Monday, 10 May 2010

Ubaka… Return of the ‘rejected stone’


HIS story is like that of the rejected stone, which ended up being in the head corner position. The filmmaker, JOSEPH UGOCHUKWU UBAKA, did all he could to be accepted as a filmmaker in the country, but no one gave him a chance. In frustration, the Enugu-born filmmaker, whose debut feature, Trapped Dream, received the special jury prize at the 29th edition of the African Cinema Festival in Verona, Italy, left for Senegal, where he was accepted. An actor, screenplay writer, director and producer, Ubaka was born and raised in Enugu. He had his secondary education at the National Grammar School, Nike, Enugu. It was while in school that he nursed the ambition of emerging a top entertainer. Ubaka sang, danced and acted and was a regular feature of the school and most off-school dramatic, music and literary events. But it was music that appealed to him the most. The tall, well built filmmaker wanted to become a successful rap musician in the mould of L.L Cool J. So far, the alumnus of the Berlin Talent Campus, who has worked extensively outside the shores of the country and received commendation abroad, speaks with Moviedom.

The AMAA 2010 nomination
Well, I am glad that the movie, Lilies in the Ghetto, made it to the very last round, which is the nomination stage. I understand that the academy received well over 500 films and for your work to get to that level and even get nominated means a lot. So, I am happy, though I was expecting that I would be nominated in the cinematography category. I think we did our best there but again, you can’t have it all and perspectives are different. I mean, I looked through the list and discovered that there were some quality jobs there. So, I look forward to a good outing at AMAA, and like I said, somewhere, there is no better recognition than the one from home.
Decision to become a musician
My elder brother won’t hear of it. He hollered all day and told everyone how I wanted to end up on the streets. And true, at that time, those who were musicians were not taken seriously even by the society. It was just like football then. Today, everyone is encouraging his or her ward to either be a musician or a footballer. Way back then, it was looked down upon. So, my elder brother objected and I had no option than to obey.
Living in Bondage inspired me
So, when it was time to choose a course of study upon admission, I finally applied to study Political Science at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. But that decision didn’t keep me away from the arts. As I took classes in Political Science, I wrote scripts and sought acting opportunities. It took the success of the phenomenal Living in Bondage -- a film that is believed to have spurred interest in home video production -- for me to rediscover my love for the arts. It rekindled my interest in the arts. It got me thinking seriously about filmmaking as a career. That was when all those things I did during my early school days came in handy.
I wrote my first film script in my second year
By the second year into study, I had a script ready. That was when I wrote my first feature screenplay titled End of the Road that has not yet been produced. The story treats the highest level of cultism in our higher institution of learning. It was my own way of campaigning against the vice. But I couldn’t get anyone to breathe life into the script. So it remained with me until I left Zaria with a degree in Political Science.
No one gave me a chance in Nollywood
Upon graduation, I left for Lagos. To be relevant and to have your art aired, Lagos was the place to be. I looked out for acting and or scriptwriting opportunities but no one wanted to give me a chance. I was not known enough to pen a script to be produced or not a selling face for a movie role. Once, I had a nasty encounter with a notable producer, who in spite of the quality of my proposal, blatantly refused to understand my vision and passion for cinema. I had gone to see a so-called executive film producer in Nigeria, who had not gone to university, let alone, attending any film school; he talked me down, without knowing what I could offer. He said I was good enough to play waka pass (extra) and that I should forget about talking to him about script writing or any other thing about filmmaking. It was so devastating. I was tired of everything and I thought the best way out of it was to go train and return.
I got a break in Senegal
A year after, some Pan African filmmakers, who are resident in Dakar, Senegal, and I, created a legal film association called Filmi Gët (atelier des recherché cinématographiques). This was in 1999. It was the same year that Filmi Gët, in collaboration with Forut Media Centre de Dakar, produced our documentary fiction titled Ganaw Keur. I worked as assistant director on the set of the documentary that was selected at the festival d’ film d’Amien. In 2000, I got directing and co-production credit. That was when I directed and co-produced my first short written fiction film titled Jungle Justice, in collaboration with Bureau Pan African Communication, Media Centre de Dakar and Filmi Gët. My long stay in Senegal paid off when in 2003, I was among 12 young filmmakers that were sponsored to receive filmmaking training program at the Media Centre de Dakar, under the Tutorship of Fred Rendina, an America-trained filmmaker, who has worked with HBO television station. A year later, I was in Germany on the bill of TV5, a France based Television station. I was sent to Berlin to receive training at the Berlin Talent Campus, a major skill acquisition programme of the Berlin International Film Festival. I returned from Germany and made it straight to France for an exchange programme on filmmaking in Lile, France, under the sponsorship of Masion Jeune de la culture (MJC), Valencia, Spain. My turning point as a cinematographer came in 2003. That was when I directed and co produced my first documentary film project titled L’homme D’ Gardio in collaboration with Filmi Gët and PeriPlan International Africa Film Festival in Lile, France. It was my first time experience as a cinematographer. In 2005, I signed an international co production deal for my first fiction film titled Europe by Road. The film was released in April 2008. The film came two years after I directed and co- produced my third short fiction film titled Hearth Break in collaboration with Filmi Gët and Media Centre de Dakar.
Trapped dream is my word to African Youths
My award winning Trapped Dream is a call to African youths to have a rethink as the future of Africa lies in their hands. Since the 1930s, the dream of African youths is to migrate to the western world in search of greener pasture or fabled Golden Fleece. This dream, over the past two decades has unfortunately taken a dangerous and frightful dimension. So I want them to see and learn from the movie that there is no easy life anywhere. The future of Africa lies in their hands and they have a duty to salvage it and make it a better place for everybody and generations yet unborn. Individual families, organisations and governmental agencies, too have fundamental roles to play in reversing this ugly sore festering the youths.
I look forward to doing something here
Now back home, I look forward to working on home soil. I am open to collaborations. And I am willing to contribute my quota to the growth of the development of the industry. And you see Nollywood will rise again. It is only going through a phase that other industries have gone through. It will come out of its present distressed state. I know that for sure and I hold strongly that filmmaking is a serious professional business not all comers’ affair, so there is still hope for Nollywood.

Around and about Nollywood...

CFC showcases films n Switzerland

COMMUNICATING For Change (CFC), the non-governmental organisation that has since 1998 being in the forefront of raising awareness of environmental and social issues, was invited by CARITAS, the African Mirror Foundation, Nigerian in Diaspora Organization Europe, the Swiss African Forum, and the Afro-European Medical and Research Network to present their films on female genital mutilation (Uncut! Playing with Life), democracy and good governance (Film Democratic), and HIV & AIDS (Bayelsan Silhouettes). The films, according to information contained in the e-newsletter of the organisation, was presented to a diverse audience of stakeholders in Bern, Switzerland. CFC’s Executive Director, Sandra Mbanefo Obiago, gave a presentation on how media can positively impact development by showing excerpts of CFC’s films and sharing lessons learned and research findings from national behavior change campaigns in Nigeria. A lively discussion ensued regarding the need to address harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM), within migrant communities in Europe, the need to ensure open dialogue and collaboration between experienced development groups in Europe and Africa, and the need to keep up the pressure in calling for anti-FGM national legislation in Nigeria. The audience commended CFC for projecting a balanced, homegrown view of local development challenges to a global community by producing films that portray issues from a positive standpoint.

Gyang, CFC partner is Producer of the Year
THE CFC, through its e-newsletter, has announced that one of its partners and talented writer, producer and director Kenneth Gyang was awarded Screen Producer of the Year 2010 by the prestigious Future Awards, at a ceremony recently held in Lagos. Kenneth has worked with CFC on various projects, including co-Directing CFC’s Democracy and Good Governance films with Tunde Kelani in 2006, whilst completing his films studies at the National Film Institute (NFI) in Jos. Kenneth also worked on CFC’s Bayelsan Silhouettes film series as an Associate Producer in 2007 to 2008, and most recently directed one of CFC’s latest films on Nollywood, as part of the Red Hot! Nigeria’s Creative Economy series, which will be launched this year. “I have huge confidence in the quality of my work so it was great to receive the award”, Kenneth said after being named Screen Producer of the Year. ‘Since 2006, when I crossed paths with CFC, I have been grateful for the team’s encouragement and support, which has helped me to develop my skills and progress in my career.’ ‘Kenneth is one of Nigeria’s most talented young filmmakers’, commented Sandra Obiago, Executive Director, CFC, upon hearing of his award. ‘We are very proud of his achievement and believe that empowering youth like Kenneth has enriched the Nigerian media landscape and given an important voice to our creative youth to tell their own stories.’ Besides partnering with CFC, Kenneth has also worked with the Goethe Institut, the BBC World Service Trust, the Society for Family Health (SFH) and Johns Hopkins University, USA, and is currently working on his first feature film, Confusion Na Wa.

...And Innovating for Africa gets AMAA nomination
INNOVATING for Africa, the 22-minute documentary from the stable of Communicating for Change on Dr. Oluyombo Awojobi, who built a clinic from scratch with no government assistance and external funding, is on the nomination list of the 2010 African Movie Academy Award dubbed AMAA 2010. The documentary, as directed by Deji Adesanya, is in contention with four other documentaries – Wamba Ngoma from Tanzania, Peace Wanted Alive from Kenya, Bariga Boys from Nigeria and En quette d’identite from Burkina Faso. The documentary — uncommon service tells the remarkable story of Dr. Awojobi, who has served over a hundred thousand Nigerians in an area (Eruwa in Ogun State, South West Nigeria) where access to quality healthcare facilities and equipment is scarce. The AMAA award proper comes up on April 10 at the Glory Land Cultural Centre, Yenegoa, Bayelsa State.

It’s 71 entries in all for Zuma 2010
THE Nigerian Film Corporation has announced the receipt of 71 entries for all categories of the film festival at close of submission of entries.
Entries closed on February 28, 2010. A statement from the secretariat of ZUMA Film Festival (ZFF) 2010, which is in its fifth (5th Edition) indicates that the quality of entries received are encouraging going by the timely response by both Nigerians and foreign filmmakers to participate in the festival. A breakdown shows that of the 71 entries, Nigerian filmmakers account for 51 while 20 are foreign. The number of potential exhibitors for the film market of the festival, the statement added, is also encouraging as everything is being done to ensure that it is a success. The 2010 edition has Global Images: Global Voices, as its theme and it seeks to strengthen the bridging of existing gabs between developed and developing film cultures. The focus on the Global nature and impact of film as a medium of expression is to encourage filmmakers and film making nations to undertake the globalization of their films without losing the rhythm and practices that make each artistic culture distinctively different. ZUMA Film Festival (ZFF) 2010 holds at the Nicon Luxury Hotels, Abuja from May 2 to 6.

Waka pass…

Producer- Amebo A. Amebo
Director- Mr. Gossip
Actors- Nollywood Celebrities

Chioma Chukwukah Akpotha’s watching her weight
WE have not seen leading Nollywood actress and Glo Ambassador, Chioma Chukwukah Akpotha, lately. One waka pass, who attended a presentation ceremony organised by Glo recently in Lagos, said the actress looked so trimmed that it would be hard for anyone to tell that she had ‘downloaded’ twice. In fact, we were told that the AMAA 2007 best actress in a leading role appeared in a size ‘small’ polo as against the size ‘extra large’ observers think she should be wearing based on the fact that she had visited maternity ward twice. True, waka pass was told that the Chioma that attended the presentation ceremony that day was looking as kinky as the Chioma that oga Akpotha married about four years ago. Nne, you may have to give ladies of your type a talk on how to look trim fit like you oooo. We don’t want to mention names, but I think people like … and ... will benefit a great deal from the secrets of your kinky look. We are sorting out issues of venue and date. But you can call us, as we will need your abstract for pre-workshop publicty. Nne, am sure you still have our numbers. Try the MTN or our NITEL line if you can’t reach us on Glo.

Segun Arinze is Omoni Oboli’s biggest fan
LEADING Nollywood actress, Omoni Oboli, should count herself lucky that she has a huge fan in the deep actor and President of the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) Segun Arinze. The singer, voice over artiste and actor, whose real names are Segun Aina Padonu, admires Omoni acting abilities greatly. Or what else would make an actor, who should be concerned that he didn’t get a nomination or mention, call the secretariat of AMAA 2010 to find out why Omoni did not get a nomination in the leading actress category? In fact, the waka pass, who sold this gist to us, hinted that presido was on phone for several minutes on the matter. The only reason he advanced was that Omoni ought to be nominated since the movie, Figurine, was nominated in the best film and best directing categories and even Ramsey Nouah that sparred with her got a nomination. Anyway, we were told that he hung up when he was asked to see the other movies in contention and compare Omoni’s performance with those in nomination. We gathered that Presido laughed out loud when he was told by another waka pass, who saw the movie that the only time Omoni was prominent in the film was when she started ‘fighting Figurine’ and after that she slept for the better part of the film until the point she opened her eyes at the end of the film’. They said Presido was just answering ‘hum, hum’ meaning that himself fit never see the film wey him dey do lawyer on top so’. Not to we talk am ooo. But like dem dey say here:

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