YORUBA PIONEERED FILMS IN NIGERIA
Who really should take credit for being producer of the first home video in Nigeria? This is one big question that has continued to trigger heated controversies among movie enthusiasts in Nigeria.
The general claim that Living in Bondage, an Igbo movie shot in 1993 and delivered in English Language was the first home video does not seem to go down well with a section of the industry, as some practioners insist that the first home video was a Yoruba flick.
One of such people, who belong to the latter category, is the movie star and one of the most popular faces in both Yoruba and Igbo movies, Prince Jide Kosoko. The renowned actor, who recently emerged as the president of the Association of Nigeria Theatre Arts Practitioners (ANTP), maintained in a recent chat with Sunday Sun that the first home video was Ekun. According to him, “it was one of us that made the first home video. Muyideen Aromire made the first video, entitled Ekun. He was the first person to shoot a home video in 1988.”
Prince Kosoko, who believes that there is urgent need to put a stop to the raging controversy, accused those who question the origin of the industry of ignorance. He said it is in furtherance of his ambition to prove this that his association is staging a world film festival later in the year. “You see, we started from the stage when our fathers started the alarinjo thing (travelling theatre groups). They went from place to place entertaining people,” he said.
Ask him if he has not embarked on an impossible mission, Kosoko shoots back: “Wait until we are through with the films festival, and you'll be in the position to tell who really made the first home video in Nigeria. That all the records are at our disposal shows that a Yoruba movie was the first to be made into a home video.”
This time, Kosoko, who remains one of the successful crossover actors in Nigeria, said he wants to “put the records straight on the history of movie making in the country.”
On the history of home video
The content of any film is the culture and the tradition of the people that is being propagated. We started from the stage when our fathers, Hubert Ogunde and others started the traveling theatre groups entertaining people with drama, dancing and other things. From that point we graduated to television productions, where we improved on things that cannot be achieved on stage. This is the more reason why we said Hubert Ogunde remains the father of commercial theatre in Nigeria.
If you talk about commercial filmmaking in Nigeria, Ola Balogun, Duro Ladipo and Ade Love played a significant role when they came out with Ajani Ogun in 1976. The film, which was a huge success, was followed by other productions by Hubert Ogunde and others. Yoruba films are the pioneer films in the country. And, they are the only films that people go to the theatre to watch. Because we have been able to build our viewership over a long time, we have been very successful in other African countries as well.
All the films you have talked about were shot on celluloid. What about the history of home videos in the country?
Following the downturn in the economy, efforts were made to produce home videos. Again, it was one of us that made the first home video. Muyideen Aromire made the first video, entitled Ekun. He was the first person to shoot a home video in 1988. To be honest with you, we were not happy with him at the beginning. We wanted to keep within the concept of shooting on celluloid. The movie was screened at the National Arts Theatre, which goes to prove its success.
But some people say Living in Bondage was the first home video. How true is this?
Living in Bondage was produced in 1993. How does that take away the record of 1988? What they are supposed to be happy about is that it was the first successful attempt. Even my own production, Asiri Nla was produced in 1992. It sold 150,000 copies. I can go on naming more Yoruba movies, which came out before Living in Bondage. However, I must say this, I really appreciate the way they came into the industry and changed everything. In fact, their entrance assisted us in moving up ourselves technically.
Now, what do you intend to achieve with the film festival?
I have been thinking of this ever before I became the president of the association. But because of our orientation, we detest a situation whereby you bring down people because you want to change some things. But now that things are getting out of hand, now that movies that are being produced in the English movies cannot capture the world attention, we have decided to come out and put the records straight.
When you talk of Nigerian movies making waves outside the country, it is not just movies done in English. You need to go out and see Yoruba in the Diaspora to understand what I am saying. This festival is determined to expand the scope of our viewership. We also want to use the festival to sensitize our producers and filmmakers on the need to continue to project the tradition and culture of our people in the right way. For example, we have a special way of christening babie. We have our own way of marriage. All these we need to project to the world. We don't know how long this would go in helping the scientific development of the world.
What other things do you hope to achieve with the festival?
We want the whole world to know the origin of filmmaking in Nigeria, and how it metamorphosed from the era of stage, through television to home video. We would also give awards to all those who have contributed to the growth in one way or the other. We also use the festival to create an avenue for investors, producers and others to meet and discuss on how to do joint productions that would enhance Yoruba movie productions.
When you talk of Yoruba movies, it doesn't necessarily mean movies done in Yoruba language. It could be done in English language, but with the rich tradition of the Yoruba people. We need sponsors to join hand with us on the project. We want corporate bodies to come on board. The governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola, has accepted to be our guest of honour. So also our royal father, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade. We will also make a serious attempt to unite all our traditional fathers.