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Friday, November 01, 2013


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Filmmaker, Tunde Kelani is working on a new movie - Dazzling Mirage.  He talks about his career, children, life, challenges in this interview:

Tell us about your current project, Dazzling Mirage, what informed it?
Dazzling Mirage is a project that I have been planning for almost two years now because I was looking for a people set and I was doing a short film that was made in London which was targeted at the minority in England but not until I came across Yinka Egbokare’s book that I said this is a good story. Dazzling Mirage is a love story, but it has the theme of sickle cell disease but it’s equally entertaining so I decided well it’s time we discuss it. It is time because almost everyday I know people hardly suffered from that disease and I had some personal experience and thought that there is no enough perception or awareness about it because it can be preventable and it only requires a test and once somebody is diagnosed that is suffering for life, and there is no cure, so I thought yes, number one it’s about time we entertain people with love story but the theme is also important.

From Oleku to Abeni and Arugba, how did you come about the cast?
I do not consciously decided who will be a cast in the film, it’s important for me to find a well developed story and then we will respond to the demand of that particular story, so It could happen but I can’t give a guaranty, usually I don’t have a idea of who will lead the cast maybe until when the cast is ready.
What are the criteria?
The criteria sometimes, you may have a good story and if you use a known face then people are not going to see the film, they will only be looking at the person, so sometimes we deliberately don’t cast like that, and sometimes when you target and put a face, it drags the story down and that I don’t think is good for a story telling and of course we compromise but what we do is we try to have a mixture of everybody, new people, people who are established, people who are experience in traditional drama and those who are formally trained in the university, so we do a lot of combination and the essence is that the character is so it is natural, we try to make it natural and I thank that has worked.
So the story determines what happens to the casting and if it is a repeated actor or actress that you have once used?
Of course it’s the story that will determine whether it will happen or not, I couldn’t tell, I can’t remember it has happened but definitely people dwell with us sometimes we cast them, it depends, even I couldn’t tell myself, I can’t say for sure that this is what is going to happen until we cast them.
For Maami, there were several talks about it; it is believed that it is a story written about the late MKO Abiola?
Maami is just a story of a single parent, a mother bringing up a son, it’s just a bond between mother and son. If it looks like Abiola story, it looks like my story too because we all had more or less the same background, the same no shoe, kaaki uniforms, and we went to school, you know all those mothers that tried everything possible, sell everything, fighting everything to make sure we went to school, so that’s everybody story, not specifically Abiola story.
What are the experiences of been a part of the at the Asia Film, feature category?
I have been a judge in other one or two festivals, but particularly I was excited to be part of the edition of the festival and being a young person, I was really impressed about the standard of the festival itself which at ground looks like it was older than that, that it has been going on for a long time, you know in terms of the quality of the participation of the film, it is another film that came into the brand festival and the facilities and everything was unbelievable. Being a judge, for me is like a preparation for and against my next project because when I am among great film makers, we watch about 23 to 28 films in one week, so its morning, afternoon, every time, it’s just about films and you probably get back at midnight, but at least you have seen pure films in a day for free but suddenly where you are with the best of films in the world and is best condition that you can watch a film not available in Nigeria and you see, you learn from all this films, it’s like refueling your own creative background, in decoration and at a plan, you can get what world global cinema looks like and it can determine what your film will be. So there are what I take away from there and then the fact that in Nigeria we still have a long way to go because we don’t have the cinemas, we don’t have the infrastructures, the electricity blink just one seconds throughout, you know things like that but more importantly it is a joy once in a while to be among global creative community and to be accepted, you know as having contributed something and having been deemed qualified to judge other peoples work.
From all this you have said it sound like there was no participation of Nollywood?
I think there is a short film from Nollywood from one of the Nigerian young filmmaker, but in other categories I don’t think Nigeria film participated, especially in the Afro Asia category, but I remember we had Burkina Faso and Senegal.
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Would it be correct to say Nigerian filmmakers are beginning to shoot high budgeted films especially for cinemas and thereby pushing DVD into extinction?
There is nobody shooting high budget film because we are all shooting low project films. We had visitor here from America and when he asked for the budget of film, I said is just to spend something like a $150,000 and in truth most of all films we rarely spend over million naira or N25million. And he said how was that possible, you know he stays in America and a low budget flick in the U.S. is about $5million. So, I think we have relatively low budget because you cannot say we want $150,000 movie and put it in the Dubai international film festival, you will be almost out of place. So it is true that in Nigeria we are making movies for the cinema because it’s the best most of us have seen, and in distinction, video will be video and the people doing it will continue to be the same and a lots of all those marketers are just trading so they are probably not interested in making movie for the cinema but they want something to sell, it will be a commodity on that level but people aspire that there films is shown on big screen and people will come, sit down and pay to watch the film, that’s different, so I don’t think there will be a come in time where the video will disappear, it will never disappear because even in America, people are making films straight to DVD release, so some way the main thrust of the industry will be making films straight way to DVD or CD release and a few films is release for the cinema.
You don’t seem to want to quit anytime soon, how has the journey been?
How can I quit? You know this is something that… whether we like it or not it’s an interesting and exciting part. Film making is best for me, I have worked with almost all the known technology for making motion picture, even when we change to video there are so many variance of video, we started with analog, VHS, Digital cam, until we get to the main digital era and even then that changing in technology made it more exciting, every time we are doing something new, we are learning new things, so we are going to learn forever, so when my time comes I will drop down and die and go away but right now I feel excited because I still have the experience, I have the maturity, I have technology to make an image an image in the global film making we can make, because we have the opportunity to bearing problems and something like that, we can make it everyday because we have the tools, we can control the means of production and we have within our power to control the means of production, so it is a blessing to Africa that we have found our voice and I can’t just stop singing, that’s the same with what have been saying.
So, how has the journey been?
The journey has from day one been challenging, though it has got to do with anything made in Nigeria, is very difficult and sometime you start out and your success is not guaranteed, I think we have all failed some of the time but I think God and supporters have kept us going.
Looking at the tough and difficult approach in sourcing for funds for movies, how have you been able to sustain your productions going by how you put your all into every single work?
I mean it is certified because I put everything I have in my movie, sometimes I have been supported by friends, family and everybody. Let me give you an example, Maami has been seen almost all over the country, but later I returned to location shooting more scenes for Maami because I felt it’s not there yet but with those scenes, I was able to offload the complete visuals and that is how I respond to every of my film. But if I didn’t put everything that I wanted to visualized I will be worried throughout my whole life, so I have to make sure that within the available resources, within the opportunity that Nigeria itself gave me, I must achieve to a very reasonable standard but I leave the industry.
Piracy is a big bug affecting the Nigerian entertainment industry as a whole, how do you make your finances back?
It’s very difficult because when I work, for instance since we started mainframe production from T’oluwa Nile, they still sell in triples, I took the risk, they are all a risk because this should be have been retirement my plan, package and so on, but no, we have forgotten about all that, just to make the film, so the thing suppose to be sort of a plan, but since the piracy have reached this level in Nigeria we are all threatened, we have not recovered from Arugba, certainly we didn’t release Maami then and that means we didn’t have any work for the last two years, and the pirate are more bearing than ever before because we tried to find out in December and the report is bad and is not possible to forfeit the piracy because there is piracy all over the world but the Nigerian Piracy are so disruptive and so wicked that there is no way you can compete with them because they have sell the part of the pirated film so low that nobody can survive on it, I think is intentional, and I think the government isn’t sensitive enough, the government doesn’t know the damage that they have done to people in the industry, we are just making noise at the moment because the truth is production are closing it down, and some of those marketers divert from other things.
So, if all this is happening, where does your hope lie and why shoot more?
I have great poles, I think is about Africa and Nigeria, it’s about a Merging economic growth and I think that it’s our turn in Africa to do it right and I believe that Nigeria has a major role to play in the growth of the market and the premium and I am waiting for that opportunity, so am not going to give up, beside is not going to go on like this, I don’t think Nigeria can afford Nigeria to slight into anarchy, I think we are so important to be ignored by the whole world and I think we are having some economic value, Nigeria is a special country and everybody knows and the whole world know, so if our government will not do it, there will be intervention from outside may be if they realize how hopeless some of the obstacles to growth and development they will come and do it for us, electricity power, yes they step in, I read that even the world bank is interested in working with the government to make sure that there is stable electricity. Once there is electricity then the small and medium enterprises will boom, once they boom, then that’s the time for entertainment, even now new cinemas are going to be develop for the people and I’m part of the movement to make sure that it happen, so when it happens I already have the content, that’s why I believe that this is not the time to give, this is the time to really put on my trouser and get on with it.
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It is generally believed that Kunle Afolayan is fast taking after your footstep, how true is this?
Yes because he acknowledges me, he is a young man, he acknowledge that I mentored him, first of all he learnt a lot about film making from his father and then when he decided that that what he was going to be doing, he came to me and I decided to mentor him, and am very proud of him, when our film was presented in the last Africa 2012 in London, Maami was screened at 2 o’clock and post off followed up at 5 o’clock and it was ready a Nigerian, during the question and answer, I called that there is somebody here who mentored you and he said is me, and I said am proud of you, because he is not the first person that is going to pass through me but he is a success come and his raising fast, he committed his focus, he is passionate about the quality of his work, so what else can we ask for.
Cinematography, film making, how did it become your passion?
No oh! When I was very young I didn’t know I was going to go in to film and cinematography but I started from my primary schooldays you know, I have a romance dependent photographer and through my secondary school I have more than five cameras, with a friend we learnt to process our film, we knew how to mix the chemical we knew the chemistry of photography and we finally crashed a photographer who had left during the civil war to go back home, we went into his jack pile and took over, and we started to process our film, so that was in secondary school, so when I was leaving secondary school it became clear that I couldn’t do any other thing but a photography and look how photography has involved in the transport in Nigeria today, they are now specialization, fashion photography, but I took to motion picture because I was fascinated by the cinema when I was young and I saw all the films that came into Lagos and not only that I also read lots of literature, I read for pleasure so the combination of this helped me and I inevitably uphold to adapt the medium of film for story, the medium too will tell the story that have read.
How many adaptation have you made?
In fact, I think have done more adaptation than mixture, if you can count from Ko se Gbe, Oleku, Thunder Bolt, The Narrow Path, White handkerchief, Maami, then the new one Dazzling Mirage those are the adaptation.
Why that love for adaptation of books into movies?
No because I read everything, have said that nobody can make a good thing without reason, I think for me, therefore I read all reading materials around, I raed a lot, for me it is very important because have recognize combination of literature and drama and I have a million story to tell. Not that I love the books, I love the authors too, I found the writer, I dogged them out, Kola Akinlade, Pa Amos Tutuola, Cyprian Ekwensi, Akinwunmi Ishola, Adebayo Faleti, Wale and Ogunyemi, I love to read book from Wole Soyinka, I have always been around writers.
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So, you went straight to the university to study film making or what?
I have never attended a university, I thought I didn’t need that as that I became an apprentice in photographer when I left secondary school, but later when I joined television I saw that the things we are seeing on television is not the same as the America film I see in the Cinema, that’s when I had to apply to the London Film School, so I have a professional diploma in Art and technique of film making from London film school, that and my factual experience is the university.
What you have and what you can be able to give is far more than that of people who have gone to the university.
I think in a different way, I think they have all gone to the university irrespective of what our passion may be, because if you look at our local drummers who have spent about eight years learning the technology and techniques of drumming and the language of the drum, so is a language. And that means they have been through someone like master, if they were graded by that particular system, I think that is what they need because occasionally there is the aspect of the fetish and the theory of dignity which I did from the elementary part in the London School and socialization was discourage and people who read English, journalism coming together in the class and we were expected to go through the same, so inevitably we learn film history, so occasionally I found myself invited to a forum and am the only one who is not speaking and am the only one who is not a PhD,  sometimes I tell them not as view that I’m one of them, I’m not one of you, really I’m a film maker in the practical area and you are theorist so deal with your area, is not my area.
How did you find time to say I need a rest, I need to have fun?
What is the rest? What can you do when you are resting? When you are resting that means perhaps you are lying on your bed or so, but the film making is so natural and an extension of my body that necessarily you have to read, so when am resting that means I’m reading, so an already resting and most of the time you study film, so am already watching movie and then some of the time when you go out to make a film you it is critical in a sense, so I’m already exercising and then organizing and taking part and arranging the performance and just sitting down and asking people to do it for you, what more reward can you get? If someone who was not use to making film is been made, he would think we are spending the money for fun, you know it could be a dance, music, DJ and all that, he will say this people are just throwing my money away, but for me the work is there existing and they have a lot of varieties in it. Of course occasionally you could go out and say let’s go to location rekee or lets to Ghana and then they head up to Ghana, but me, that’s against my vacation, because not only are you enjoying yourself but you are actually documenting some of the process that will give birth to something that you valued and to larger society.
Do you see yourself leaving these for your children to continue?
You see that is interesting because my kids are not interested and I like that. They know all about this, they grew up in the studio, at least they spent ten years of their life in the studio here and just that they took part in one or two things and so on but by the time they got ready to leave for university they didn’t want to start their life thinking they want to be apprentice, they want to do greater things, when I was young I free my mind for it too, it was an adventure as a young boy to tell his father that I don’t want to go to university, actually I wanted to be an apprentice as a photographer and that my father realized that yes this a passion for something he has done and agreed so that’s why I couldn’t directly interfere and the children didn’t think this is what they want to do.
So, not even one single one has shown interest?
No, not necessary, you know because I think it’s a passion and the talent if they don’t have the same passion or passion that is greater than myself, it will be a mistake to push them into it. I think children should identify what they love and their passion and then be ready as a parent to sacrifice, to invest their time and money to attain whatever they decided. So I think the way mine involved is more of an example, is not that I’m a business man empire, it’s a creative thing, a creative industry and if they found it, yes I would support it.
Your film, personality, dress sense, speaks so much of the Yoruba tribe, should we expect something from other tribes of Nigeria?
No. It is principally because I am born in Yoruba land and I was brought up in Yoruba land and I have recognized that this is indigenous and of course I’m excited about people using Nigeria language and culture to express themselves, so for a long time I want to work with Cyprian Ekwensi to do motherless baby and to do the passport of mallamivia, so I will team up with people from any indigenous language to work on any project from anywhere in Nigeria as well as the world. In fact I was really happy because 2years ago I was invited to Finland by the Sammy people, you know Sammy people their culture spread in four countries throughout Europe and I think there no much of them, I think about 150,000, but these people have preserved their language, culture and industries and they have great institution despite the fact that there are oppressive to their culture and language they retained and then preserved it. So I think they were looking for someone who was passionate about indigenous culture that’s why they found my name otherwise I never met, you know and invited me and all that and I could talk about Yoruba and they were telling everything about the Sammy including how you know traditionally there are properties that was most important to them was rain Dears that’s an animal and that Sammy are organized that whether you are a billionaire or not you are not allowed to own more than 500 and each one had a mark that is identical to your tribe to where you come from , so when they see the animal they know where its coming from , so the richest member of that community cannot buy or own 1000, you are allowed to own 500 so I look at that example of equality in which is not written in our society, because one person will buy everything and then hire it out to other members of the community, so for me I’m always excited about Nigeria, because I think God is God of a man and he has created all this things so that we can use what we have to preach.
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What informs your dress sense, it has never changed from African?
Its changing because have experimented it when I was young, I’ve experimented looking inward, for me what our fabrics colour commonly known like rainbow, so this again is expression for me and at a time I will experiment a particular fabrics and combination of colours and how I’m going to use them, you know there are traditional style which from time to time I’ve always experimented, that’s why I can’t own Agbada because I thought for me it is too much, I don’t need it, it’s a waste of materials, then I look at traditional Buba which is at the best, is just putting a hole for your head and put in something for your hand, I am more interested in that, and that is the problem because if all applied the education, the education will work, and we didn’t allow the colonial mentality to get to us we could have done a lot more to what we are doing and that would have boosted the local economy, that’s why when people earn a living, things like that, so if they don’t apply that in all areas of life, of course the society, the economy will be more buoyant.
Finally, how would you describe the man Tunde Kelani?
Very ordinary person! I’m just me, there’s nothing more to it. I can’t be a king, a chief or anything but I can only be what I am, just a filmmaker.
And you are so content with it?
What do you want me to do? I don’t think I have a problem with who or what I am or myself because there’s nothing to it and my needs are minimum, material possession, food and anything, they are just simply minimum.

Source: MoMo

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