You can be forgiven if at first glance, you think Onyeka Nwelue is a Rastafarian. He looks like one, no thanks to his dreads and lanky frame. At present though, this 22-year old -who is probably about to make history as the youngest film director in all of Africa- is, like rapper Terry tha Rapman says, is not smiling! Well, why should he? As director of a soon-to-be shot movie, The Distant Light, he is angered that the movie industry has been neglected for so long by everyone else. This, he says, is precisely why good movies are scarce in Nollwood, the nation’s so-christened movie industry.

I ask what in his opinion, is a good movie. His reply. “I may end up sounding like an intelligent man but good movies are those movies that you see and want to see again and again; even when you know how the movie ended the first time you saw it. One is The Great Debaters, and then I know that a lot of people loved Hotel Rwanda.” Hmmm, this lad is really intelligent.

So, what is The Distant Light about? It is a movie centred around Ogbuide the Lake Goddess of Oguta in Imo State. I try not to shudder in fear (am I not a full-blooded Niger-Deltan after all?). What camera will he be using? Is he shooting on celluloid? I’m told it’ll be a secret so I should expect the unexpected.

Most Nollywood movies are shot in three days. This filmmaker wants the shooting of his movie to take as long as possible to come out best. He says passionately: “From December 1st, I will start work fully on my film. It will take up enough time. This is my life.” This is one of the movie’s many stand-out qualities. For the first time ever, there is a movie blog for a Nigerian movie and rumours about a Wikipedia page for the movie. What other unique things does this entire movie project bring along? “No!”, he corrects me, “I don’t think this is the first. Kunle Afolayan had done all that. I’m a great fan of Kunle. I want to beat him hands down and he’s already giving me tips. He is the best. Like I met a Nollywood film director who said he doesn’t talk about his project until he’s done. Me, I don’t understand how that works for me. I mean, what is publicity when you can’t use it? How intelligent does that sound? There are a lot of things we need to start learning in Nollywood. We need to embrace new concepts, but basically these are old concepts they use in Hollywood. We need to change the way we operate in Nollywood. We need to see filmmaking as something special.” But if we need to see filmmaking as special, why are Chinwe Owoh, OC Ukeje and David Nnnaji the only known stars in this movie’s cast? Why is he using an almost entirely rookie crew? “Rookie crew?”, he gasps, “my crew is not a rookie crew! My cast is not even. If you don’t know them doesn’t mean people don’t know them or that they are novices when it comes to acting. I see that is where you are coming from, abi?” I surrender at this point. Its my life for his views.

The Figurine. Ije. Inale. Anchor Baby. So far, so good, these movies have taken the industry by storm and it seems they will leave a lasting imprint on Nigerians. What will his movie aim to do in this regard? Will it surpass their standards? “The Figurine is a movie I keep telling people to see. Ije I loved. Inale, well, I wasn’t particularly impressed. Anchor Baby, I haven’t seen, but knowing Omoni Oboli well and what she can do, I believe it is a hit. But, I have another dimension I’m coming from and I know that The Distant Light will set a newer and better standard.” A prophecy? No. It’s a fact, he asserts. Whoo! My anticipation levels have sky-rocketed. This movie had better come out soon!

A movie like this doesn’t seem fit for Alaba and Upper Iweka shops. The cinema seems more like it. What are his plans for that? “I don’t have any plans for any Alaba or Upper Iweka people”, he says. He then shoots. “I believe they will understand where I’m coming from, because I’ve never understood why they do what they do.”

Quite mischievously, I ask how he got funds for the movie shoot; I want to know how many banks he robbed. His reply makes you want to cry. “I have been begging people and groveling at people’s feet, kissing arses, begging politicians (who will never help) and sending our proposals that nobody responds to. I have been haggling Africa Film Academy and I have a lovely cousin I wish I could use juju on to make him release all the money he has to invest in this film. I am going through a lot, because of this, but I’m yet to rob a bank.” I feel his pain. If only there was such a book as How To Make A Movie Without Tears!

A recently released Nollywood movie, Dirty Secrets raised dust in some circles with its nude scenes. Will his movie be as controversial? The Distant Light will be daringly unsentimental, he declares. Nwelue believes that every scene in every movie should be relevant to the story. He says, ” Every scene in every movie should be relevant to the story. Nudity in movies should be done for reasons. So, if you come across such in my film, then you should try to understand why it is there.”

Mr. Nwelue is a known fan of India. So I ask if there will be semblances of Bollywood in the movie. Pretty girls, flowers and dancing to make the eyes of we Nigerian men widen, y’know? “Ah, let’s see how that goes! I’m not sure it’s a Bollywood thing only,” he says. “I’m sure most Bollywood films end up looking like musicals. But that is the joy of it.”

Great movies usually follow up with sequels. Since we’re anticipating a great one, is it okay to start salivating for a sequel? His answer is a vague one-liner. Let’s see how that goes too!

Word on the block is that his novel, The Abyssinian Boy is to be made into a movie sometime next year. He confirms this. “Lasse Lau has indicated interest since March last year and we already sent out contracts and all whatnot, but I don’t know what is happening now!”

He is only 22! Now, why isn’t this young man clubbing like his peers or in school? His reply is a bombshell a la Boko Haram style. “I club like my peers, but immediately I was diagnosed of Bronchitis, I stopped, even though I have a friend who sometimes makes me stay back in clubs. I don’t see myself living in school like my peers as you said. Are they enjoying being tied up there? If yes, then I can join them. And who will even sponsor this education and give me the kind of money that I need to stay on campus?”

Only sanitary reasons and the rats lurking around your neighbourhood should stop you from buying popcorn for The Distant Light now. So, pre-order it at the cinemas. Some months from now, you’ll be sorry you didn’t when you see the queue of people (something like that at the American-visa embassy) waiting to see the movie at the box office. You have been forewarned, people!

Previous Article

General News

Tonto Dike Slam! on Charles Novia

Next Article

Nollywood Q&A