Adonijah Owiriwa is a mechanical engineer, who delved into acting and movie production. He spoke to Reporter, Ovwe Medeme, on his first attempt at production, his upcoming movie, as well as his passion and profession.
How was the response to Nnenda?
It was very good. The main reason for the Nnenda story was the orphanage awareness campaign. We launched an orphanage awareness campaign and it has yielded a lot of positive results, especially in Port Harcourt. There was an orphanage that was marked for demolition but because of the campaign and the pressure that we put on government through the media, government finally paid some money to the orphanage. The owner was able to buy about 20 plots of land somewhere else and we are presently trying to source for funds to develop the place.
Is there a particular reason you picked orphans as a theme to address?
There is no particular reason. A lot of people ask me if I am an orphan but I am not. It is true that I lost my father at a very tender age but I still have my mother. She is still very much alive and strong so I am not an orphan but I reckoned that you really cannot build a strong and viable society if we neglect the less privileged, especially orphans. If they are neglected, the much-needed development that we all crave for might not come because by neglecting them, we will be allowing dissidents to also grow up in our midst. I also think that it is every person’s social responsibility to care for the less privileged. All fingers are not equal, we cannot all be at par with each other. Except Christ comes, there will always be the less privileged among us. It dates back to as far as any human can remember. It is our social responsibility to care for orphans so I decided to take that a little seriously and I decided to see how others can tap into my ideas. It is bad enough that they are orphans but when we add neglect to their plight, it makes it even more difficult to bear.
During the cause of the campaigns, what peculiar findings did you make?
The campaign began because I started something that I would like to address. That thing that I like to address is the negligence of the greater population. People just don’t care and they don’t see it as anything that will attract their serious attention. That is why I put the tag line, ‘When Last Did You Visit An Orphanage?’ as part of my campaign. I reckon that people don’t visit orphanages and that is what I decided to address. Nobody wants to visit an orphanage without taking gifts there but besides the money, people should know that they can also offer moral support. When you go out there to sit with the kids, talk with them and inspire them, you turn out to be a role model to them. Some of them will want to grow up to be like you. That alone is enough contribution. I took a survey of a cross section of people in Port Harcourt and I discovered that over 80 per cent of the people have never visited an orphanage all their life. That was the issue I set out to address. I wanted that issue or orphans and orphanages to be brought to the fore so that people will see that it is important to address the issue.
What did it take to produce Nnenda?
It took time, effort and a lot of money because we didn’t want to compromise on quality. We particularly requested for a special script because of the technicality of the issue we want to address. We had about 60 different scripts and only one of them caught my attention. We had five different script conferences, where we deliberated with the scriptwriters to see where the scripts are going so as to steer them towards our direction. We had five of that just to bring out the story the way it turned out to be. I added my personal touch and input.
What did you consider when casting for the movie?
Stephanie Okereke actually delayed the movie for about three months. I told the director that it is either Stephanie takes the role or nobody else does. At that time, she was doing something in the United States so we decided to wait for her. Stephanie is a person that I feel exhibits the kind of emotion that I want to see in that movie. We also had Ramsey Nouah, our old faithful who actually played his role well. Van Vicker was also on hand to spice up the movie. In fact, this movie is the first that starred Ramsey Nouah and Van Vicker in the same scene. They have starred in the same movie in the past but they had never met in a scene and Nnenda provided that platform for both of them to act side by side. We really took time to make sure that the cast is perfect for what we wanted.
How would you describe the role you played in the flick?
Mine was a small role so I just decided to pick it up. I played what we call ‘waka pass’ role in our local parlance. I decided to take on the role to see what comes out of it. What I do with entertainment is basically passion. I trained and work as an engineer but acting is my passion, that is why I took on the role.
How would you rate the success of the movie?
It was my first attempt at acting and also the first movie I produced. We also went ahead to win an award at the ION International Film Festival and we picked up three nominations at the forthcoming AMAA (African Movie Academy Award). Stephanie is nominated for Best Actress and Francis Duru in the Best Supporting Actor category for his role and the movie too had its nomination.
As your first attempt as an actor, how would you describe the experience?
For me, it was like a vacation because we camped at Abuja for 38 days. It was a 38-day, nonstop marathon shoot. It was beautiful because I was around for about 20 days because I took a vacation and I spent the time to appear in the movie. It was beautiful and different from working as an engineer. Acting is a passion I have always had at the back of my mind.
With the response to Nnenda, would you say you achieved what you set out to?
I achieved even more than I would say I set out to achieve. The greatest achievement for me is the fact that Nnenda afforded me the opportunity to launch a nationwide awareness campaign. There is also a positive result we got especially in Port Harcourt because the orphanages have all testified that they now enjoy more visits than before. They say that people are a little more generous now. That for me is the greatest achievement. The awards and nominations are a plus. It makes me happy
What is the idea behind your upcoming movie, Kajola?
Kajola is actually the first computer-generated image movie in Africa. As I speak, we are done with post production. It took us 18 months to do the post production alone. It is the first sci-fi action movie in Africa. We are done with it and hopefully we will premiere it at the end of April. We have to choose the premiere date in conjunction with our sponsors. Because of what we did with Nnenda, it was easy for us to get sponsors for Kajola. We are done with editing and we are ready to reel it. We will be holding the premiere in Abuja at the Silverbird Cinema. Also, we will be releasing the movie all over Africa at the same time. That way, the day we premiere it at Abuja, that same day, all movie theatres across the continent will start showing it. It will be a Pan African movie release. It will be the first Nigerian movie to be released on that platform.
What brought about these ideas of a sci-fi movie and a Pan African release?
It is high time the Nigeria movie industry starts doing things differently. Nollywood has been great. Nobody can badmouth Nollywood because the industry has done well for itself. We have come this far in Nollywood, but the point is that we have been on the same level for a long time. We just have to move forward by doing things a little differently. We need to start doing movies that will give us an international appeal. We turn out movies in large quantity so we have decided to start looking at quality. We are trying to deemphasise quantity and emphasise quality.
Do you think a sci-fi movie will be accepted in our society?
Of course it will be accepted. Everybody that has seen the preview was impressed. We all watch western movies and we enjoy them. We saw 2012; Avatar and other such movies and we liked them, why can’t we appreciate our own? I know Nigeria is definitely ready for Kajola.
Who is Adonaija Owiriwa?
I am married with Kids. I am a mechanical engineer, who grew up in Port Harcourt