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Piracy forces filmmaker to release film abroad

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After waiting for a whole year, many film lovers in Nigeria and, indeed, the rest of Africa, may not witness the official opening of the much-anticipated screen adaptation of Prof. Wole Soyinka's famous memoir titled Ake: Childhood Years.

The filmmaker, Dapo Adeniyi, in an interview with our correspondent on Tuesday, gave the indication that Ake may premiere first in England and the United States before hitting the cinemas in Nigeria.

Adeniyi, who recently announced that he was facing a serious challenge drawing up an effective blueprint for the marketing and distribution of the film, blamed the decision to shun convention and show the film first to foreign audiences on the renewed activities of records pirates in the country.

“I have an investment to protect. I am not prepared to risk losing my investment because people want to see the film first in Nigeria. Besides, I don't want to bring my career as a filmmaker to a sudden end. If there is greater danger that the film will be pirated in Nigeria, I won't show it here until the coast is clear,” he said.

The filmmaker claimed that some members of the Movie Producers Association of America gave him a few tips on what to do to prevent illegal cam recording during the public viewing of Ake. In addition, they warned him that pirates could record films with the aid of special spectacles without being detected.

He said, “I was told that pirates have all kinds of devices that they use to record a film illegally. Even if you catch anyone doing this in Nigeria, what can you do? The problem is that there is no law that is strong enough to fight piracy in this country. So, how do you want to invest half a billion naira on a film and then watch it being frittered away by pirates? That is the problem.

“In the US, if you catch somebody infringing on your copyright you can call the police and they will assist you in bringing him to justice. Here in Nigeria, there is no police that you can call.”

Whether he finally decides that Ake will open in the UK and US or not, Adeniyi is aware that there will not be 100 per cent immunity from piracy. But he is encouraged by what he describes as “seriousness of intent” on the part of the authorities in both countries. He is assured that, unlike the current situation in Nigeria, his work won't be destroyed by the activities of pirates.

Also, aware of the difficulty in getting the audiences in both countries to accept films from Africa, the filmmaker, who is also a pastor, says, “It is really a big problem. In England, for example, filmmakers from this part of the world belong to what call the 'black fringe'. But you can operate within the black fringe from here in Nigeria. I don't have to live in England to be able to do that.”

As a condition for the formal registration of Ake with the Nigeria Film and Video Censors Board, Adeniyi is required to submit a copy of the film for censorship. But, for want of the assurance that the movie will not leak or fall into the wrong hands, he swears never to do this till he has done with showing the film abroad.

If he goes ahead with this plan, the publisher-turned movie director may just end up starting a revolution among those eager to find a lasting solution to the unending evil known as piracy or compel many a disapproving tongue to wag.

In less than one week after the official trailer of Ake was released on YouTube, it recorded about 2,000 visits from viewers around the world.

Adeniyi had described the movie as a big budget documentary film. Apart from the fact that it gulped N350m, it has a cast of about 350 people.