By Peter Duru, Makurdi
Keke Bongos Ikwue is the daughter of the legendary Nigerian music icon, Bongos Ikwue. She is the producer of ‘Inale’, an epic film that won her the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA). In this interview with Saturday Vanguard, she spoke on the Nigerian film industry, piracy in the industry and a whole lot of issues. Excerpt
What was the idea and inspiration behind the production of ‘Inale’ as a film?
The inspiration was my dad. The main reason for bringing that movie out was to reel out Bongos Ikwue’s songs to the general public and to rekindle the memories people have about my dad, Bongos Ikwue.
Yeah, some people may have thought he is dead, or maybe he now has one leg or some different stories people peddle around about what may have happened to him. This film is to let the world know that he is still alive before they start asking questions about what may have happened to him. It is also in preparation for the release of his new album coming out soon.
Have ever produced a film before?
No, I call myself a novice.
How was it like producing a film that instantly won the AMAA Award?
Very interesting and educational, especially since it was my first time, and I must say that working with Jeta Amata was a good learning experience.He taught me a lot. When I started working on the film, I didn’t realize that my role was going to be that of a producer, until later when I read some stuffs. I then realized that it’s been what I’ve been doing. So really, I’m learning on the job and it’s been a good one.
How would you rate the Nigerian movie industry?
It’s evolving, it’s growing and we are making progress and I strongly believe that we are going to get there.
Sometimes people say this is not what the public wants but at the same time, I realize that we tell the public what they want, whether you like it or not, we tell the the public what they want, what they should listen to and what they watch. It’s just like a child, when you start telling your child something or you introduce your child to a certain type of food, he takes it and becomes used to it.
So, the the industry is evolving and gradually growing. I think one of the issues people had before was that of funding and it is still funding at the moment. And you know, in the production process, you have to do what the executive producer says because he is the person with the money and you have to do it the way he wants it. But now thankfully, there are other sources of funding especially with the placement of adverts, public sponsorships, corporate sponsorships and all of that. This is actually helping the sector and the people to be liberal and more independent in their production and it is actually making more sense.
And in terms of picture quality, people are now deploying more and better cameras in production, not iPhone cameras or camcorders. People are going for big cameras like the Hollywood style cameras to produce real quality.
So it is evolving. I now hear people talk of the new Nollywood and old Nollywood, I kind of refuse to buy into that.
For me ultimately, its just a divide between those who chose to pay more attention to quality and detail and those who choose to do what they call kpa-kpa-kpa in our local parlance. So it’s not just a matter of old or new, it’s just a matter of individuals decisions and those who want to come out with something good. And you don’t have to spend a whole lot of money without coming out with something good.
Do you think that your film ‘Inale’ would be able to break into the competitive film market?
I think all you need is to have the right marketing plan. I haven’t come out on DVD yet. And I will. I’m hoping to come out soon. And the reason I didn’t jump on it immediately is because I needed to study it. I need to ask questions, I need to be able to talk to people.
So I believe that if it is well done; like a song you heard for the first time or even a movie you just saw a clip of, you thought was a huge rubbish, when it keeps hitting you every single time and the publicity is done alongside the marketing, out of curiosity it will be like, what the hell, let me just look it up.
So, if publicity is done well and the marketing is done well, I believe even if it’s in one corner somewhere, people will want to face that corner to get it. The ultimate goal for now is for us to know how we are going to make it attractive enough for people to want it. I believe we can do it.
Are you not scared of piracy which has become like a canker worm in Nigeria’s music and film industry?
Well, I’m concerned about it, but I don’t want to use the word scared because it is a matter of the method one uses to release the product. But I don’t want to say much to make it sound like I’m daring you. Or something like,I dare you to try to pirate my film; but I don’t want to say I’m worried about it because, I mean, at the end of the day, it’s really and truly all about making your money back and getting the job done.
If at least the copies that I have, and I say okay, this is what I want distributed and I make my money back, fine. Let me give you an example, recently, another Director walked into my house and she saw my DVDs and she was like, okay I guess you are a true film maker. I don’t buy pirated copies of anything. I can’t. For me I get repulsed by it. Funny enough, it is even before I started making films.
For me it’s theft. Granted, I know that for one reason or the other people might decide to do it, but I just can’t do it.
If there is a film I want to get, I’ll wait. Or maybe I’m privileged to travel out of the country, I’ll buy it. But I’ll wait to get all the original copies of all the films that I want and come back home. But piracy is a huge issue which is why obviously I’m taking my time before I release it. And I know that if I put it out in the market when I’m not really ready, I’ll get screwed. So yes, I have to be very careful.
How much has gone into the production of ‘INALE’?
Are you talking of how much I’ve spent or how much I intend to spend at the end of the day? Uptil today, I’m still spending. At the end of the day, even with the film everybody has seen, I’ll still have to go back to do some home work before I go to DVD because I need it clean when it goes to DVD. So I’m spending money. I’m spending quite a bit of money. Something close to a million Dollars ( $1,000,000) or maybe close to that. Maybe.
That’s a huge sum?
Yes, but I believe I’m going to make it back. Because I actually have interests from US distributors, I have an express interest with them. I have some friends working in the UK and in different countries of Africa, so I believe if it’s well done and well planned out, I will make my money back.
What was INALE’s premiere and cinema screening in the country like?
The reception was outstanding and exciting. It was more than we hoped for.
How do you feel winning the the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) with a new film?
It felt good to be nominated and then win. It’s an honour to be nominated and definitely great to win. I didn’t have the chance to thank AMAA during my speech and to even acknowledge the effort of the director Jeta Amata and the rest of the cast and crew because I was so overwhelmed.
I think what AMAA did was to recognise a new idea in Nollywood — an idea that a lot of people have been skeptical of. So, being nominated for any category, I think it’s like giving official approval on the work.
What was your father’s reaction to your achievement?
Oh, he was so excited and proud that we won. If anyone comes by the house, he says: “Hello how have you been, come let me show you the award Inale won.” He was really very proud and happy about it, because being away from the music scene for this long, he feels great to be recognised in this way by this generation. He felt like he never left the scene.