Nigerian film director Kunle Afolayan’s film, ARAROMIRE (The Figurine), has just been nominated by the 6th Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Soundtrack, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, Achievement in Cinematography, Achievement in Art Direction, Achievement in Visual Effect, and Heart of Africa Award for Best Film from Nigeria. Actor-cum-filmmaker Afolayan speaks to BETHSHEBA ACHITSA.
Your new film “The Figurine “seems to be attracting lots of attention from all over the world, what is the reason for this?
The reason why The Figurine is getting a lot of attention is simply because it stands out in the class of its own; it has a lot of production value which is what drives an average independent film from anywhere in the world.
You have worked with well known actors like Ramsey Noauh in your new film; does the use of well-known characters contribute to the success of a film?
Well, Ramsey and other actors in the film played and interpreted their different role very well but a film like The Figurine is in that class of a film that will make an actor not a film that an actor will make. The quality of the film was the first catchy thing about it.
What is The Figurine all about?
The Figurine is the folk tale story of a goddess (ARAROMIRE) that gives seven years of prosperity to anyone who touches it and replaces with seven years of bad luck seven years after. We have two good friends who stumbled on Araromire during their National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) and their lives never remain the same afterward.
For how long did you work on the film?
The script took us four years to finish while pre-production, production and post-production took about a year.
What was the film’s budget?
Fifty million Naira (about US$400,000).
Bank loans in Nigeria are rarely awarded to filmmakers, from what we hear; what made the bank to loan you the money?
The loan I took from the bank was not attached to the film project.
Why do you say that putting your film on DVD is not on your mind?
The film was primarily shot for cinemas. I intend reviving the cinema-going culture in Nigeria with the film and that’s why we will do all we can to make sure it gets the right distribution framework which will help explore the theatrical exhibition before it finally goes on DVD.
Before you made your debut film “IRAPADA” had you worked on any other film project?
I only did a short film titled LIFE IS SHORT which was a school project and then Irapada (Redemption).
Are you trained in filmmaking? How did you get into the field of filmmaking?
Well…I started as an actor before I decided to turn filmmaker which was what drove me to NYFA to study Digital Filmmaking in 2005.
It is said that you are personally handling your film from scripting to distribution; how are you handling all this without compromising any aspect of creativity and marketing?
An average Nigerian is born versatile. You have to always work out a way, especially in an environment where there seems to be few structures. I don’t write scriptsbut I create ideas and contribute to bringing it alive. A good filmmaker must learn the creativity and the trade and that’s why I am involved in all these.
Co-production among African filmmakers is viewed as a lee-way for African filmmakers to put forward African stories; do you agree with this observation?
I think collaboration among African filmmakers will help take the African cinema to the next level.
Does turning to filmmaking signal the end of your acting career?
I am still an actor but have not been doing much in that regard due to my very busy schedule; how I wish I don’t have to bother my head about distribution. Though I am still very relevant in the acting circle, a lot of people now see me more as a filmmaker.
You say that Africans have good stories but they do not have the technical know-how. What is the way forward for aspiring filmmakers and Africa as a continent?
An aspiring filmmaker from Africa should be well trained through film school, workshops, conferences and other formal and informal training channels. Every opportunity to get exposure is key and that way, ideas flow through your mind and brain.
In your opinion piracy is not the problem but a lack of proper distribution network is; how can filmmakers like you and others in Africa overcome this challenge?
The only way is to jointly come up with a proper distribution framework for the entire Africa which will help get any good film from Africa to different region and countries. African filmmakers should start making films that can cross their national borders, films that a sales agent or distributor from other continents and regions would like to be part of.
Tell us about yourself.
Kunle Afolayan is an actor and filmmaker. My aim and objective is to take the African cinema to the next level in the world cinema.