some Nollywood personalities, who have distinguished themselves in their different beats. Publisher of Today’s Choice Magazine and Chairman Advisory Council of the association, Chief F. Onita Coker and Chief Walter Ibekwe Ofonogaro are expected as special guest at the award ceremony. The chair for the evening will be Dr. Peter Igho, MFR.

Waka pass…
Producer- Amebo A. Amebo
Director- Mr. Gossip
Actors- Nollywood Celebrities

Dakore Egbuson adds up, Femi Durojaiye too
SCREEN diva, Dakore Egbuson, and popular Nollywood actor, Femi Durojaiye, were a year older recently. While Femi, who just returned from a film shoot in London decided on a low key party, the actress and band leader reportedly held a lavish ball room party to commemorate the day. We gathered that there were lots to eat and drink and to take away too at Dakore’s commemoration. We asked if prayers were said for Dakore during and or after the party and the waka pass said he was not sure. Oh well, the waka pass said he was sure that if prayers were said, one of the prayer point would probably be for God to make the next ball room commemoration happen in the home of her long standing ‘Mr. Right’— he means the son of one of Nigeria’s richest men. Meaning, that there will be much to take home from a ball room commemoration held in the home of the son of a billionaire ‘married’ (na the waka pass wish be dat ooo) to a top rated actress. Our comment, abi? Dis na longer throat induced prayer point.

Mercy Johnson returns
STAR actress, Mercy Johnson, showed up in Lagos last week after months of disappearing from the scene. One waka pass, who was put on her case since she became very evasive said he saw the Kogi State-born actress not once, not thrice around Omole Estate, in Ikeja, Lagos. In fact, the waka pass hinted that the actress, who deferred her undergraduate programme for roles in the movie, might have moved into the estate because of the way she drives in and out of there. The waka pass thinks she may have moved in to join her rumoured boyfriend, who is believed to be a wave making business man and car dealer. Anyway, the waka pass has asked for more time for him to be doubly sure if it is Mercy’s name or the fellow’s name that is on the receipt of the house she reportedly moved into. Till then abi? To

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