BY SEGUN ODEJIMI
After breaking into the consciousness of the Nigerian film industry with his multiple award-winning zombie flick, Ojuju, young filmmaker, CJ ‘Fiery’ Obasi has gone on to direct O-Town, produced by his wife and creative partner, Oge Obasi.
O-Town, like Ojuju, is also expected to raise more eyebrows and grab Nollywood‘s attention. Obasi won the Trailblazer award at this year’s Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCA). The award is usual given to an industry practitioner who is believed to be pushing the envelope and with Ojuju, “Fiery” did just that.
However, as well received as the film was outside the shores of the country – The Hollywood Reporter even gave it a good review, Ojuju has struggled to get into Nigerian cinemas. In fact, the movie seems to have generated more discussion abroad, than it has here in its native cinematic community.
Obasi thinks this is not a good thing, especially as there is an ongoing effort to reawaken the cinema-going culture in the country. His logic, a right one indeed, is that Nigerians can only be lured out of their homes to support Nollywood only if more indigenous movies are shown in more cinema houses. He told TNS that, “You can’t encourage people to watch more Nigerian films if there aren’t more cinemas showing Nigerian films. It’s like a puzzle, you can’t have one without the other.“
He also believes that it will have a further effect on the quality of films being put out. “When the filmmakers also see that when they finish their films they can put it on this platform, they will start working harder to do better films.“
On what he thinks contributed to Ojuju not immediately finding its way into Nigerian cinemas despite its international acceptance, the Owerri-based filmmaker mentioned the fact that the film took an erstwhile uncharted course in terms of its genre. “Ojuju took what to a large extent was an unexplored territory so there was this lack of eagerness to jump on the train. Cinemas want to make money, and the film is a risk.“
Almost all upcoming filmmakers would tell you that the main challenge they face is lack of sufficient funds to pump into their projects. Even the more established ones often chorus this too and Obasi also mentioned the finance as one of the challenges. He said, “Because we don’t get funding immediately or we don’t even get funding, there are a lot of challenges. It means for those of us that want big names in our films, we can’t get them because we can’t afford them. And this is one of the big questions from cinema houses, understandably because they want films that have actors who have a fanbase – those are the people who are going to pay for the tickets.“