By Benjamin Njoku
Movie buffs in Nigeria are looking forward to the premiere of a game-changing film rooted in the events of the botched 1976 coup.
One of the most arduous tasks in the production of the movie, according to its Executive Director, Prince Tonye Princewill, was the effort to secure a working relationship with the Nigerian Army.
Meticulously executed, the pre-production period took two years including eight months of trying to secure all necessary permission from the Nigerian Army and seven months of shooting.
The script was scrutinised and an officer appointed to supervise and monitor each step of the filming process, from beginning to the end.
The movie survived three Chiefs of Army Staff. Fortunately, each one of them who took over sustained interest in the film. Determined to make it work, the production crew and cast patiently followed every instruction and met every demand from the military authorities.
A letter from the Headquarters, Nigeria Army, Department of Civil-Military Affairs signed by Major General R. I. Nicholas for the Chief of Army Staff disclosed why the military institution desires a collaboration with the creative industry. “This is in furtherance to a need to build a collaborative relationship between the Nigeria Army and the movie industry. We believe that the movie will assist in shaping the current effort at improving the civil-military relations and also educate our people on some of the historic values of the Nigeria Army.”
A large part of the action was shot at the Mokola Barracks in Ibadan, Oyo State. As the 200-member cast and crew stayed together for about seven months, bonding as a family was inevitable. Some of the striking human interest events that happened in the course of production were birthdays, weddings and passages. Chidi Mokeme and Debo Oguns, literarily got married on set (they just excused themselves for the weekend of their marriage and came right back to work, after the ceremony).
Princewill thinks ’76 is watershed of sorts in Nollywood, being the first time the Nigerian Army would encourage that level of involvement in a movie that comments on military history and an epoch in the Nigerian Army. Having opened the door, he is sure the imagination of other movie makers would be fired to follow the precedence of ’76. The movie was shot at Mokola Barracks in Ibadan and the story of how the actors were made to fit into the environment should be reserved for another day. The big budget movie which costs about N100 million promises to earn more accolades for Izu Ojukwu as director. The award-winning director is known for his work in flicks like ‘Mirror Boy’ and ‘Last Flight to Abuja.’