interviewBy Adie Vanessa Offiong
Yunusa Tanko Abdullahi is Deputy Director, Corporate Affairs of the Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB). The board participated at the just concluded Edinburgh Film Festival. The media and communications specialist spoke about the experience and the benefit of the forum for Nollywood.
The NFVCB participated at the just concluded Edinburgh film festival. How did that go?
The Edinburgh film festival was particularly a big step forward for the NFVCB in the sense that for the first time, there was a genuine buzz and excitement by the people to see and interact with the Nollywood industry and its 'cast' (laugh). The interest in African popular culture has grown tremendously and particularly for the NFVCB. We met European students doing post graduate studies on Nollywood. They are itching for authentic information. So our presence was like a welcome relief to them, because they could now talk directly to the regulators of the industry in Nigeria and get first hand information about their various research. Also, we had some of the best products of Nollywood with us including Babatune Kelani whose film was screened in Glasgow and Edinburgh during the festival. We also had Peddie Okao, Ugo Emmanuel and Abdullahi Abdulrasaq, who are all big producers and marketers in the industry in Nigeria. The screening of Tunde Kelani's 'Ma'ami' was a major success. It afforded the acting Director General of the board, Ms Patricia Bala, the opportunity to respond to various questions from the audience on the role of the board and how to improve on the various aspects of Nollywood.
What kind of interactions did you have with other participants?
There is always this issue of the number of films and movies being produced, sent into the market and the quality of these films. Most people wanted to know the challenges we face as a board regulating such a fast growing industry producing so many movies at supersonic speed. Second, postgraduate students wanted to know how distribution is being handled in Nigeria, because many of those spoken to in Europe say the distribution channel in Nigeria is nonexistent. Third, many are interested in the opportunities inherent in such an industry in Nigeria and how they can engage with stakeholders in Nollywood.
But most importantly, the intellectual side of the festival was for me most heartwarming. I've mixed feelings, because on the one hand I'm excited by the interest in Nollywood abroad, but on the flip side, I'm not particularly happy. Many European students including South Africans now do post graduate degrees on Nollywood while we the owners of the industry are not in the mix. In the next ten years hopefully, Europeans and foreigners will now be teaching us about an industry we created. I think that is a challenge for the NFVCB. Therefore we encourage government to provide infrastructure and support to any Nigerian student who wants to do a postgraduate study on Nollywood so that we don't allow others to tell our stories for us. We've got to be at the forefront of selling and promoting our culture through movies. We were delighted Mr. Kelani accepted our invitation to come for the event to promote 'Ma'ami'.
As long as we encourage the production of top class movies with the sole motive that their content is African, then we won't have fear of losing our identity in the global film industry.
Why Kelani's movie?
The theme of our road show this time round was 'Nollywood: Promoting Indigenous Content Abroad'. It was an easy decision for us; he is one of Nigeria's foremost filmmakers and his genre has always been the Yoruba language. Second, the road show is a promotional platform for the board to educate, sell and attract intellectual and infrastructural investment for the movie industry in Nigeria. We want to go beyond attending festivals, exchanging complimentary cards and coming back home. No, those days are gone. We'll encourage Nigerian movies with good content to be taken to festivals and screened. That will drive traffic to the industry and Nigeria, with Nigerians being the ultimate beneficiaries.
Why is it necessary for the NFVCB to participate at these events? What impact does this have on the average film producer/director and such people back home?
You need to tell your own story. At Edinburgh, countries across Africa and films from Ghana, Kenya South Africa, Senegal and Mali were screened. How will it sound that Nigeria was not represented in a festival where the main topic of the symposium is the growth of Nollywood? The impact cannot be quantified in monetary terms; you need to be there to know what I mean. Well from available information, the average film producer/director in Nigeria who has participated in our road show will tell you that he or she has been able to build partnership and collaboration across the world and that has improved the content of their various movies. We have foreign producers and directors coming into the country and the movies are been gradually transformed. So we are on the up and we will get there in the shortest possible time, I assure you.