Nollywood will die unless young actors learn from old hands – Paul Obazele

Paul Obazele, an actor who has explored many facets of the film/television industry, is one of such persons who have reservations about the direction of the Nigerian film industry. In this chat, the veteran speaks on the anomalies in Nollywood, the conscious withdrawal of old faces and the Africa Movie Academy Awards

What is your opinion of AMAA after several years of trying to integrate African fi lm industries? AMAA has been able to do that which no African company has done. AMMA has been able to build bridges across diff erent cities, diff erent countries in the continent of Africa. Making us believe that we are one people, making us believe that our culture is unique, making us believe that the only people that can speak for Africa are Africans. Th e typical Nigerian is that one that is very selfl ess, so it does not really matter if it is good for that Nigerian.

He is more comfortable if it is well for you. So you now see that role that AMAA has played. AMAA is making most presidents in diff erent countries get conscious of what their cultures are, their language is, and the potentials of the fi lm industry, the potential of the country. AMAA has been criticised for not evolving with the times. What do you think it can do better? It is not possible to please everybody; everybody has their own diff erent mindset. Everyone takes their own pace, even when Christ came on earth, as perfect as he is, did not please the world.

I would personally tell Peace [Anyam-Osigwe] well done. Personally, I will tell her, take your pace, Do what you think is the best, and leave the rest to God. It is not possible for you to please people, it is not. Nowadays, you feature in just a few movies. Why? Over the years, this is going 32 years on the screen, I’ve been celebrated heavily for long and all of a sudden you fi nd out that you have a followership that is massive and the moment you do anything, it becomes an authority speaking. And I have come to that stage in my life where if there is no moral balance, I won’t be involved in a project.

I have my own tradition and the white man has his own, why should I do his own? I have a project I am doing, and like I said, I choose the scripts carefully and there must be a benchmark. Nigeria is not a pornographic nation, so why should I get into that? Why would I say I love a woman, I respect a woman, and bring her out on television and treat her as a b***h… Pardon my language.

Th en it means I have a double personality. So you can only do projects that go in line with your values? Th at tell conscious stories and are in line with the moral values of Nigeria. What is aff ecting us today is that we have what we call a cultural dislocation; we are neither here nor there, and it becomes a dangerous potpourri.

What are the projects you are working on? Th ere is a project I’m working on about the Niger Delta region and we also did one on human traffi cking, and I told them I will do it because that is what is happening in our society. People strive to travel abroad because they feel there is a greener pasture out there. When they brought the script, they said sex is going to be involved, I said my character would not play sex, because I know the stories and how it is told. We don’t need to sell out movies because of sex.

In ‘Busted’, I wanted to show parents how we failed. Because of the quest of pretending to be hard working, pretending to be chasing money, pretending to be career driven, we have left the home front at the mercy of house helps and security men. What do you think is behind the rate of mediocre productions in the industry? Because most of the people coming into Nollywood are not willing to get training from the professionals. I have people from UNILAG, YABATECH, LASPOTECH doing their IT in my offi ce. I get into a set, for example, and when I see young actors and directors, naturally, I get scared.

When I read the script, I’m always honest with them. I could take the money and go away but I don’t do that. Have you noticed that because of them, we do not have investors again? Nollywood is dying. Let’s not lie. But from the outside, it appears to be doing good. How much do they make from the cinemas? I can tell you how much we made when I was president of AMP, when it was only Silverbird Cinemas. Even the BoI funding is going down. Frank Rajah, a young man, started from my offi ce, did a great job.

A situation where a greenhorn comes in and does not know what they are doing is bad. I’m not killing them but they can do better. Th ey should learn from the old ones. Go back, three-fi ve years ago, you will notice that most old ones pulled back. Was it deliberate?

Th ey can’t do mediocre things, and you can’t beat old money. Th at was why Asaba came in and that nonsense was coming in from Asaba. Could you stand Asaba production? You couldn’t. Th at was where the issue of porn came in. So how do we get everybody – old and new Nollywood – on the same page? We can get everybody on the scene if the press is ready for us. What is the press going to do? Press carrying the actual stories, review these people. Destroy the mediocre’s work. Why do I say so? Now, look at this situation now, in Asaba, where a girl comes to pay a director money to act. Absurd right? It is annoying.

Th ey bring in a superstar and they think it’s by sleeping with the superstar on set that makes a fi lm. I see it as an avenue of advertising prostitution. So you’re saying they use the screen as a disguise to achieve their main objective? Yes, that is just it. Bring them to an audition, they will fail it. Tade Ogidan is doing an audition. Emem just fi nished an audition, a massive one. I called her and said, send me a script, she said okay I am working on it. She’s here, ask her. Th ere was no exception, and everybody read through it.

Th e fact that you did not fi t into this script does not mean that you will not fi t into any other script, so they pencil it down, but because people do not want to wait for an appropriate second time, they go and circumvent the process/ journey it takes to be a star. Th ere were four productions I ran for fi ve years. Th ere is no soap opera that was done in NTA that I didn’t do, and yet I was working in another studio. I worked round the clock. Should there be a stricter regulation for approving movies? Everybody should go back to the guild structures; there are rules and regulations governing everything you do.

Th ere are rules of engagement, the medical society, there are rules of engagement. You can’t tell me because it is a creative thing, there should not be rules of engagement, then why are we bringing plagiarism into it. Th en there should be no censors board. Nobody is saying there is no freedom in creativity, We are saying rules of engagement must be adhered to. Whose fault is it then? Because the press allowed the old and new Nollywood. We have morally disdained people doing what we are doing today because we live a life of competition which is rubbish. Yes, everybody can be an actor, no, not everybody can be a star. What can be done?

Until the young ones understand the fact that the old actors are not in competition with them, Nollywood would die. Give it the next few years. No matter the amount of money BoI pushes into it, it is nose-diving. Go to your radio station today, go to your TV stations, check the presenters out, everybody speaks from their nose. Where is the beautiful Yoruba accent, where is the Hausa accent, where is the Igbo accent? Meanwhile, they don’t even know what a boarding pass is. Source: www.the

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