By Benjamin Njoku
London based Nigerian film maker, Obi Emelonye recently went down the memory lanes, to explain circumstances leading to the making of his award-winning movie “Mirror Boy.”
The movie shot in Gambia and in the United Kingdom, starred Nollywood star actress Genevieve Nnaji, Osita Iheme popularly known as Pawpaw and many other notable international actors, including a Gambian child actor, Kagutuzi who played the lead character.
Emelonye said he had originally planned to shoot the movie at the Obudu Cattle Ranch, in Cross River State, but was prevailed upon by Gambian actress Fatima Jabbe and the Gambian President, Sheikh, Professor Yahyah A.J.J Jammeh to relocate the production to Gambia.
In his story, he said he met with the Cross River state’s Commissioner for Tourism with a proposal requesting logistic support. “Things didn’t work out when Crosss River lost some of its oil wells to Akwa-Ibom and thus, could not support the venture again. Luckily, actress Fatima Jabble facilitated shooting of the movie in Gambia.”
Fatima, ahe said , encouraged him to take the production to Gambia. ‘She encouraged us to take the production to the Gambia with promises of free accommodation and logist support.
As a pan African film maker, I saw this as an opportunity to make a truly African film with Nigerian star casts and UK crew on Gambian soil.
“In fact, they did more than they promised. Contrary to stories, there was no money given to us. What they gave us was more than money.
We are very grateful to the President of Gambia and we hope that other African leaders can emulate this to help midwife the emergence of a new dimension to African cinema.” he narrated.
Shooting the movie in Gambia, the producer disclosed, was memorable and stress-free. “Eighty percent of the film was shot in Gambia and that reduced our stress.
I live in the UK and the bulk of the crew came from the UK. It was Genevieve and some few others that came to London for the London bit. We shot for ten days in Gambia and three days in London.”
Emenloye, played professional football with Nigerian clubsides Rangers before moving on to play with Charlton Athletics and West Ham United in the UK.
It was after this, he ventured into film making, saying shooting “Mirror Boy” in Gambia basically helped to boost that country’s fledging film industry.
He expressed happiness with what he’s achieved with the movie within a short period of time. Earlier this year, Kagutuzi won a statuette at the AMAA Awards for Best Young Actor while Genevieve Nnaji recently won Best Breakthrough Artist at the Monaco Film Festival.
The movie’s run at the cinema in the UK and its potential impact also gladdens the director’s heart.
“Mirror Boy”, according to him, was inspired by his seven-year-old son who lives in the UK and is having trouble with that country’s authority over his dual citizenship.
He revealed that the movie is an attempt to bring to light the plight of many such young Africans in diaspora. “Mirror Boy”is an adventurous movie that explores the identity crisis, confronting African children born in the diaspora,”he said.
The movie made history earlier this year when it hosted the biggest UK premiere of an African film at the world’s famous Empire Leicester Square. It was also rated as the widest released Nollywood film in the UK across 10 Odeon cinemas on the 10th of June.
A Theatre Arts graduate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and who also studied and practised Law in the UK, Emelonye disclosed his plans to publish a novel version of the movie.
“For me, the movie remains an African story produced in Gambia and the UK but mirrored through the lens of a Nigerian producer, with renowned actors drawn from different parts of the world.’
The film, which the ex-footballer said took about five years to complete, will hit the cinemas in Nigeria on August 5.
“Mirror Boy” was produced by the Nollywood Factory in association with Akin Salami and Patrick Campbell of OH Films, the film arm of OH TV (SKY199), UK’s fastest growing channel for African-Caribbean audiences.
The movie is billed to hit the cinemas across the country in this month of July, with international premieres scheduled for London and other European countries.