BY SHAIBU HUSSEINI
Over a decade ago, moviegoers filled the Cinema Hall 2 of National Theatre, Lagos, to watch Annette Njemanze play the role of a prostitute in Zeb Ejiro’s film, Domitila. Anne gave a high wire act, which earned her overwhelming acceptance as a screen diva. The sobriquet, ‘Domitila’, soon followed her. That was years before she disappeared from the scene after an auto-crash that nearly killed her. And when she returned almost 13 years after, this time as Bonuwo, one of the female lead characters in Ahmed Yerima’s new play on Niger Delta titled, Little Drops, the humble, respectful, simple minded and warm hearted lady revved and proved she still had something to offer the entertainment scene. Moviedom comes up, close and personal with the star of Silent Night 3, Rattle Snake, All Eyes on Me, Naked, The Evil Thing, Mirror, Waterloo, Sergeant Okoro and Broken Chord.
Missing in action
I have been confronted with such question several times, but let’s look at Nollywood as it is today, whether we want to accept it or not, the industry is crashing and people are just shooting in the name of producing movies. Let me say, however, I don’t want to compromise anything. I don’t want to be seen as someone, who does not understand where she is coming from or where she is headed. I think I will rather wait until the time is ripe and opportunity comes for me to do something that has class, meaning, and above all, educative; otherwise, I may just not be part of it.
I actually wanted to read Law. My exploits as a member of the debating society in school influenced my liking for law. I could convince people easily. I was capable of making you buy black for white. But my parents thought otherwise and they decided that I read theatre or mass communication. That was why I ended up in the Creative Arts Department of University of Lagos. I’m grateful for that parental decision, because today, everything that I know and that I have and I ever will have, is tied around the fact that they pushed me into the arts.
Why visual art and not acting
I did not know that I was anything into visual art. It was after my accident that I was forced to do what I was very used to in my early school, which was drawing and painting. I just realized that it was still there. But then again, I had a diploma in theatre arts from the University of Port Harcourt. Those of us who did that programme would affirm that it was very intense. It was like putting in four years.
Growing up in Port Harcourt
My growing up years were in Port Harcourt. I am not the only child of the family. Mummy is from Adamawa State and daddy is from Owerri, Imo State. I’m my mother’s first daughter. My father has a son, who is doing well in the police force. My father was with NEPA. I had my early education at the Army Children’s School, Port Harcourt and secondary education at the Federal Government Girl’s College, Benue State. It is very close to my mum’s place; Adamawa. So, it was easy for me to travel down there each time for holidays. However, work and demand of life made me relocate to Lagos and that was how I got into the University of Lagos to study visual arts.
Amaka Igwe & me
She was the first person I guess that auditioned me in Lagos. It was for Rattle Snake. But we didn’t shoot the film until I had done True Confession with Kenneth Nnebue. Shortly after, we shot the film and that was it. I would have done up to 30 movies but nothing more than that. Actually, at a time, I didn’t want to get involved in any production until I was sure how it was going to be marketed. There was no point working and not getting any return on investment. So, I acted in a few works, did a couple of stage plays such as Azagidi with Don Pedro Obaseki and then Hopes of the Living Dead with Ola Rotimi here at the National Theatre.
I think it was True Confession that did it for me. It threw me into limelight, but Domitila was very big. It was about the first street movie that was done then. At that time, our themes centred on love and rituals. But Domitila was a re-enactment of how people were sending their kids abroad for prostitution. To play Domitila, I had to travel to Edo State to learn how to speak their kind of Pidgin English. I also had to shed some weight and we had to hang out with prostitutes at popular joints in Lagos so as to understudy them. The only thing we didn’t do was to sleep with them in their brothels. It paid off. The publicity was massive and people rushed to the theatre to see the film. The Domitila name stuck. It has been very difficult to convince people that we are two different people. When I walk on the street and people call me Domitila, I don’t take offence. It actually makes me realize that the movie got down well with many people.
The unfortunate car crash
I had to be away for two years. It was almost impossible for me to work and afterwards, I had to do about five surgeries. It is not very okay to be a woman and not be able to earn money the way you want to and you are actually spending the ones you have. And I had people telling me sorry here and there and I didn’t find it funny. It was as if it was the end of it all for me. I found myself hiding from people that I knew, from fans and the media. Again, I was frustrated because everything I had in me literary wise, I could not bring out because of my condition. But well, the time is past. Thank God for friends that I had. I am here today and I know it can only be better.
Segun Arinze, me and all that noise
I actually thought I was going to die with all the noise people made about our break up. But then again, it made me understand that different people view situations differently. I’m the type of person who would go behind doors and cry and come out to the public and have a bold face. But he (Segun Arinze) was the kind of person who would come out and tell you how bitter he felt not minding who was listening and laughing in public. And of course, the media rode on that. Today, we are friends. If there is anything we regret, it was the fact that it got as public as it did.
Gains of the profession
Yes, it has been very rewarding. There is always room to grow. But I would not lie. There was a time in my life, when I thought I was in a wrong profession. The jobs were not coming but my father told me that the time would come. For the arts, it is just time. For God, he turns the table around for you at the appropriate time. I had to look inside of me and I realised that inside of me is a lady of many parts — a painter, writer, producer, actress and dancer. What I like about my job is that I enjoy it. While I’m working, I am catching fun. I think the point for me when it looked, as though I wanted to explode was when I got a letter from the National Troupe as a staff. I considered it another ground to grow.
When I was growing up, I looked up to people like Barbara Soky. Then there was Sadiq Daba and the like of Bongos Ikwue in music and then Onyeka Onwenu and Christie Essien Igbokwe. I saw these people as my hero and as success stories that I could learn from. As for past time, I still do my paintings now and again and I give them out to art galleries. I also find time to write. I have a column I write for High Society magazine. It is called True Fame Blues.
I hope that someday, I will be an authority in this industry. I hope that someday mediocrity and lack of intelligence as far as arts is concerned in the Nigerian circle would have reduced and I would be part of the people who would help to reduce it so that parents could be proud to have their children in the arts. That is my dream.
As for marriage, everyday, I pray and hope that I find love. But years of experience have taught me to be very careful and to thread with caution. I just want to be able to excel for as much as I want, and if eventually, I have a man in my life, who says he adores the ground I walk on and is proud of me for my intellect and he is proud of me for my strength, and for the fact that I have been a single mother and I understand what it is to be one, so be it.
Around and about Nollywood...
Afolayan’s The Figurine, puts Nigeria on the International map
ON January 28, Kunle Afolayan’s The Figurine will be screened at the Rotterdam Film Festival (International Film Festival of Rotterdam in the Netherlands). One of the five major film festivals in Europe, it is the first time that a Nigerian film has been invited to show. “The film made it there purely on merit. It was by official selection and not nominated by an agency,” said Afolayan. “The entries had even closed before they called me. They want the film at all costs and they are excited to see The Figurine.” Afolayan said efforts aimed at getting government’s support for the have not yielded results. At the Abuja premiere of the film, the Minister of Information and Communications, Prof Dora Akunyili, pledged assistance for all its international screenings. The film festival, which has a history of being favourable to independent filmmakers, a category in which Afolayan falls, provides opportunity for networking among filmmakers. There are also chances for industry screenings as well at the festival. In the second week of February, Afolayan will also be at the Berlinale Film Festival, Berlin, Germany, to show the film. In the festival, he will be sitting on a panel with two other notable filmmakers from Africa, Oliver Hermanus of South Africa and Caroline Kamya of Uganda. They will discuss the state of African cinema. Dorothy Wenner will moderate the session. On February 25, the film will be showing at the Smithsonian National Museum of Arts in Washington. In April, he will be at the African Film Festival in New York for another premiere. The New York premiere is coming after London’s, an occasion that witnessed huge turnout of people when it held recently. At the first appearance at the Silverbird Cinemas, the film had a turnover of N15 million, an unprecedented sum for any Nigerian film ever shown there. Afolayan said, “the challenge is to stay creative and make good films. It is not getting into my head yet. With all the successes recorded by Irapada, it didn’t get into my head.” He added, “there is a collection of academic essays on The Figurine being written by some professors in Nigeria and abroad.”
Zuma Film Festival holds May 2010
ALL is now set for the hosting of the 5th edition of the biennial ZUMA Film Festival organised by the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC), scheduled to take place in Abuja from May 2 to 6, 2010. Call for entries opens on December 1, 2009 and closes February 28, 2010. The theme for this year’s edition is Global Images Global Voices, which according to the organisers, seek to consolidate on the gains of previous editions. Interested participants can make enquiries by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Similarly, entry forms can be obtained and returned to any of the Corporations offices in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Jos.
March date for Fribourg International Film Festival
THE organisers of 24th Fribourg International Film Festival (FIFF) have begun accreditation of international filmmakers to the festival, which holds in Fribourg, Switzerland, from March 13 to 20. Since its foundation, the festival has committed itself to the promotion of cultural diversity. Its programme features essentially work from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Each year, the festival plays host to a hundred or so national and international premieres. Today, the FIFF carries the reputation of an unparalleled platform for creative and cultural exchanges; furthermore, the event distinguishes itself as a Mecca of cinematographic discoveries. It enjoys an excellent international reputation, and is also recognized as a national reference. The artistic director of the FIFF is Edouard Waintrop, a former film critic for Libération. The competition section of the festival introduces around 12 feature films and documentaries completed during the year preceding the current festival, and which have not yet been screened in Switzerland or in Europe. The Grand Prize carries a CHF 30’000 reward. There is also the Panoramas, Retrospectives and Short Films. In that section, the thematic programmes featuring five to 18 films are compiled by the artistic director or film specialists. These films approach and discuss current trends, question established genres, reveal uncharted episodes of film history and pay tribute to personalities of outstanding merit. The short film programmes present the work of young contemporary filmmakers. The forum@fiff platform is dedicated to film professionals and hosts conferences, debates and encounters that promote the exchange of experiences, deepening of knowledge and networking in general. Filmmakers can get additional information on the festival at www.fiff.ch.
Producer- Amebo A. Amebo
Director- Mr. Gossip
Actors- Nollywood Celebrities
This is for Nollywood Mugabe
THE waka pass, who sold this gist to us for a recharge card, did so with a caveat, that we must name names. Anyway the gist is that, they said that Nollywood is brewing a Mugabe and that if care is not taken, the person in question may even walk into history books as the longest serving ‘president’ of the world. The waka pass said the person is president of one of the associations (dem no say whether na man or woman) and that the person has refused to vacate office almost 10 years after. She continued, it doesn’t look as though the person is ready to relinquish power because of the attention he or her gets and the fact that anything that is good for association or guild heads is also good for him or her. The waka pass said if that fails, they would not need any ‘letter of transmittal’ as Nigeria needs for he or her deputy to take over. Who the Mugabe be? Na for my mouth you wan hear say sister Uche Jombo don change her motor on the back of her run-away success ‘Nollywood Hustlers’. True, e be like say, e pay to be producer and actress at the same time.
Ladi Joy Tortey is not back yet
SLIM beauty and one of Nollywood fast rising actresses, Ladi Joy Tortey, is back in London. The Kaduna State-born actress and an alumnus of the University of Jos, whose other love after acting is swimming was in London late last year to receive an award at the ZAFAA 2009. But this time, Ladi told one waka pass who is close to another waka pass that we know that she is in London, to improve herself. One waka pass thought she meant that she went for ‘body tuck’, (that is, the senior brother of that tummy tuck that killed someone we all know) and so wondered what is there to tuck again on Ladi when Baba God has already done the tucking. It was later that we gathered from a close source that her trip to London has nothing to do with ‘tucking’; rather, it had to do with a search for a learning platform. Meaning that; Ladi aka Snake Girl (that alias stuck after she played lead in a film titled Snake Girl) go find school wey she go enter for London to better her acting’. Ehee, na now matter clear. Anyway Ladi, abeg halla us when you return because seeing is believing. Some waka pass still think say there is more to the London trip considering say na London na him Shan George and Co waka go in search of learning platform wey dem bring runaway husbands come back. We no know book ooo….but until we see you, our one plus one equal two! To God Be the Glory.