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Women Producers, Directors Blazing The Trail

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Women have been known to strive for excellence and thus step up to the plate in any given endeavour. In this report, SAMUEL ABULUDE looks at the art of movie making and celebrates women movie producers and directors in Nigeria who have proved their mettle.

The contributions of women in the art cum entertainment sector has been epochal just like in other sectors.  Their efforts in shaping the film industry across the value chain are no less significant as the industry boasts quite a number of women who have continued to push, set records, inspire, and tell refreshing kinds of stories. Movie making is an arduous task and thus involved a lot of intricacies and management of people saddled with different. In Nollywood, there is an increase in women directors and producers. This is aside those actresses who choose to produce their own movies in order to play the lead roles. The following are women producers and directors who have held their own in the movie sector.

Amaka Igwe

Though she died in April 2014, Amaka Igwe ranks topmost in the annals of the  movie  world  in Nigeria, she  is  one of  the front liners and pace setting movie directors and producers that shaped Nollywood, the generic name of the Nigeria movie industry which came to our consciousness in the early 90s when DTH movie videos came to be.

Amaka Igwe whose productions made stardom out of many actors was a visionary who knew what she wanted and understood the power of shaping public opinion and telling stories via motion pictures. The award-winning soap, “Checkmate”, produced by Amaka is a case study in how to make a successful production.

Born in 1964, Amaka Isaac Ene grew up to be known as ‘GCO’ (General Commanding Officer) by her father and ‘Storm’ by her mother because she was always busy with some activity. As a child she acted as a minister of Youth, Sports and Culture.

Amaka who became a broadcasting executive was the owner of Top Radio 90.9 Lagos and Amaka Igwe Studios. She was recognised as one of the second generation filmmakers who helped begin the video film era of Nigerian cinema. The 51 year old remained a prominent figure in the industry until her death in April 2014. Nollywood missed her frankness and wealth of knowledge and expertise.

Chineze Anyaene

One of the early women film makers to make waves in not too recent times is Chineze Anyaene. She may not be one of the most consistent directors working today, but she helmed the unforgettable and critically acclaimed 2013 feature “Ije.”

Anyaene who’s based in the US, explored topical issues such as racism, life as an immigrant in a foreign country and culture, using strong and relatable characters like Chioma and Anya played by the two leading female thespians of the day, Genevieve and Omotola Jolade-Ekehinde. The movie is one of the best Nollywood movies ever to gross N59m on a budget of $2.5m.

Ngozi Onwurah

Despite being the director of the first independent black British feature film to be released, Ngozi Onwurah is not a household name in Nigeria on account of her being based in the United Kingdom. For a long time, her film, Welcome To The Terrordome (1995), was the only film by a black woman to have a UK release.

Born to a white mother and a black father in the 1960s Nigeria. She was raised in England by her mother, alongside her two other siblings. Ngozi graduated as a director from the UK’s National Film and Television School in Beaconsfield. Her first short film, `Coffee Coloured Children’, achieved international film festival success and won first prize in the BBC Showreel competition. However, like many black British women pioneers, her contributions to her craft have been pushed to the peripheries of British film history.

Mo Abudu

She can be said to be the foremost woman executive producer and one that is passionate about the make believe industry in Nigeria and the power it wields.

Modupe Abudu who is an investor and CEO of Ebony Life TV and Ebony Films has produced great movies like “Fifty The Movie”, “Wedding Party I & II”.  The astute business woman has turned herself into a reputable auteur and a force on both the big screen and TV churning out great movie productions like “The Royal Hotel Hibiscus” and soaps like “The Governor,” “Desperate Housewives Africa,” “Sons of the Caliphate,” and “Fifty the Series.” Her success story is the movie which showcased the typical Nigeria wedding ceremony, “The Wedding Party” and its sequel “The Wedding Party: Destination Dubai” which both have been a huge success, grossing N453m million naira and N500m, respectively.

Her goal-getter acumen and mantra, ‘If you can think it, you can do it’ which she uses to close her show ‘Mo Abudu Show’ has spurred both men and women alike.

Abudu in 2017 was mentioned in The Hollywood Reporter’s annual list of the ‘25 Most Powerful Women in Global Television alongside Angelica Guerra (Latin America), Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner(United Kingdom).

Bolanle Austene-Peters

In a time when stage production was at its lowest ebb recording low attendance, Mrs Bolanle Austene-Peters can be said to be the catalyst that brought stage productions back to live again as many Nigerians are beginning to have faith in the cinema culture and life drama performances.

She put her stamp of approval on the joint-production of the movie, ’93 Days’ movie. The movie, a 2016 Nigerian drama thriller directed and co-produced by Steve Gukas, tells the story of the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Nigeria and its successful containment by health workers from a Lagos hospital.

The production is made up of three companies namely Native FilmWorks, Michel Angelo Production and Bolanle Austene-Peters Production.

Bolanle Austene-Peters BAP Productions is in the frontline of stage productions and has made the fairly new Terra Kulture Arena the home of excellent stage play production. With plays cum musicals like Saro the Musical, Waka, Fela & The Kalakuta Queens and the new and about-to-be-staged “Queen Moremi The Musical”. The vision of Bolanle Austene-Peters is taking shape and now other areas in Lagos aside the island will have the feel of the Terra Arena treatment. Areas like Igando, Badagry, Egbeda will have their residents enjoy stage plays other than coming to the Terra Arena at Tiamiyu Savage, Victoria Island in Lagos.

Emem Isong

She can be said to be the first lady of romantic comedy themed movie productions. Emem Isong Misodi is a screenwriter, film producer and director and has become a dominant figure in that industry.

Her second directed feature, “Code of Silence”, which deals with rape in Nigeria, was released in 2015. Emem has also been listed as a maverick in the New Nollywood movement which is categorized by filmmakers who are not just interested in producing movies, but in producing movies that can be considered substantial and artful products.

Emen founded the Royal Arts Academy in 2010 and her subsequent role as the academy’s CEO. The Royal Arts Academy has tasked itself with a mandate concerned with the empowerment of its students by giving them the necessary tools required to take part in all aspects of film creation and production.

Biola Alabi

Biola Alabi is a recurring decimal in the arts and movie Industry. After making her sandprints as MNet director, she took a break and established Biola Alabi Media BAM.

Now, BAM produced the drama cum musical, “Lola & the Beats” after recording the food and travel series, “Bukas & Joints”.

“Lola & the Beats” won the best costume design at Africa Movie Academy Award AMAA 2018 held recently at Kigali in Rwanda.

Speaking on her love for cinema, she said, “I have always been passionate about television and film. Also I got the opportunity to work in the space very early when I was in the university but I never pursued it as a career. So I had a job and I was working in the media, working for television, marketing their programmes to university students. But at a time, I didn’t even think that people had a career in the media because I was so focused on the sciences hopefully to become a doctor one day because that was what my parent told me that it was a good thing. I started to see more opportunities in media and marketing and that was how I started doing things for a lot of media companies.”

Mildred Okwo

Co-founder of The Audrey Silva Company TASC, Mildred Okwo is one of the most respected Nigerian filmmakers.

With projects such as the AMVCA award winning movie “The Meeting,” the romantic comedy “Suru L’ere,” and the anticipated TV series “Bankers NGR,” TASC is doing great. Also, the 2006 movie “30 Days,” starring Genevieve Nnaji, Joke Silva, Segun Arinze and another “La Femme Anjola”. Mildred Okwo is also one of Nollywood’s most outspoken figures on issues concerning the industry.

Tope Oshin

She is like a golden fish that has no hiding place. Tope Oshin was the only female director on M-Net’s hit soap opera “Tinsel” in its first five seasons shooting about 350 episodes of the show.

Tope Oshin has been in the movie industry for a while spanning decades.

She has produced and directed several acclaimed movies such as “Fifty,” “Journey to Self,” “Evol,” “In Line” among others. She also directed series namely “Hush,” “Hotel Majestic,” “The Apprentice Africa,” “Shuga” (Season 3 and 6), “New Money” and the EbonyLife TV legal drama series “Castle and Castle,” are her latest works.

Her short films, ‘Till Death Do Us Part” and “New Horizons.” are a testament that Tope Oshin-Ogun is good at what she does.

Tope, in 2016 directed the documentary, “Amaka’s Kin: The Women Of Nollywood,” a memorial to influential filmmaker Amaka Igwe, who died in 2014, and had before her death, paved the way for most female filmmakers.

Stephanie Okereke

Stephanie Linus has made a success of film making after being a successful actress and model.

After graduating from the New York Film Academy in 2007, Okereke released the movie “Through the Glass” in which she served as director, scriptwriter, producer and actress. The film received an African Movie Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay in 2009. In 2014, she released another movie, “Dry” and where she again served as a director, scriptwriter, producer, and actress and won many awards including 12th Africa Movie Academy Awards and 2016 Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards best movie overall movie with the prize of a brand new car. Okereke has starred in over 90 movies.

Blessing Egbe

At a time when it was uncommon for women to take to strictly producing movies, Blessing Egbe within the last decade has shown what sticking to one’s vision and not being dissuaded by the status quo. She is the brain behind many successful flicks and productions that has empowered the women.

Soaps like “Lekki Wives”, “This Thing Called Marriage” and even “Two Brides and A Baby” have been produced successfully by her outfit B Concept Network Productions. Speaking on how she was able to navigate the murky waters of productions in Nigeria, Egbe noted,

“I was able to do so by being resilient, open to learning, not playing safe and going against the norm as it were. I surrounded myself with professionals who keyed into my vision and found ways to make it come to pass.”

Speaking on her productions, Blessing said, “Content from B Concept network productions are unique by the way we choose to tell our stories and communicate ideas to the audience. At B Concept, it is all about the story, the art, the heart and soul of the craft and not anything else. The hallmark of the movie making career encapsulates my movies: “Lekki Wives”, “This Thing Called Marriage” and even “Two Brides and a Baby” oozed similar characteristics by way of style and structure, and like I said before these are the distinctive and unique features of B Concept productions and by extension, my defining moments as a film maker. The hearty and organic style with which we tell our stories are what many fans of “Lekki Wives” etc often attest to the fact.

Last year, Blessing shot a movie, “The Women”, around the secret lives of four women and the attrition within. The movie featuring Kate Henshaw, Omoni Oboli, Katherine Obiang and Ufoma McDermott got critical acclaim.

“We see the future as very promising, eagerly waiting and yearning for us and anyone who cares to take the plunge to key in and tap into the bountiful basket of film financing, expert distribution and great return on investment in the world stage,” Egbe concludes.

Kemi Adetiba

Kemi Adetiba’s love for the arts knows no bounds. She was a music video director few years ago and came as a film maker with the hit, “Wedding Party”. She directed the star-studded movie.

Before now, Kemi had made a name as a television director whose works have appeared on Channel O, MTV Base, Soundcity TV, BET and Netflix.

Her new work, “King of Boys” is the real deal.

Omoni Oboli

Delectable Omoni Oboli is one of the few actresses that has transited from being a success in acting to a movie producer and director.

Oboli made her directorial debut in 2014 with “Being Mrs Elliott,” and has since produced and directed “First Lady,” “Okafor’s Law,” “Wives on Strike,” and “Wives on Strike: The Revolution.”

“Wives on Strike” was a hit at the box office, grossing N15m in three days and completing its cinema run with N71m, which earned it a spot as – at time of press – the 8th highest grossing Nollywood movie ever.

Also, Oboli’s 2016 movie “Okafor’s Law” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival as part of its City to City programme. The movie eventually grossed N90m in Nigeria.

Her other work “Moms at War” and a TV adaptation of “Wives on Strike” has ensured that the brand Omoni Oboli soars.

 

 





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