My passion for Itsekiri movies
With close to two decades in a profession he loves so much, Alex Eyengho, a journalist turned producer/actor is now set to churn out movies that are rooted in Itsekiri culture. The artiste who hails from Warri in Delta State recently told Daily Sun that more than ever before, he is ready to invest his talent in the promotion of the artistic and cultural values of his people, noting that unlike movies produced in Yoruba and English languages, screen works in other languages are either unpopular or nonexistent.
As a result of this, certain cultural elements from ethnic groups outside Igbo and Yoruba are being unduly marginalised at least through the motion picture industry.
Eyengho who hinted that he met his wife while recording a movie also relayed his experiences and dreams about Itsekiri – based works to Daily Sun:
Dream about his culture
My greatest desire now is to initiate the Itsekiri Movie Industry. I have discovered that the people are rich in culture and tradition. They speak the same language without dialectal differences unlike the Igbos and the Yorubas. Besides, the Olu of Warri is a major rallying point for the people. So as an independent film producer, my dream is to jump start our own movie industry and project the language and culture of the people.
The aim is also to pass on good messages that can preach peace and understanding in the Niger Delta.
Although I have been involved in the production of many movies, the first one done in Ishekiri is my latest work titled Ogodobiri. The movie is already in circulation and after it, there is no going back again. My goal now is to produce two English movies and two Itsekiri movies each year. This is the new task that I've given myself and I'll follow it to the letter. I have discovered that it is not the language of a movie that can determine its success, but the ability of the producer to tell a good story and market it well.
For example, one of the best selling movies in the world today; Passion of Christ was produced in Hebrew, but it has a moving and refreshing story about the life and times of Jesus Christ and this makes it so appealing to the people.
Movie industry in Nigeria
This is a fast growing industry, from which both the government and the private sector can rake in revenue in a greater proportion than petroleum. Unfortunately, government is not helping matters while the cartels in the sector too create difficulties for independent producers. The industry is a major employer of labour so there is need for practitioners to have their own council as different from government agencies.
In the same way, government should make piracy a criminal offence. For now, our copyright laws are too lenient but when copyright infringement becomes a criminal offence, the culprits would have a second thought.
Generally, the major problem in the sector is marketing. There are two ways of solving this problem. The first is artistic while the second is commercial. The producer should turn out good works with great artistic inputs while there should also be a well structured marketing strategy by professional marketers. In Nigeria, where the population is well over 100million, more movies should be bought by at least 30million as against the current rate where we have less than 5million buying a major box office hit.
Another marketing strategy is that of accurate subtitling of movies.
Meeting with wife
I met my wife on the set of a movie; Nana of the Niger Delta in 1999. The story was written by Abayoma Ikomi but directed by my mentor, Joe Dundun. I served as assistant director as well as an actor. Then the woman who later became my wife; Martel Ejejigbe, also came for audition and later featured as one of the wives in the movie. When we met, the love grew between us and we eventually got married in 2002. We later floated Al Martel Ventures International- a film production outfit based in Lagos.
The movie later (2003) won the best biographical film award last year during the National Film Festival held in Lagos.
Other works/ background
I studied Mass Communication at the Federal Polytechnic, Oko, Anambra State. Later, I had my youth service at Minna, Niger State as the assistant press secretary to the state governor. After this, I started a grassroots newspaper called Warri Mirror, which will soon turn four years. This is a community newspaper that circulates mainly in the Niger Delta on subscription.
Professionally, I joined the movie industry in 1997 and I had a minor role in Back to Africa, a movie produced by Even Ezra but written by Joe Dundun. The second movie I featured in was Judgement Day, also written by Joe Dundun. The third is Nana of Niger Delta which was produced in 1999.
The other movie; Beyond Obligation; which I featured in is currently showing at designated cinemas in Abuja, after which we intend to take it to some major cities with the assistance of Numetro-the South African based marketing outfit. After the Abuja show, the movie which aims at reviving the cinema culture in the country will also move to Port Harcourt, Warri and Lagos.