"A Film Has No Language"
By Al-Amin Ciroma
(published in my INSIDE KANNYWOOD column in LEADERSHIP, September 26, 2009)
Professionally, film is said to have no language. In Nigeria today, making a film constitutes one of the major projectors and image re-branding tool of the country. In the international market, Nigeria's motion picture stakeholders have succeeded in creating a niche for themselves and have succesfully written the country's name in gold as the second largest movie, producer. This has, indeed, boosted the image of Nigeria; hardly can any Nigerian scroll through cable satellite channels without seeing the works of Nigerian artistes. Film are also one of the very few ways of information dissemination. In Nigeria, a lot of talent put together to propel motion picture to the next height. Spread across the geopolitical zones of the country, movies are produced in the major indigenous languages- that is, Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo and above all with the official Nigerian language, English. Before now, film making was considered a business for dropouts and the destitute in the society, but today, the industry players are celebrated icons. So many practitioners put together their God– given talents to take Nigeria to the international scene. This article outlines citations of some of the outstanding personalities in Nigeria's giant motion picture industry.
•Nkem Owoh – You don't make a list of Nollywood’s outstanding personalities without a mention of Nkem Owoh. A lot who scream the name ‘Osuofia’ do not even know that this artisitc name predates Nollywood. And that is why he is a pioneer to what we know as Nollywood today.
Owoh was part of one of the first successful Nollywood films. Apart from writing the script, he also featured in the same film as ‘Marcus Ezeigwe.’ He didn’t seem to have arrived until the release of numerous other best sellers like Ukwa, Osuofia in London, etc. He instantly became a household name with his fame breaking down barriers. There is no doubt that Nkem has helped in re-shaping Nollywood as far as comedy and humour merchandising is concerned. For stamping his authority on the comedy and humour scene of Nollywood, for helping the world cure their hypertension, for several persons, both upcoming artistes and viewers alike, Nkem drives fast his vehicle to re-branding Nigeria.
•Ali Nuhu –At the formative stage of film-making in the northern part of the country, Ali Nuhu became one of the greatest icons behind it. Although, he started off and foremost with the English drama and TV soaps, Nuhu was later to become 'sarki' (king) of the Hausa film industry, popularly known as Kannywood. A versatile and multi-talent actor, the name Ali Nuhu is a household name, not only in the northern part of the country but also to neighbouring countries and Hausa speaking communities in the world. His role in Sangaya, Wasila, to Sitanda, eventually made him a star to watch. The panache and skilfulness of Nuhu gained him double role in the motion picture industry in Nigeria, being the master of the game of the Hausa film industry He has also succeeded in writing his name among the who's who in industry.
•Sam Loco – If there is anyone who has touched several souls through the profession he chose for himself, then that personality is Samuel ‘Locomotion’ Efenwokieke, ‘Sam Loco’ for the short. From Eredo, Edo State, Loco is gifted with the ease of speaking several Nigerian languages, which has made to cut across the boarders.
The son of a prison official who played soccer during his growing up days got a nickname- 'Locomotion'- from the field of play, which is today shortened to ‘Loco’. He was also a travelling salesman for a tyre manufacturing company before deciding to go and study Acting and Dramatics at the University of Ibadan. Apart from featuring in popular telelvision dramas like Hotel De Jordan, working with the University Ibadan Theatre Troupe, Sam Loco made national limelight when he starred in Langbodo, at the prestigious FESTAC ‘77. From then till date, while his contemporaries are living in retirement due to age, Daddy Sam Loco Efe is still waxing strong featuring in soaps, comedies, movies and other works of art. History will not forget his A+ performance in Piccadily.
•Clarion Chukwura – If you wish to talk about consistency, one of the stars you must not fail to talk about is Lady Clarion Chukwura. An amazon of the thespian world as well as groomed in the classrooms and stage of the University of Ife (now ObafemiAwolowo University)
She is called 'Madam Consistency' due to the manner in pwhich she delivers her lines on set. She makes it seem very easy. Have you ever seen Clarion make moves with her body while on set? She is fluid. No doubt a host of people like Chukwura deserve national honours for propelling Nigeria's image at the international arena.
•Sani Mu'azu – In those good old days when people were agitating for a way forward for Nollywood, there was a man who kept the flag aloft in the Northern part of Nigeria. That man is Sani Mu'azu.
People who are marvelled at his achievements, exposure and experience when they realise that he has come a long way featuring in the crew of Mr. Johnson and Soweto in the 80s.
•Okey Ogunjiofor – If you asked Oke Ogunjiofor what he thought he was doing when he gathered some desperate drama hungry young men and women to do Living In Bondage, the movie credited to have started Nollywood, he would readily tell you that he was driven by sheer deep passion for what he knew how to do.
Whether you are one of those who argue that there were other drama sketches put out on video before Living In Bondage, it has never been in doubt that the movie was all Nollywood needed to erupt like a volcano. Now you could count the number of off-shoots of that similar move-BOBTV, AMAA, Lagos International Film Festival, Abuja International Film Festival, several reality shows on television among others.
Ogunjiofor is just another Bollywood's Karan Johar first, for spearheading a revolution, which has overtaken him; for venturing into an area that has provided employment for several hundreds of thousands people, including the educated and the talented for engaging Nigerians with an unforgetable film story which has continued to be felt in their sub-conscious many years after its production.
•Joke Jacobs – It could be a very big task to be saddled with the responsibility of describing the personality of Nigeria's top actress and Joke Jacobs. Due to lack of words, one is tempted to use words like ‘quintessential’ or to better still a role model.
However you may want to look at it, Nollywood will never be complete if there is no mention of Joke Jacobs, wife of another internationally renowned thespian Olu Jacobs (who knows what their children would turn to later). Just one scene of any of her films will prove to you that she went into acting with her eyes wide open and has continue to influence younger artistes both on stage and on screen. Her strong points include her vocal delivery, her stage presence, her diction and her entire performance. With Joke, the microphone, the cameras glow, your screen lights up. She help the motion picture industry in Nigeria to grow stronger by the day.
•Chucks Mordi – There are people who do what you see and get recognition and there are several others whom you don't see, but have their fingers in everything. Chucks Mordi is one of them. Mordi was part of the beginnings of Nollywood and his passion took him to the United Kingdom, where he set up the Association of Movie Producers (AMP), UK Chapter. You can imagine how hard it would have been for him to do that. AMP in UK is an army with membership spanning Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Thumbs up to a son of the soil who has kept Nigeria’s flag flying across the border.