By Ikedi Isiguzo
“We need to have more focused, more responsive, more reactive leadership in Nollywood.” This was stated by the popular actor, Kanayo O. Kanayo (KOK) while speaking at the July edition of the
Filmmakers’ Forum of the Nollywood Studies Centre of the School of Media and Communication.
The session which was centred on reviewing the actor’s years in Nollywood, was titled “From Living in Bondage to Apaye: 22 Years of Plying the Thespian’s Trade.” KOK took members of the audience down history lane as he spoke about the development of the industry.
In responding to a question on leadership in the Nigerian film industry, he decried the lack of trust and togetherness in the industry today. Looking back to the early days of the industry, he agreed that “there was no leadership, but there was love. People trusted each other then,” he said. However, “mistrust crept in, lack of confidence… a whole lot of stuff,” such that people tend to be more focused on looking for a means of gaining things for themselves and not for the industry. He went on to add that collaboration and partnerships are the only way to overcome this, but there needs to be a return to the camaraderie that existed in the early years of the industry.
KOK spoke about those early years and his entry into what were the beginnings of the industry. “Were we jobless before 1992?” he asked rhetorically. Not at all, he added, explaining that he and the other early entrants into the then budding Nollywood had already spent quite a few years working in television productions such as Ripples and Checkmate. According to KOK, he began working with the
television in 1982. His first role came in 1984 when he appeared on New Masquerade.This was followed by many other opportunities that opened to him during his television years and which he made the most of.
The subsequent move to video film came as a natural transition. The move “was not seen as anything big. It was just in the normal line of things.” However, Living in Bondage opened the vistas of opportunities. Before then, there was nothing to be talked about.” He narrated that the selling point, which captured the audience’s attention, was to put on screen the kind of story people had always heard
about but never seen. People had always heard of human ritual sacrifices and secret societies, but Living in Bondage was the first time that it was being put on screen in that way. The fact that the language of the film was also in “good Igbo dialect” was an added clincher. That film, KOK stated, established at that time some of the elements of what a good film set up should be. He went on to salute the enterprise of the private citizens who got involved financially, without fully understanding the film business. The traders that provided the funds that facilitated film production, he said, should be commended. They were quick to provide the money and showed a lot of trust in the filmmakers. Unfortunately, some of the filmmakers, taking advantage of the trust imposed in them by the traders/producers and their ignorance of filmmaking issues, eventually began to dupe them. This led to the advent of the filmmaking marketer because, to avoid being cheated, they went into filmmaking on their own account.
KOK then spoke about some of the key stages in the growth of Nollywood. Some of the notable moments he spoke about included the rise of the guilds (as from 1999) and the recess that was declared in the industry in 2002. He also spoke about the problems of creating the structures and
sub-structures that the industry requires for its development. He noted, however, that the resolution of such problems lies with the private sector and not with the government. He criticised the excessive dalliance that practitioners of the industry were tending towards with the government. “If Nollywood must survive, it must get out of government business!” What the industry requires from government, he said, is not welfare packages handed out to delegations but access – access to locations, equipment, uniforms, etc., to facilitate shoots. With reference to the difficulties the filmmaker faces in getting funding from financial institutions, he stressed that, “The industry must be built. It is very important. We need to localise or indigenise the collateral thing for movie making.” It is a real challenge, he said, to ask filmmakers to provide collateral in the form of buildings because they do not possess such properties.
The Forum ended with a cocktail during which members of the audience were able to interact on a one-on-one basis with KOK.