BY ‘SEGUN ODEJIMI
Just to be clear, this is not a review. Nobody writes a review of a film after seeing just half of it. However, after spending that much time in its company, one can tell a few things here and there.
Yesterday, Wednesday, Nigerian filmmaker, Kunle Afolayan held the first of many public screenings for his quite anticipated Pan-African film, The CEO. Held at the Silverbird Cinema, Ikeja City Mall, Lagos, yesterday’s screening was for the press. That means those present did not see more than 50 minutes of the new work. But that was enough to tell me where the majority of the 2016 film awards in Nollywood will go.
You see, the plain truth is, in terms of production, only a few films will get close to The CEO this year. We are almost half through May and none of the films released so far in 2016 can be put in the same room as this one. It will eat them up. Wives on Strike is currently eating up the box offices nationwide and it is safe to say it is the most popular Nigerian film at the moment. But when it is time to give out those weirdly shaped gongs, especially in the categories dedicated to production, it will keep its distance.
It is not because Afolayan’s film was shot on several locations around Africa and in Paris. It is because the producer/director did what he does – he recruited the best hands to help make this film. Pat Nebo, arguably Nigeria’s number one production designer, was on hand for this one too. So were Kulanen Ikyo (AMVCA winner), Dawid Pietkiewicz, Lola Maja (another AMVCA winner) and more. Of course, you need an attractive budget to recruit the best around and it is an open secret that Kunle Afolayan has access to funds within and outside Nollywood. But he knows the trick, and that trick makes him a force – one that brands are beginning to fall over themselves to partner with and endorse.
The story despite it being a Pan-African one was not lost on the audience. Tunde Babalola has done some more good with his writing prowess. The director’s casting is key to how far this film will travel and how well it will do. Wale Ojo is, of course, a Nigerian screen darling and he brought his A-game into this one. Findings have also revealed that Aurelie Eliam, Fatym Layachi, Nico Panagiotopoulos and Peter King Nzioki are cult heroes in their various countries not to talk of superstars Angélique Kidjo and Jimmy Jean-Louis who are a little more global.
Air France is willing to fly The CEO beyond the borders of Africa beginning with an in-flight premiere on June 1 and it is worth the space on those seats. This film might not shatter the existing box-office record in Nigeria as history has taught us that it is the preserve of comedies and films with unserious themes. But Kunle Afolayan should start rehearsing the numerous acceptance speeches he will surely be giving in the next year or so.