Saturday, 31 October 2015

Why I’m back on screen after 2 years - Genevieve Nnaji

After about two years off the screen, Nollywood megastar, Genevieve Nnaji is set to re-launch her career, but this time it is with her first ever produced film, ‘Road to Yesterday.’ She spoke with Weekend Magazine on her debut film, what it took to get an ideal writer for it and the challenge of piracy. Excerpts:  

Weekend Magazine: ‘Road to Yesterday’ is going to be the first movie you have produced. Why now?
Genevieve Nnaji
: Like they always say, desperate times often call for desperate measures. I am an actor and acting is what I know how to do best. I don’t go into anything I am not sure of and I like doing my things with thoroughness. If I don’t think I should do this, I really won’t do it. I send a message across through acting and I believe I can also do so through production. Now I think it is right for me to go into production and in doing that bring out more writers who can display their talents, as well as good, intelligent and creative storylines that will keep me out there and in touch with my fans. And you know it’s been a while, so, I’m really glad that this is bringing me out of my shell.   

WM: What exactly will you say struck you about this storyline?
The thing about creative artists is that we don’t necessarily have to be the ones who have experienced those real situations we act out in movies.  It could be about what we heard or just imagined. This particular story is not my experience. It just came to my mind one day and the whole thing revolves around relationships and trust and most importantly how you handle situations you find yourself in. So it is also about the true meaning of love, the true meaning of relationship and trust. When it is tested, how do you handle it? 
All these questions I put into one book to make a story. When the idea occurred to me, I tried about two writers who couldn’t conceptualise what exactly I was trying to push forward, not until I met Ishaya Bako who was able to work with it. He got it. 

WM: What makes the movie unique?
 Well, I would say first, this is original. Two, it is a different kind of genre. Three, it’s a love story, and not just an ordinary love story but a thriller. It is predominantly produced and created by Nigerians. Local content is used in the film’s production. It features our technical know-how. 
The essence actually is to encourage local talents, identify them and project them to the world. Also, and more importantly, we are concerned about letting the world know what Nigerians and indeed Nollywood can produce on its own. 

WM: You talk about identifying and developing new talents in the industry. Does this mean the film is bereft of known faces in Nollywood?
Well, there are known actors such as Majid Michel. Veteran Ebele Okaro is also a known face in the industry and she is also in the film. Of course, when we say new talents, it’s not as if they have not been acting before. Definitely, you must have something in you which you must be able to prove to be called an actor. 
Also, we have a Nigerian-British actor, Oris Erhuerho who also featured prominently. The whole idea is to encourage more of Nigerian-born actors to come back home and participate in the local film industry. And when they do this, they bring along with them, knowledge, experience and values they acquired over the years and blend it with ours. 

WM: What’s the budget involved in the production of this film?
 No. I really can’t disclose that. But I can tell you that it involved an amount that is reasonable enough to have a very good film. The whole essence is to have in place something that could be celebrated in Nigeria and everywhere else.  And I think it’s worth it. Again, for me, when the work is expected to be everywhere, feature all over the world, with your name on it, you just don’t have any other option but to be thorough.

WM: So when is the movie expected to be premiered?
Well, it will be premiered before it hits the cinemas and that’s expected to be on November 18, 2015, in Lagos.

WM: How true is the information that Africa Magic is also involved in this?
 Yes. We are one of the very first people they will be complementing in an area like this. They really seem willing to encourage the development of local talents and I can say that appears to be their own way of giving back to the society. With their support, we were able to get a film with good technical quality and this actually demonstrates the fact that it is possible to make a high quality production in Nigeria with the appropriate budget and technical input.

WM: What effort has been made to make sure it doesn’t get into the hands of pirates?
 Well, piracy is a problem everywhere, especially when you have to deal with people who just love to make money from other people’s sweat. You know everything has its good and bad side. Piracy is just the bad aspect of our work. It’s a challenge we can’t easily stop. What we just want the people to do is to have a rethink. We hope they can reshape their thought - process. We want them to have the belief that things can be better in Nigeria without necessarily living off other people’s sweat. 
Film production involves lots of money. It’s an investment, one we hope to reap, if possible a 100 percent. Of course, we realise that we may not be able to reap as much as that. But it’s important for Nigerians to know that it is very possible for us to make good and qualitative movies that Nigerians and Africans will be proud of. The campaign against piracy is for all of us. I really don’t see myself alone as a winner against film piracy. But I hope things can get better as regards this.

WM: Is there any role in the film you found quite challenging to deliver?
 No. There was none. If it was challenging then it means we won’t have got the job done. Challenging means you doubt yourself. Everything I did was okay by me because this is what I do and if at all there is any area I think I didn’t get quite right, it’s then meant for me to redo till I get it done. If you ask how I perform in the film, I think that is not for me to say because I really can’t assess myself. 
WM: What then will you say about the performance put up by your other colleagues in the film?
Genevieve: Everybody was outstanding. Their performance was top-notch. And as for Chiomah, you should look out for her. To be frank with you, we all put in our best and I can tell you we did not compromise standard in any way.

WM: What lessons do you think your viewers are going to derive from watching ‘Road to Yesterday’ when it finally hits the screens? 
 I think people will have a lot to learn about love, trust and time. They also will find out who a confidant and a true confidant is.

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