Posts Tagged ‘Lagos’

Last night, director Tunde Kelani premiered his latest feature, Ma’ami, to a packed house at Agip Hall at the MUSON Centre. The evening honored the re-election of Governor Babatunde Fashola as the Lagos State Government was a major funding source of the film. Governor Fashola gave the closing remarks after the screening – during which he highlighted the personal impact of Mainframe films, starting with Saworoide in 1999.

Per Production Manager Jamiu Shoyode, the film will premiere next weekend in Abeokuta.

Watch FindingNollywood.com’s behind-the-scenes coverage of the Ma’ami shoot.
FindingNollywood.com’s behind-the-scenes coverage of the Ma’ami shoot.

Ma'ami' on stage at the MUSON Centre. © Bic Leu and FindingNollywood.com, 2011

Governor Fashola gives his closing remarks with Tunde Kelani. © Bic Leu and FindingNollywood.com, 2011

Governor Fashola gives his closing remarks with Tunde Kelani. © Bic Leu and FindingNollywood.com, 2011

With Tunde Kelani and Deji Ajose-Ojikutu. © Bic Leu and FindingNollywood.com, 2011

With Wole Ojo. © Bic Leu and FindingNollywood.com, 2011

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Director Andrew Donsunmu (in red) with the crew of 'Restless CIty' at the NYC premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. © Bic Leu and FindingNollywood.com, 2011

After missing the Restless City screening at FESPACO in March, I was pleased to be invited by New York African Film Festival director, Mahen Bonetti, to view the film at its New York premiere on May 29.

First-time director Andrew Dosunmu premiered the film at Sundance this year.  The movie follows Djibril, a young Senegalese immigrant, as he navigates the urban jungles of New York City. Per Dosunmu during the Q&A session, he wanted to portray the nuances of “universal displacement” in Djibril’s self-exile.

A film still from 'Restless City'. © Jenny Baptiste, 2011

As a New Yorker, I found the film exquisite. Director of Photography Bradford Young captured images of Manhattan in ways that I had never seen during the 18-day shoot. There is a scene in which the M1 bus (my former preferred commute) repeatedly threatens to overtake Djibril on his moped – an apt visual metaphor for the City’s voracious appetite to swallow you whole.

As a Lagosian, I was bored. After spending the past nine months watching Nollywood films, Restless City’s sparse dialogue and silent close-ups didn’t resonate with the “aesthetics of outrage” that media anthropologist Brian Larkin (2008) coined to describe the melodramatic plot lines and overwrought acting that characterize Nigerian cinema.  While there was plenty of drama in Restless City’s storyline, I thought its visual language was too “nuanced” to capture a popular African audience.

Dosunmu mentioned that after taking the film on the international festival circuit, he planned to release the film in Nigerian cinemas. I couldn’t help wondering how Restless City would be received by Lagosian movie-goers next to the current Silverbird offerings like Aramotu and The Hangover, Part II.

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Five months after shooting wrapped in Abeokuta, Tunde Kelani is finally ready to unveil his latest feature film, Ma’ami – starring Funke Akindele, Wole Ojo, Tamilore Kuboye and Olumide Bakare. The invitation-only premiere will take place at Agip Hall of the MUSON Centre in Lagos on Saturday 4th June 2011 to celebrate the re-election of Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN.

The event marks the latest in a string of collaborations between Mainframe Productions and Lagos State. In 2008, Kelani celebrated Governor Fashola’s inaugural year in office with the premiere of Arugba. The premiere of Saworoide in 1999 honored election of former Governor Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, while Agogo-Eewo celebrated Tinubu‘s 50th birthday in 2002.

Ma’ami is based on Femi Osofisan’s novel of the same title and follows Kelani’s tradition of bringing Nigerian literature to the big screen. Past works include Koseegbe and O le ku, written by Akinwumi Isola; Thunderbolt (Magun) adapted from Adebayo Faleti’s MAGUN : The Whore (with Thunderbolt AIDS); and The White Handkerchief and The Narrow Path adapted from Bayo Adebowale‘s The Virgin.

Due to the threat of piracy, Kelani is only releasing Ma’ami at cinemas throughout the country.  He also plans to organize free mobile cinema screenings and lectures at universities throughout the Southwest.

Watch FindingNollywood.com’s behind-the-scenes coverage of the Ma’ami shoot.
FindingNollywood.com’s behind-the-scenes coverage of the Ma’ami shoot.

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I finally have the time and the bandwidth to upload a few behind-the-scenes videos of the Ma’ami shoot in October 2010. Please view them below and click here to read my behind-the-scenes coverage of the shoot.

Above: Tunde Kelani directs Funke Akindele during a scene in Lafenwa Market in Abeokuta. © Bic Leu and FindingNollywood.com, 2009-2011

Above: Yinka Davies & Gani Kayode-Balogun, Jr. perform a rendition of Owo, a song by the late Fuji maestro Ayinde Barrister, during a restaurant scene in Lagos. © Bic Leu and FindingNollywood.com, 2009-2011

Above: Tunde Kelani directs a masquerade scene featuring Wole Ojo and Tamilore Kuboye on the last day of shooting in Abeokuta. © Bic Leu and FindingNollywood.com, 2009-2011

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A bird eye’s view of the red carpet at the Tango with Me premiere at Silverbird Galleria. Photo © 2011 Bic Leu

Mahmood Ali-Balogun’s Tango with Me finally premiered last night at Silverbird Galleria on Victoria Island after more than five years in the making. When I first spoke to the director in January, he revealed that he initially developed the story in 2005, but did not finalize the screenplay (which went through seven drafts) until 2007. He then spent the next two years working and approaching family and friends to fund-raise for the N100 million production budget. Ali-Balogun was also consumed during this period with planning for the shipment of 35 mm camera equipment and crew from the US–including Director of Photography Keith Holland and Production Designer Toi Whittaker. Principal photography commenced in Lagos in November 2009 and the shoot wrapped in March 2010.

Ali-Balogun then traveled to Dubai where he spent two weeks using Telecine to transfer the 35 mm rushes to video. This allowed him to use the video production equipment in his Surulere studio to inexpensively and extensively edit the footage over the next three months. In mid-2010, Ali-Balogun travelled to South Africa to mix the sound; after which he completed and screened a rough cut to a few friends in the Lagos culturatti. He then used their feedback to inform the editing process when he traveled to the Kodak lab in Bulgaria from October to December 2010 to do the final cut in celluloid.

Ali-Balogun hopes to recoup his substantial investments in time and money by attracting Nigerians to cinemas to see this “dialogue-driven” movie about “the day-to-day story that you know about that people don’t want to talk about. …It’s about how you handle [the situation]. It has to do with issues of faith; it’s about forgiveness; it’s about two people in love.”

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Serendipitously, my article–Nollywood as Popular Art?–has just been published in the Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos newsletter one week before the Reading and Producing Nollywood: An International Symposium at the University of Lagos. I have copied and pasted the text and photos below, or you can download the original PDF here (see pg. 11).

Film marketer in Idumota Market. Photo © 2011 Bic Leu

Nollywood as Popular Art?
Bic Leu

The Nigerian film industry has become one of the principal forces of popular art on the continent. Its commercially accessible format distinguishes it from other African cinema cultures–in particular that of the Francophone countries, where filmmakers produce highly stylized “art films” driven by socio-political messages.  Francophone films are primarily funded (and thus shaped) by the French government and distributed internationally to film festivals and other noncommercial channels. On the other hand, Nollywood films are privately funded, with (until now) little government subsidy or foreign aid. While most of the Francophone products are rarely seen by African audiences, their Nigerian counterparts are characterized by their capacity to transcend local ethnic and national boundaries and be voraciously consumed by millions of viewers across the continent, the Diaspora, as well as everywhere else in between.

Nollywood production is prolific compared to its anemic Francophone equivalent. The Nigerian National Film and Video Censors Board received 1,612 local films for censorship registration in 2010, which averages to an astounding 31 new releases per week. The industry’s basis in the informal economy means that this number does not include the countless scores of films released on the black market and thus not accounted for by the Board.

As African anthropologist Karin Barber (1987) observes, popular arts attempt to appeal to as large a market as possible through a system of repetition. In Nollywood films, aspirations for social mobility are addressed through revolving sets in interiors of posh homes with HD television sets and elaborate sound systems, refrigerators, and black SUVs. Urban anxiety is conveyed through stock shots of Lagos streets and skyline, since harassment from “area boys” and authorities demanding bribes make it exceedingly difficult to shoot exterior scenes. Common fears are written and rewritten into narratives revolving around love, betrayal, greed, and the power of religious faith as a panacea for all social ills. From film to film, actors play the same roles and even repeat the same lines, like Ramsey Noah’s “Wakey, wakey, baby”–which awakens sleeping lovers in both Guilty Pleasures (2009) and A Private Storm (2010).   Even the crews remain constant as producers and directors carry them from set to set. As such, Nollywood films communicate with its African audience through a series of endless reflections intended to reinforce the shared conventions and desires of contemporary Nigerian society.

However, Nollywood is starting to defy Barber’s widely-accepted definition of popular art, which states that all commercial popular arts are produced within the African informal sector. Nigerian films are increasingly disseminated through recognized official channels, as exemplified by the box office success of recent cinema-only releases, such as Kunle Afolayan’s The Figurine (2009) and Chineze Anyaene’s Ijé (2010). Nigerian films are also screened at the Festival panafricain du cinéma et de la télévision de Ouagadougou (FESPACO), the high-brow bastion of Francophone African films that had banned Nigerian products from its line-up in the recent past. The industry has also become the subject of countless academic articles and international film festivals; its practitioners are frequently invited to participate in film panels all over the world. Formal institutions are also becoming involved in the development of the industry. In January, President Goodluck Jonathan announced that the Bank of Industry would administer the $200 million Special Entertainment Fund (which includes support from the World Bank) as low-interest loans designed to improve training, production, and distribution.

But the embrace of the mainstream often means sacrificing inventiveness to regulation and standardized expectations.  The question remains: as Nollywood begins to interact with the formal economy, will it lose its mobility and accessibility as a popular art form? Or will this new development elevate Nigerian filmmaking to the same status as other established international film cultures, to be no longer derided as a low-cost novelty in guerilla filmmaking?

Bic Leu is a US Fulbright fellow researching the social impact of Nollywood at the University of Lagos. She regularly records her observations at www.findingnollywood.com. The views expressed here are her own and do not represent those of the Fulbright program or the US Department of State.

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Daniel Ademinokan (Director). Photo © 2011 Bic Leu

I arrived on the Ghetto Dreamz set this morning and found it almost empty. Daniel Ademinokan (Director) explained that the cast and crew had been shooting Da Grin’s death bed scene in a local hospital until 2AM the night before. Thus he wanted to give everyone some extra time to rest–especially since today’s shooting schedule would be equally hectic. Yemi Awoponle (Director of Photography) explained that he plans to capture the pivotal car crash scene tonight on an Ikeja expressway using ropes, a tractor trailer, and two cars–including Da Grin’s own damaged vehicle.

Titilayo Akinode (Make-up) preps Trybson (as Da Grin). Photo © 2011 Bic Leu

Doris S. Ademinokan (as Chi Chi) in the make-up chair. Photo © 2011 Bic Leu

By noon, everyone was ready to resume work. We shot a restaurant scene with Da Grin and Chi Chi, his girlfriend, in which the rapper reveals a softer side. Per Trybson (as Da Grin), he has recorded a single, Life in the Ghetto, which will be released on the movie soundtrack by Stingomania Records. (Stingomania Records is owned by Executive Producer Ope Banwo).

Doris S. Ademinokan (as Chi Chi) and Trybson (as Da Grin). Photo © 2011 Bic Leu

Ademinokan expects to finish shooting by Friday, after which he will spend two weeks in post-production to complete a cut by mid-March. The film is scheduled to premiere around the April 22 anniversary of Da Grin’s death.

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