THIS appears to be the time for brain to prevail over brawn in Nigeria’s film industry (Nollywood). At least, pointers from the biggest hub Nollywood, Lagos hint of the emergence of pacifist tendencies against the hitherto era of punches, swords and hot words.
In recent years, the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) has been a theatre of all sorts of tension. From a series of internal crisis – leadership tussle, actors fighting one another – to poor financing and heated pre-election politicking. But the newly elected chairman of AGN, Lagos State chapter, Mr. Emeka Rising-Ibeh raises hope that all those issues will soon recede to history.
Elected, last month, Ibeh said he will commit his reign to stopping all the bickering and reconciling all parties. To this effect, he has already hosted a meeting in which all players in the industry met to draw an agenda for moving the guild forward in Lagos. In attendance were the vice chairman AGN South West, Hakeem Rahman and such frontline Nollywood acts as Fred Amata, Keppy Ekpenyong-Bassey, Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen among others.
Addressing the media at the event, the tall and muscular actor fondly called Rising, who played a sub lead role in the popular film, Isakaba, said his goal is to unite all vexed factions in the industry. The new AGN, Lagos helmsman, who succeeded, Ernest Asuzu, identified incessant bickering over trivia as the main bane of growth in, not only the actor’s fold, but the entire Nollywood.
Explaining to the media, after, he said: “I want to carry everyone along. That is why I invited them here today so that we can intimate them with our vision and mission and forge a common mission to move AGN forward.”
Held at Dechills Hind Restaurant and Bar, Adeniran Ogunsanya Street Surulere, Lagos last Saturday night the forum ended with members of the industry praising Rising for the initiative, and pledging to work with him to give the guild a new lease of life.
Actress, Adora Ukoh who could not hide her joy on the development expressed her happiness thus: “I am happy with Rising for this initiative by calling on us to talk on how we can move the guild forward. With just few weeks that he is elected he has been able to achieve this.”
The event also presented operators a platform to appraise the current state of Nollywood, highlighting its triumphs and challenges.
Popular film director, Imasuen disclosed that it was the first time of his being officially invited to attend an AGN meeting in his 16-year-operation in Nollywood. “They called me. They sent me an SMS, I deleted it. Then I got a phone call from Rising, and I told him that I will be here. Health wise, I would not have come, I actually collapsed this afternoon while looking for money. If it is the same way that people like Dangote and others went to make money, they would have died, long ago,” he cracked.
Continuing, on a more serious note, Imasuen reasoned that Nollywood’s problem is not necessarily the operators’ ego but the absence of clear institutional foundations and well documented history.
Asked to explain further, he retorted: “Is this the much that we can do?” And replied himself by noting that how the industry is doing so far is far from it’s potentials.
The Edo state born actor and film maker reasoned that the film industry is ailing from the same disease that afflicts the larger Nigeria and went ahead, on that thrust to lampoon the sector and the way the country threats it.
His words: “What is affecting us in this film industry is the issue of no history. We don’t have history. When you have records, you have history. Where there’s no history, there’s no record. The problem with Nigeria is the fact that there is no history. When Pa Anthony Enahoro died, people were saying that this was the man that moved for Nigeria’s independence. Three days before he died, no body was aware. This attitude is creepping into various aspect of our society.
“One of the greatest African living, called me recently, he said I should come and make a film on him, before he dies, that he wants to tell me some truth.
“Only two persons keep truth in the society. They are the pressmen and film makers. If truth cannot come from these people, then truth is lost. I want to thank the pressmen, they are the pioneer of the industry. The industry that we are celebrating today, it is the press people that started taking time to report the film industry. When you are looking for stars of ‘yesteryears’, go and look for articles in the papers, you will get them. As an institution, we have not been able to put down our history. This is the only profession where everybody is the same. Those who came yesterday, those that have been there, we are all stars. And our pressmen will help to promote them by giving them captions like, “screen diva,” “screen goddess,” “the Sango of the Nigeria film industry,” and all that.”
Imasuen, who is very bitter with the way the industry is going bemoaned the dearth of creativity. “People called me, telling me that I should make them stars, that is what discouraged me from making films in Lagos. I now make films in my village. Raising authentic stars. When they see scripts they will understand, they will deliver it the way it should be. In foreign countries, they have watched Nigerian films to the extent that they know the names of location drivers. But what have we made out of that?
Some of us think we are just joking with our films. Nobody has paused to ponder how America became a super power. But think about this: we watch films to see only one American man kill everybody. We are bound to believe it. That is the strength of the motion picture.
“We (actors) are the mirrors of the society. We must let our attitudes come out in our works. Everybody that the industry has given prominence must be card-carrying member of this guild (AGN). If not for the industry, they would have been moving on the street without focus. No single individual that is called to participate is bigger than this industry. For instance, a house cannot be bigger than the owner. The onus of giving strength to this industry lays on the actors. But it is the absence of that understanding that is keeping this industry prostrate. If actors are working together, the industry would be strong and would have one voice. For instance, If a film producer needs actor ‘A’ and he refuses. He goes to actor ‘B’ and refuses. The producer will go and look for what is wrong. But what do we have now? The artistes that is supposed to be the mirror of the society will now join with dubious film makers to cheat the viewer. We rob them, turning one story from Part One to Part Eight, all because some people have lost creativity and sense of reality. They cannot create. Yet we who can, join them to ruin our art.”
Imasuen, known in the industry as ‘De Guvnor’ claimed that the sharp practices now encourage amature operators from outside Nigeria to come into the country and steal the show. Sometimes, living the impression that they know the art more than the people in Nollywood. But what piques him more is that some people who cast themselves as experts, entertainment patrons and sectoral buffs will go about touting the so-called death of Nollywood. Hence, encouraging inerthia in investors and the influx of even far lower-quality works from the diaspora – once the films bear foreign tags.
“A girl brought her student-film from America and pulled N48 million from the cinemas – the industry that people said it has died! So many people around the world have seen films like Isakaba. Experts who know what that means wonder if it is people that acted the films. Because such popularity should have rubbed-off on their finances and well being. But you can’t see that around. Yet only a single film came into the theatre , about a month or two ago, and raked in N48 million. It is on record. And we are not seeing that as what to go for. Rather, we are busy fighting one another for positions. It is so bad. By now, AGN should have owned a mansion called Actor’s House,” lamented Imasuen who started in Nollywood in the mid1990s as an actor before advancing into the realm of directing where he had won several local and international awards.