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Posts Tagged ‘Silverbird’

A Nigerian Endowment for the Arts could help fund film productions like Tunde Kelani's 'Ma'ami'. © Bic Leu and FindingNollywood.com, 2011.

With the recent announcement of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) and the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) for film industry development, the question of access to funding in Nollywood is once again a hot topic in the entertainment sector.

SMEDAN Director General Alhaji Muhammad Nadada Umar stated that the MOU aimed to create opportunities for small businesses to grow in the film industry, especially in regards to youth employment, revenue generation, poverty reduction and social stability in the country. SMEDAN, he said, would support the NFC with funding windows available to Nigerian entrepreneurs such as the SME credit guarantee scheme introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the funding scheme of the National Economic Reconstruction Fund (NERFUND).

This topic was reiterated during the Silverbird premiere last Wednesday of Communicating for Change’s documentary on Nigerian artists, RedHot Nigerian Creativity, and then again during a recent conversation I had with The Guardian on Sunday editor Jahman Anikulapo.  Anikulapo suggested that instead of transient initiatives like the SMEDAN/NFC MOU or the current $USD 200 million Special Entertainment Fund that is administered by the Bank of Industry, the Federal Government should set up a permanent institution dedicated to creative industries development like the US National Endowment of the Arts (NEA).

The NEA is an American independent federal agency that receives annual appropriations from the US Congress to award grants and fellowships to creative industry professionals and organizations in such areas as Arts Education, Dance, Literature, Museums, Music, Theater, and Visual Arts. At present, the NEA awards more than 2,500 grants and cooperative agreements exceeding $USD 130 million. Since its establishment in 1965, the NEA has awarded over $USD 4 billion in grants to develop and sustain the American creative industries.

Anikulapo further proposed that setting aside 1% of the annual Companies Income Tax paid to the Federal Government could fund the Nigerian NEA and that a government-appointed committee of art experts could be tasked with evaluating each grant proposal.

What do you think of Anikulapo’s idea to counter the neglect of the creative industries in Nigeria by setting up a sustainable grant-making agency? What can be adapted from this American model to work within the Nigerian context? What type of framework needs to put in place to ensure that the grant-dispersal is free and fair?

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Executive Producer Emem Isong at the 'Kiss & Tell' premiere, Silverbird Galleria. © Bic Leu and FindingNollywood.com, 2011.

Bird's eye view of the 'Kiss & Tell' premiere, Silverbird Galleria. © Bic Leu and FindingNollywood.com, 2011.

When I sat next to Guy Murray-Bruce, President of Silverbird Entertainment, at fundraiser dinner last night, he identified the burgeoning growth of cinema releases as one of the most important developments in Nollywood in the last 15 years (although he was not able to tell me approximately how many Nigerian films Silverbird had screened in 2010). This trend was confirmed tonight at the Silverbird premiere of Kiss & Tell, the latest drama from Executive Producers Emem Isong and Monalisa Chinda, and long-time collaborator Director Desmond Elliott. The film also features the acting talents of Desmond ElliottMonalisa ChindaNse Ikpe-EtimUche Jombo and Joseph Benjamin.

In a recent conversation, Isong divulged that when she shot the film about a year and half ago, she had originally intended it for straight-to-video release. Upon further review, she became taken with the movie’s quick-witted dialogue and decided to unveil it on the big screen.

This revelation brought up an issue that I’ve encountered numerous times in the industry: Just because cinema release is now available in Nollywood, should filmmakers exercise this option indiscriminately? (The worst offender being Vivian Ejike’s A Private Storm). While I quite enjoyed Kiss & Tell’s clever verbal sparring and chemistry among the main characters, there were a few elements that made it apparent that the film was made for the small screen, such as the inconsistent sound quality and the slow pacing in the middle (which is around when the movie would have been cut into Parts 1 & 2 for the video release).

Thus, is the current cinema culture in Nollywood sustainable or are filmmakers rushing into the trend to turn a quick profit?

Read FindingNollywood.com‘s behind-the-scenes coverage of Desmond Elliott’sMidnight Whisper.

 

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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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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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The crowded red carpet at Wale Adenuga's 'The Perfect Church' premiere, Silverbird Galleria. Photo © 2011 Bic Leu

I caught up with veteran television producer, Wale Adenuga, last night during the premiere festivities at Silverbird Galleria for his first feature film in years, The Perfect Church. According to Adenuga, “The message is two-fold: It is never too late to turn over a new leaf. Secondly, we must learn humility because we are just ordinary human beings before God.”

The crowded red carpet at the premiere of Wale Adenuga's 'The Perfect Church', Silverbird Galleria. Photo © 2011 Bic Leu

The “inspirational” film features an all-star cast, including Olu Jacobs; Ramsey Noah; Funke Akindele; Ngozi Ezeonu; Hakeem Rahman; Norbert Young; Olayinka Olukunga; and Jibola Dabo.

Inside the theater at the premiere of Wale Adenuga's 'The Perfect Church'. Photo © 2011 Bic Leu

Adenuga plans a 6-month cinema run in theaters across Africa, including Ghana and Kenya.

[DISCLAIMER] While this blog is not the appropriate forum to discuss this, I completely abhorred the film’s treatment of the subject of homosexuality. I recognize that it’s a reflection of the majority of Nigerians’ opinion, but I’ll leave it to the great Chinua Achebe to say what I feel:

Without doubt, the times in which we live influence our behavior, but the best or merely the better among us…are never held hostage by their times.

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Go out and buy The Guardian today, everyone! My article on New Nollywood’s innovative distribution methods is published under the Friday Review section. I’ve pasted the text below, or you can read the original web version here. Many thanks to Gabe for lending his editor’s eye to this piece.
Friday, 14 January 2011 00:00 By Bic Leu 

THE domestic and international media have been buzzing about the emergence of a New Nollywood. A wave of recent features — including Kunle Afolayan’s The Figurine and Chineze Anyaene’s Ijé — flout traditional Nollywood conventions such as low budgets and poor production value and eschew the Nigerian film industry’s straight-to-video format for a theatrical run. It appears that there is a new vigour among filmmakers to tackle the rampant piracy and poor distribution linkages that have plagued the industry.

Beyond piracy
Pirates have usurped Nigerian filmmakers’ profits at the end of the distribution chain for years by replicating and distributing films within days of DVD release. According to writer and director, Amaka Igwe, “Piracy makes up 82 per cent of the Nigerian market.” However, she identifies the real problem behind revenue generation as distributors’ ignorance about market supply and demand: “If people had a choice of buying the real copy, they would buy it, but they can’t find it.”

Igwe laments that distributors often print fewer copies than what the customers demand in fear that surplus inventory will remain unsold. As a result, pirates fill the gap with illegal copies.  Despite having completed work on six films, Igwe refuses to release any until a massive distribution system that she has been working on is unveiled in March 2011: “I’m not doing any new films, because that’s like pouring water into sand; you don’t get any returns.”

Revitalizing cinemas
Other filmmakers have turned to cinemas. Kunle Afolayan’s Irapada (2007) was the first Nigerian film to be shown at Lagos’ Silverbird Galleria. Instead of relying on the traditional system in which the marketer serves as the production’s main funding source, Afolayan subsidized his budget by negotiating product placement deals — which recouped 50 per cent of expenses before the film’s release.  Irapada went on to gross over N5 million at the box office and changed the industry’s perception of cinema release, a custom that had died out in the 1980s along with celluloid filmmaking in Nigeria.  Afolayan also screened the film at small venues like the National Arts Theatre as well as campuses across the country.

Afolayan expanded Irapada’s distribution model when The Figurine premiered in 2009. On top of the cinema release and product placement, The Figurine was one of the first Nigerian films to tour the international festival circuit, gathering critical acclaim in Berlin, New York, Rotterdam, Tarifa, and Kampala.

Afolayan’s equal mix of the artistic and the commercial attracted audiences to theatres in record numbers. He claims, “Many people who weren’t cinema-goers started going to the cinema because they were interested in seeing the film”.

It raked in N30 million during its eight-week theatrical run and was recognized as the most successful Nigerian cinema release at the time. On the back end, Afolayan has experimented with new distribution schemes.  When Irapada was distributed on DVD, Afolayan enlisted the help of a China-based disc replication firm for the encryption, which he believed “cut out piracy by 80 per cent”. He has big plans for The Figurine’s DVD release in February 2011: a subsidiary of the satellite TV service HiTV will distribute one million copies domestically and more abroad via website sales.

If Kunle Afolayan re-introduced cinema culture to the Nigerian audience, then Chineze Anyaene cemented its viability with her directorial debut, Ijé (2010). The film made N50 million at the box office last year, thus displacing The Figurine as the highest grossing Nigerian cinema release of all time. Next, Anyaene plans to distribute Ijé in Kenya, Mexico and the United Kingdom.

A grassroots approach
Veteran director, Tunde Kelani is thinking beyond cinemas. Recognizing that most Nigerians cannot afford the average N1,000-N1,500 cinema ticket price in the only nine functioning multiplexes in the country, Kelani is looking for more accessible alternatives. On top of the regular cinema circuit, he is working with the Lagos State Viewing Sports Center Association to use their 700-1,000 viewing centers to show his next feature, Ma’ami (2011), whenever there is a free slot in the programming schedule.

Kelani’s team, which includes Production Manager Jamiu Shoyode, is currently reviewing the locations. With an average capacity of 100 seats per center, Kelani hopes to reach at least 70,000 Lagosians by the end of Ma’ami’s release — although this conservative estimate doesn’t account for multiple screenings per center.

Kelani plans to charge N150 per ticket, hoping that the low price will encourage whole communities to see his film. The egalitarian approach also extends to the series of free open-air screenings that he is planning in conjunction with the viewing center release.  Kelani already proved the success of this method in 2009 when he reached over 2,500 people in 57 local councils at free outdoor viewings of his last film, Arugbá. He hopes to attract another sponsor to cover the costs for Ma’ami and to help him accomplish his goal of capturing “the masses”.

A high-tech distribution solution?
The Internet is also becoming a viable option for distributing Nollywood movies. In December 2010, telecommunications giant Glo joined its counterpart MTN in giving their subscribers access to DStv Mobile, a service that enables users to watch DStv live on their mobile devices. Available programming includes the Africa Magic movie channels that broadcast a never-ending rotation of Nollywood films.

Supporting this new Internet platform are two international submarine cables that were landed in Nigeria in 2009: Main One, operated by privately-owned Main One Cable Company, and Glo 1, operated by Globacom. The cables link Lagos to Europe and other West African countries with the goal of providing affordable and high-speed Internet services across the continent (though the author has yet to notice any improvement in Internet bandwidth).  Main One commenced commercial services in July 2010 and Glo 1 followed suit in October 2010.

The World Wide Web has the potential to become a virtual Idumota Market, though with a more manageable distribution chain than the real Lagos bazaar. The New Nollywood may not need to look beyond its laptop to reach the masses both near and far. Ultimately, the defining trait is innovation since piracy has become a catalyst for reinvention. Rather than fight in the trenches, filmmakers are sharpening their business sense, creating models for exhibition and distribution that demand rebranding the industry precisely because up-and-coming Nollywood fits in a future that, for now, is still running to meet itself.

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Silverbird Galleria. Photo © 2010 Bic Leu

Last week, the production ventured to Silverbird Galleria on Victoria Island. One of the several scenes that was shot at the cinema and shopping complex was one in which Jenifa is arraigned by the police after her arrest at the beach party.

Lekan Oropo (Director 2) oversees Funke Akindele (as Jenifa) rehearsing her lines. Photo © 2010 Bic Leu

Lekan Oropo (Director 2) oversees Funke Akindele (as Jenifa) rehearsing her lines. Photo © 2010 Bic Leu

 

The interrogation scene. Photo © 2010 Bic Leu

 

 

 

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