‘76 is a Nigerian historical film from the stables of Adonis Production and Princewill’s Trust. It is produced by Adonijah Owiriwa and Izu Ojukwu and is directed by Izu Ojukwu. ‘76 stars Ramsey Nouah, Chidi Mokeme, Rita Dominic, both Africa Movie Academy and Viewers Award for Best Actor In Leading Role in 2016 – Daniel K Daniel and Ibinabo Fiberesima.
Izu Ojukwu stated that “it’s a story told from a dual point of view – from the soldier’s patriotic perspective accused of being involved in the 1976 military coup and assassination of General Murtala Muhammed, and from that of the officer’s wife.” Ojukwu also makes it clear that the film pays homage to the strength of Soldiers’ wives, “As far as I’m concerned, the wives are the real soldiers,…they are the ones who suffer from whatever decisions their husbands make — whether on the battlefield or off it.”
About 200 cast and crew members were on set for the movie – ’76. The film was shot in the ancient city of Ibadan. The cast were all trained for 21 days with instructors from the Nigerian Defence Academy. The crew were on location for 91 days.
“Our objective was to show audiences, amongst other things, what the wives of officers had to go through. Military coups are our legacy. In some ways, we are still trying to recover from this. Everyone sees and hears the perspective of the officers. But the woman’s story stays silent. We wanted to highlight the strength and the vulnerabilities of the typical African woman and to do so through the eyes of officers’ wives. This is a filmmaker’s tiny contribution to raising their volume,” stated Adonijah Owiriwa.
For the first time in Nigerian history, a film shoot was allowed within the barracks. A first in cinematic history. Set during the era of military assassinations and political unrest in Nigeria, after production the movie enjoyed the full approval and endorsement of the Nigerian Army and the Murtala Muhammed family. It comes 40 years after the actual events, and follows seven years of work. Izu Ojukwu said, “We wanted to show audiences who were not there, what it was like and the impact of the army on the people’s psyche. A lot of water has gone under the bridge over 40 years. This is a filmmaker’s small contribution to some of that healing.”
The film, cast and crew recently received a major boost with a high profile endorsement from the Head of State who succeeded the then assassinated Murtala Muhammed at the time; His Excellency General Olusegun Obasanjo, then later went on to become a two-term President making him both a military and civilian leader of the largest black nation in the world. He described ’76 as “the best view of one of the worst times in our nation’s history. A must watch and an insight that was long overdue. Watching the attention to detail and hearing my own voice in February 1976, brought out both sweet and sour memories as Murtala Muhammed was not only my boss, he was my friend. I cannot attest to what went on in the homes as we were focused on the field, but this film gives even I, an insight into that.”
Ojukwu has always had fantasies about making military movies, so much that he follows many coup stories. When the ’76 project came along, he had to do a lot more reading and research, and also consult scholars on the crucial aspects of the story set during the hip 1970’s, to ensure historical accuracy. During the film’s development, the director tried to minimize violence as he wanted people to focus on the story and not get distracted or agitated by gory images.
Issues reflected in the film include the rumours of foreign involvement in Murtala Muhammed’s coup; Ojukwu states, “You cannot run away from them… You must deal with all the rumours — although we cannot say, factually, what happened…”. The film also strongly portrays intertribal marriages; ’76 is set six years after the Nigerian Civil War and according to the director, this was an era when the Nigerian people started playing down on all forms of discrimination and saw themselves more as brothers and sisters than strange bedfellows. The historical account of ’76 has the support of the Nigerian Military as the script went through a seven-month investigation and approval period before filming started. The military also assigned personnel to train the actors and guide the military aspect of the film.
Filming took place mainly at Mokola Barracks, Ibadan, Oyo. The film was shot using ArriSuper 16 cameras. After over four months on set, principal photography was concluded in July 2012.
In September 2016 the movie went on to screen four times at the Toronto International Film Festival, and had sold-out halls on all the dates.
Princewill stated, “I am glad we were selected by both the Toronto and London Film Festivals as they had been watching our progress and to get their endorsements as well as that of former President and Head of State who lived frontline through that historical period could not have come at a better time.”
The African premiere will hold in Lagos on November 3, 2016 and it opens to the public on November 25 across Nigeria. ‘76 has also been invited to screen at the Dubai Film Festival 2016 and Berlin Film Festival 2017.