THE scene is just too real. Strapped onto a delivery bed in the labour room, Genevieve Nnaji fills the space with moaning, her small pretty face moving from left to right in pains. She gets an occasional ‘push… we are nearly there’ from the dutiful medical director, Kate Henshaw-Nuttal, who is Genny’s confidant. A man with unkempt beards — Benjamin Johnson — barges in to identify himself as Genny’s husband. He is allowed to be bathed in the pain of delivery.
Anxiety fills the air. Soon… the baby is delivered and a loud scream, Cut! came from Mahmood Ali-Balogun, who is outside. He is calling the shot and has been watching proceedings in the labour room from a monitor that is some metres away from a production console manned by Dennis Patrick, the film’s script supervisor. Patrick is one of the five-man crewmember that Ali-Balogun (MAB) sourced from the United States for the shoot that spanned nearly 10 weeks. Others are Keith Holland, who functioned as Director of Photography; Que Edwards, who handled camera; Kelly Freeman who worked as loader; and Toi Whitaker; production designer. Oh, well the reverie inside the labour room tragically ends. But it is only a movie; in fact Mahmood Ali-Balogun’s 35 mm film Tango with Me, the stock heading to Dubai anytime soon for post production. The adorable Genevieve is in the film as a lead character. The actress is playing alongside quality hands such as Joke Silva, Ahmed Yerima and Alex Osifo-Omiagbo. It is her second outing on celluloid and she speaks of the experience:
The Big Screen
Well, it’s my second time experiencing shooting on film and I am prepared for it. It has been easier for me than most, because I have had my own fair share of experience. I shot a movie in LA. It was actually premiered this November, but I didn’t go because I was busy with this one. It was a big premiere screened in Los Angeles. It starred Omotola Ekeinde and I, alongside members of the Screen Actors Guild of America. I enjoy working on the big screen because it has a level of professionalism and seriousness to it. You can’t waste time making mistakes and all that. Basically, not much of repeat takes. It is a good experience and the crew that has come in to do this particular project are pretty good, at what they are doing and we are all learning as well. All in all, it has been a good experience.
‘Quality’ in Nigerian film
I don’t think it is about shooting on celluloid per se. I am sure there are other types of cameras and devices that can be used that will guarantee better picture quality and sound. I don’t think it is about shooting on celluloid because I hear that some big time directors in Hollywood are opting for something else because of the huge cost of working on celluloid. I think it is about focusing on quality. That is what we need to do. We must improve and upgrade everything we do that is connected to film production from makeup to costumes, to lights and sound. We must try and be more professional about filmmaking and taking it as a serious business. It is no longer a joke. We have come a long way and we are still going ahead and so, we had better buckle up.
Attracted to the story of Tango with me
Well, I was attracted first of all to the script. It is a beautiful story, a story about love: the test of love and faith, particularly the Christian faith. I like the character. It is strong. It is what I call an actor’s movie. I just thought it was a good character for me and it was challenging enough and that was what I liked most about the script. That is the first thing that attracts me to any job.
Appearance in few movies
Yes, it is deliberate. Don’t worry; I get offers to be part in a lot of movies, but I think I have come and have got to the point, where I have to be careful of what I do. I am done shooting film just to be out there — just to have people watch me. Now, I have got to the point, where I have to shoot movies just for me. I have to enjoy what I am doing. I have to enjoy the story and I have to like the script, because that is my only reward. It is not all about the money, but the reward for me comes when I am in a good movie where I enjoy what I am doing. That is where I derive pleasure. But if I am unhappy with the script and the production in general, then I am unhappy with everything, and I will definitely not watch that particular movie of mine. By now, I would have done over 100, like may be 120 movies, but definitely not up to 200. Maybe I would have got to that number if I hadn’t started being picky about what I do and watching what I do. The fact that I am being more watchful has kept the number less than the 150 you projected.
Me and Oprah Winfrey
It was a huge honour, I was extremely humbled, I feel great and proud of myself that I was able to achieve that much. I am grateful to her and to all my fans that obviously made it possible for me to get this far, and to be recognised by the talk show diva herself. So, it is an experience, I will never forget and I am sure a lot of people won’t.
Tango with me will do well
I hope it does well. It is a good story. We have tried to shoot it the best way possible. I guess it is a story a lot of people would be able to identify with. The situation of rape in any society is something we need to really look into because a lot of women, who have passed through it hadly come out to speak about it and you can’t blame them. It is not something that people believe easily. I think everywoman has a right to say no, and you can’t play deaf and dumb at that time as a man because rape is rape. But it is a grave issue because at that point in time, you have taken away, a level of freedom and a level of innocence and dignity from a person, and it is not something you want to have on your conscience. I am glad that this is the topic we are dealing with in this film and I am happy to be a part of it.