Duro Oni article 2, Nollywood Project

Prof. Duro Oni talks on London Nollywood workshop

Date: Saturday 04 August 2007
Publication: Saturday Vanguard, Home Video People by Fred Iwenjora, p33

A workshop to discuss issues in Nollywood is billed for London from August 9th till the 12th. Aptly tagged the Nollywood Film Industry and the African Diaspora, it is a collaborative project involving the Ferguson Centre, London, Open University, UK, Creative Arts Department of Unilag, the British Film Institute and the Nigerian High Commission

Ex head of CBAAC, Prof. Duro Oni is one of the facilitators of the workshop and explains better.

What informed the collaboration of the Creative Arts Department with the Ferguson Centre/Open University on the Nollywood conference coming up in London?

It is more of a personal thing really. While I was at CBAAC, I established a relationship with the Ferguson Centre leading to an International Symposium on Identity Politics, Globalisation and Social Conflict in 2003 which was hosted by CBAAC. The relationship with the Ferguson Centre has continued now that I am back at the Universty of Lagos as Head of the Department of Creative Arts. As the department is a teaching and research one, the current research is more of an academic venture for a university. However, the Ferguson Centre still maintains a strong relationship with CBAAC.

The Nollywood phenomenon is certainly one of the areas of current research around the world. The current collaboration of our department with the Ferguson Centre is further such research efforts from an academic perspective beyond the curiosity often associated by Western Scholars on Nollywood.

Do you think that the conference can help attract support from the British film establishment to Nollywood?

Yes, we are certainly hoping that that would happen with this workshop. The first part of the workshop is planned for the 9th August and it is to be held at the British Film Institute (BFI). It is important that key film organizations around the world such as the BFI are mainstreamed in to what is currently going on in the Nigerian film and video world. That way we can explore more collaborative relationships not only among scholars but also among the film producers, directors and writers. Eventually, it should be possible for the organizations to also get involved with collaborative productions and also with training programmes.

What informed the choice of the filmmakers like Tunde Kelani and Amaka Igwe as participants, whose films will also be screened?

It really would have been nice to invite a few more film makers beyond Tunde Kelani and Amaka Igwe, considering the vast talent available in Nigeria. To some extent, though Kelani and Igwe are representative of the film industry in Nigeria, not only for the length of time that they have been there, but also in view of the serious nature of their work. It however would really have been nice to have been able to invite Zack Orji, the Ejiros (Zeb & Chico), Amatas (Zack & Jeta), Tade Ogidan, Andy Amenechi to mention but a few. We did make attempt to invite Sani Mua’zu, the film maker, but all the time we were sending e-mail messages to him, he was out on locations without access to the internet.

From the management perspective, Afolabi Adesanya, Managing Director of the Nigerian Film Corporation and Emeka Mba, Director General of the Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board are also participating in the workshops and screenings.

Could this conference ever be held in Nigeria some time?

It really would be nice for the next workshop to be brought to the base of the study. At the moment, we are working on the extension of the pilot programme beyond the one year for a further three years and seeking funding and support for this. We expect the Ferguson Centre to remain at the forefront along with the Department of Creative Arts, University of Lagos. We will therefore be seeking support from the UK, Nigeria and probably India as the next phase is expected to be on: Bollywood, Nollywood and the UK Diaspora; tracking the reception of the films on UK audiences and around the world as they are increasingly drawing the attention of global media, film critics and scholars.

By this conference and your department’s involvement, should we expect the development of a course/module in Film (in the future) at the department?

The Department of Creative Arts was established in 1997, ten years ago and offers three degrees at undergraduate and post graduate levels in Theatre Arts, Visual Arts and Music. Part of our vision for expansion at the takeoff of the department is to eventually become a Faculty of Creative Arts with two new departments added to the existing three. The envisaged two departments will be Cinematography and Film Studies and Industrial Design. So as you can see, our foray into the Nollywood project is a systematic ground testing for the ultimate goal. My Ph.D student who is also a Research Assistant on this project is also beginning to look at that area for his research.

Your department has produced many of the current actors in Nollywood (KOK, Stella Damasus, Ann Njemanze, Victoria Inyama etc); is it right to say it is not in the artistic sphere of the industry that training is needed but in the technical sphere?

Yes, we have some very outstanding alumni of the department and the University of Lagos, which is the University of First Choice and the Nation’s Pride that have made some impact in Nollywood. There are also a few more out there and they include Olisa Emeka, Mercy Aigbe and Jennifer Olisa. Training is needed in all the spheres. Certain things should not be done from an apprenticeship basis alone. What is required is some proper grounding in the theory of the profession before embarking on the practice.

This article has been reproduced with the gracious permission of the author Steve Ayorinde and by the publishers: Punch online, the Daily Independent, Saturday Vanguard, Sunday Newspaper and Sunday Punch.