A master screen comic, Nkem Owoh, was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2017 African Movie Academy Awards, AMAA, for his contributions towards the development of the Nigerian film industry. The awards ceremony held last month at Eko Hotel, Lagos. He spoke fleetingly with J.K. Obatala, amidst the post adjournment hubbub at the venue.
YOU won the Special Life time Achievement Award…
Yes. And I appreciate it very well – more so than others I’ve received in the past. I must single out this honour, because it covers all the previous ones. This is “Life Achievement.” All the other awards are also achievements. But this one is different. That’s the way I interpret it. That’s why this one is so precious to me.
Where does Nkem Owoh go from here, professionally?
I am in this country. I’m in Nigeria and the world. So I just have to follow the trends around me. And what the trends suggest, I do…That is me. I shouldn’t be having ambitions of diverting from this profession. So I am going for anything that has to do with the film industry.
You don’t want to emulate colleagues like Kanayo O. Kanayo?
No. I am not going into politics. I have refused it. I don’t want to go into any other profession but “show business,” “film making,” “entertainment” and all the things that flags it.
What is the state of the industry now?
Well, it should have gone better than it is going. But with what is happening in the country, you know, recession and what-have-you, that is drawing everything back-it’s affecting the industry too. I think by the time the economy and everything that should move the country forward comes up, the movie industry will start to move forward.
What are you doing now?
I’m working on some projects. One is for cable television-which I wouldn’t like to disclose, at this time. It’s a series. The other is a film, a box-office film. If the economy doesn’t get worse, you can expect to see them before next year runs out. One is a comedy and the other is not.
You play mainly comic roles. How did you get started as a screen comic?
Yes. I play mainly comedy. I also act in serious roles – tragedy, drama and all that. But when I found out that “comedy” moves ahead of the others, I plunged into it!
Do you do standup comedy?
I don’t do standup comedy. But I go to clubs to entertain myself. I attend public function-to which people invite me, from all over the world-just to do a show of comedy.
How did you get into film?
I don’t know. You see, I was working with a broadcasting outfit, down in my place – in Enugu, to be precise. People felt that I had a natural gift, for making them laugh. I was basically a script writer. I was composing scripts for all these big sitcoms (situation comedies) in the country. But they kept saying I should come in front of the camera. One day I tried it; and it worked. I had to put my head where my pillow is! It was making more money for me, than writing scripts. So I followed it! This was around 1994. Up to this day, I haven’t stopped!
How many film have you done?
I’ve produced about seven or eight films of my own, me as the sponsor, the producer, director and the writer of the film. As for the movies I’ve appeared in, I don’t know. I cannot put my fingers on the figures, just now.
What has been your most successful movie?
I don’t like to place my movies in those types of categories. Because some are so good, economically, in the sense that they bring more money than others. Then some bring out what I have inside me – so I create them. Like one film I did, for instance, that didn’t even make so much money. But it was a story my granny told me, when I was eight. I had to write the story and bring it out, just like a folktale. That turned out to be one of the best stories I’ve done. It was filmed as “King Of The Forest,” in 2004.