Prolific film producer and Mainframe boss Tunde Kelani spoke with P.M.NEWS Entertainment about the Nigerian movie industry, on-line film distribution, marketing and other issues
There have been some disagreements over the name Nollywood. To you what is Nollywood? Nollywood refers to the Nigerian film industry, especially within the last 20 years and this is a collective legacy of what we have been able to do with a medium that has its audience not only in Nigeria but all over the world.
Is Nollywood a Yoruba thing or an English coinage?
I Think we have passed the point of controversy regarding the ownership, of Nollywood, because this doesn’t matter or arise. We have passed that stage of controversy of who owns Nollywood. Even in Nollywood itself there are lots of diversities, because it extends to other areas. For your information, some Ghanaian productions are often called Nollywood.
But the English actors are claiming the ownership of Nollywood?
There are lots of stories regarding the industry and this depends on who is telling the story. Some people talk about Living in Bondage by NEK Video’s Kenneth Nnebue. Before then some Yoruba productions were funded by Nnebue. And the productions came before Living in Bondage. In fact, that controversy does not matter again because Nollywood means the totality of the Nigerian film industry.
In the next 20 years how do you see the Nigerian film industry?
It is difficult for anyone to predict about the next 20 years, because the industry is busy now due to series of developments technologically. Even in the next one year, the industry will dazzle and in the same period, Nigerians will have access to broadband internet facilities that will determine how films will be distributed because physical distribution of films will not be forever. It is only a matter of time.
You have always been mentioning Nigerians in diaspora, what can these people learn from us?
We have a great responsibility regarding the type of films we produce and make available to the people in diaspora. For example, these are Christians and Muslims, but in most of our films we demonise Yoruba ‘orisa’ practices because we do not even know what the orisa represents. The ‘Orisas’ (gods) have special attributes. Each of the orisas has its own music, its food, its own claims and we have not even researched into all these but outside they are doing it for us. Now we have to look more inward, to project ourselves.
What about the language being spoken in most Yoruba films, does it really project the industry well?
Yoruba is dynamic, because it has different dialects, as you move from one area to the other the dialect changes. For instance, the Yoruba language being spoken in Cotonou, Ajase, Sakete, Pobe, is different from the Yoruba being spoken in some Yorubaland because there are some elements of Anago in it.
How have you been able to blend these in your films?
I don’t necessary have to blend them, I just do it naturally. More importantly, what matters is the story because the cinema has a language of its own which is the visual and it is a powerful way of telling stories.
People are complaining of too many films being released by producers, yet your films are selling. What is the secret?
Even my films are not perfect; I am learning to make better films.
Let’s go to the issue of on-line films, how can we curb piracy?
Let me tell you one fact, the distribution of Nigerian films has not started on-line, because we lack the infrastructure and the backbone to do it. We don’t even have electricity, so it is very difficult to project or discuss these. We are not developed to that level yet.
Then how do we curb the issue of pirated films abroad?
Nigerian films that are being pirated abroad were taken there by Nigerians, who buy copies from here and take it there to pirate. This could be curbed through VCD distribution but some of us make film for cinema production. However, there are only seven cinemas operating at full capacity in Nigeria, I won’t mention their names. It boils down to lack of infrastructure.
How do you compare our film industry with those of other African countries?
To me Nollywood is the face of African film today, so there is no African country that is better than Nigerian film industry in terms of film production.
Is it true that Nigerian film producers make substandard films?
It’s left for the consumers to decide. If the consumers say no, we don’t want this kind of films, the producers won’t make it, but if they continue to buy, they will produce more. If the consumers say we have a choice, the producers will produce better films.
What is TK working on now?
Well “Maami” is in the cinemas, I also have two or three projects I am working on now. I will let you know soon.