YOU CAN’T DIE OF HUNGER —BABA SUWE
Ace movie clown and treasurer of the ANTP, Babatunde Omidina a.k.a Baba Suwe, in this interview, counters his colleagues' claims about the compulsory leave
Q: We learnt that you are working on a new film, how true is this?
A: The film will be released very soon but I don't know the time for now.
Q: What's its title?
A: Baba Cherokee.
Q: Why did you put your alleged drug pushing scandal in a film?
A: I have to do that because of the rumour making the rounds. I just want people to know that I was not involved in any drug scandal.
Q: Is the rumour still going around town?
A: Yes, it is still on.
Q: So, what informed the rumour and where do you think it emanated from?
A: I don't know. Maybe it is because of the long time I spent in London.
Q: Don't you think even Yetunde Wunmi's case gave people that impression about you?
A: Yes, people started pointing accusing fingers at me because of Yetunde Wunmi's drug trafficking case, but all I can say about the whole issue is that whoever is expecting my downfall will fail because I don't deal in drugs at all. What I earn from film making is enough to feed me and my family and I am satisfied with what I have.
Q: How do you feel about Wunmi's case?
A: You know, our business is no more as lucrative as it used to be and if you think about it for long, you might end up committing suicide. Although I am not supporting what she was alleged to have done, all the same, she may have resolved to do drug trafficking to survive and feed her family.
Q: That brings us to the issue of the compulsory leave imposed on all the actors and actresses by the leadership of ANTP. What's your view about the matter, especially now that actors are lamenting about it?
A: I am totally in support of it. Don't forget that I am the treasurer of the association. That tells you that I am part of the decision as an executive member of the association. Going on vacation will control the film market and the artistes too. All we have been doing could not have made us achieve the best. The matter had even become so bad that some film makers started renaming films that had already been released and sold. Some just write an empty script and release substandard films into the market. All that must stop now.
Q: Are you saying that most of the films we have heard of are not of good quality?
A: Yes, they are not. Out of ten in a row, you can hardly pick one or two with good quality.
Q: Are the marketers in support of the compulsory leave?
A: We can't ascertain if they are in support of it or not. For instance, the indefinite leave was announced about a month before it was scheduled to kick off, yet, could you believe that the so-called marketers started to give out money they had earlier claimed they did not have? Some of them even raised N1 million to be used to produce four films.
Q: Let's face the reality now, is it possible to shoot four films with just N1 million?
A: I don't know how that can be possible because I have not tried it before, despite the fact that I have cameras and other equipment. I cannot even shoot two films with N1 million, not even a comedy story, let alone a serious story. If you want to shoot a good film, you will need good equipment, a very good director that can dictate the camera angle and shots properly. For example, I work with whoever can afford to pay my bills. You cannot find me in any movie except good ones, however, good the pay is.
Q: So, who is killing the actors, can we say the marketers?
A: We can't really blame anybody because most of these marketers prefer giving money to their girlfriends and what they will end up telling you is that both the marketer that is giving out N1 million to artistes to make a film and the one that is giving out N300,000 to another film maker, will meet at the same market. Meanwhile, where the person, who was given N1 million sells 1,000 copies, the marketer who gave out N300,000 will sell about 900 copies. Tell me, what is the difference between 1,000 and 900? So, it is better for me as a marketer to invest N300,000 in film making than bother myself giving out N1 million. That is the marketers' view.
Q: How much do you receive from marketers?
A: My own policy is that I don't collect money from marketers. Since I have been in this business, I produce my films by myself and give them to marketers to sell.
Q: How do you intend to control the marketers?
A: Time will tell. Going by what we have started, I know we shall soon find a way of controlling the marketers.
Q: But most actors have begun to complain of hunger as the indefinite leave continues. What is your comment on that?
A: Let them be hungry, after all, President Obasanjo once said that it is better to suffer for what can last for ten years at the right time than beginning to suffer it in future. I know that in future, we will still encounter the same problems if we don't endure now. So, why can't we suffer for it now and enjoy in the future? Can you imagine that people have turned film making into dundu and akara (fried yam and local bean cake) that can be sold by the road side. Is it easy to write a story? For instance, before we decided to embark on the holiday, actors could be easily hijacked from one film location to another.
Q: But most of those films are being released?
A: Yes, there is nothing we can do about it, but my advice to Uncle Jide Kosoko, president of the association, is that whoever releases four films in a year should be asked to go on a two-year holiday.
Q: Are you now trying to say another screening exercise will soon take place?
A: That is exactly what I am saying. I've just suggested to the president of the association that the maximum number of films anybody can be allowed to make in a year is two. If you have two films, you should be all right if you are not greedy. How can you just release about four to five films in a year? This is sheer greed.
Q: How about the issue of the industry being regarded as an all-comers' affair and how do you intend to regulate it?
A: That is no problem. We are going to control that soon. Already, we have started working on it, it's just that we want to look for good producers, not the Tom, Dick and Harry parading themselves as producers. We now have guilds in the industry, where other regulations can be enforced.
Q: We learnt that the ANTP is planning to part ways with Nollywood and introduce Yoruwood. How far is this true?
A: We don't want any Nollywood, we are tired of the woods. We cannot defend it. I have told them that we should look for another name that can befit our own genre of the industry. We need a name we can call our own, an indigenous one and I hope the president will find something reasonable in telling the actors to find different names to be tendered before we can select the befitting one.