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For Yoruba movie actress, Kemi Afolabi, controversies are not a strange forte but handling them is what sets her apart. Presently putting things together for a groundbreaking and ambitious all-female cast movie, M’odorisa, the actress and producer says that there is an urgent need for Nigerians to embrace their culture. She speaks with OVWE MEDEME on her career, controversies, marriage and other issues
TELL us about the project you are working on. Basically, the reason we are here is to have auditions because we are looking at about a thousand cast and this is a spectacular one because it is an all-female cast as the script requires. So today, we are trying to inspire some up and coming artistes who really have the talent and the passion for acting.
We are trying to give them an opportunity to showcase what they have. We are trying to make an impact in the lives of people who really want to do the job but do not have the means and knowhow. This is a platform for them to come around and if they are really good and we see that they could be built up artistically, then we can help them out in their career. Another segment we will be having is the script reading. We will get the script read by some of the major casts who are known faces. We will get them to read and talk about what the movie is all about.
How do you intend to manage a thousand cast in terms of logistics?
I’ve actually been on this project for about two years now because we have been scouting for the best locations as the script requires. 2015 was a very busy year for me so I shuttled between trying to find my base for this job and also attend to other producer’s needs.
So, I’ve been doing a lot of scouting. We’ve been to Osogbo. It’s a beautiful place but we were not able to get certain requirements there. We’ve been to Ibadan but we eventually got what the script required at the outskirts of Ilaro. We were able to get some certain things that we need for the job. As I speak to you, the set men are there building up castles, the palace and others. It is an African movie. It has to do with our culture.
Who is funding it?
My company, Kass Entertainment, in conjunction with Olasco Films, is the sponsor. Olasco films have been a good platform for showcasing our jobs in the past so we are partnering with them because they have seen that the jobs which came out from the stable of Kass Entertainment are widely accepted by our fans. That’s why we are doing this together.
What is the movie about?
It is a historical film that has to do with our cultural heritage. It teaches people to stay true to our culture. In recent times, we’ve seen that in Nigeria, most of our young ones do not really welcome our culture. They are not proud of our culture. We are trying to teach them that we have a beautiful culture and that they should stay true to it. We are teaching people how beautiful our culture is. M’odorisa is about a particular character in the script who became the ruler and had to live out the adage that what a man can do, a woman can do better. It’s got a lot of intrigue in it and fans out there have got a lot to learn about African history, culture and other beautiful stuff.
Aside the underlying messages, what do you hope to achieve with the movie?
I plan to tell people to stay true to their culture. They don’t have to look extraordinary to prove a point. Some people are even ashamed to identify with where they are from. We are trying to encourage them to stay true to themselves.
From what you have seen so far, are you impressed with the auditions?
It has been overwhelming because actually the audition was a later thing. It was something that was put together within weeks and the turnout was really impressive and it shows that people want to work. And so far so good, they have been doing very well.
There has been a lot of talk about the plot of Nigerian movies being too ordinary. How do you intend to make this project different?
We do these things and God crowns our effort. We try as much as possible because we are working with a crew that actually knows about the craft. And there’s going to be a lot of suspense. We will try our best to level up and hope that people will really like it.
Will you be taking it to the cinemas?
Sure, we will be going to both the local and international cinemas. We want to take it round the world.
Who are some of the major casts in the film?
We have the likes of Peju Ogunmola, Joke Muyiwa, Tayo Odueke, my humble self, Liz Da Silva, Bimbo Oshin and quite a number of people. We will also be dealing with up and coming actors who are being recognised coupled with all these unknown faces.
Was it the script that influenced the cast or you just wanted to do something different?
It was the story.
Away from acting, there is a perceived discrimination between the Yoruba genre and mainstream Nollywood. What do you think is responsible for that?
I don’t see any form of discrimination because I’ve been able to do my job very well in the few English sets that I’ve been to. I did my job and I got out. But what I thought was the fracas here is the fact that English is a formal language, anybody can identify with it. But Yoruba is limited because it’s for those who can speak the language. Yoruba is one of the languages we have in the country.
Yet you stayed true to the genre. What was the catch for you?
You cannot compare a Yoruba script with others. It is rich in culture; ‘ve been on the other side, I’ve done a couple of productions but I feel these people are not staying true to their culture. I can say that the Yoruba movies have actually prompted the English speaking industry to start doing Igbo movies. The Hausas are also following up.
You were away from the industry for a while, how were you able to fit in?
I thank God my maker. He’s the Alpha and Omega. He’s the one that says go and in him I owe everything to. Most importantly, if you have a passion for something, then you will enjoy doing it. It is something that will be a part of you. It wasn’t easy I must confess. When I came back, a whole lot of people who were apprentices had become stars. I had to start all over. I didn’t mind, I didn’t put up my shoulder. Even then, I believed I wasn’t there. Even now, I still believe I’m not there yet. So I joined the queue, stayed true to my profession, gave it my best. I treated every script like it was my last. So over time, scripts started coming in and here we are.
How supportive is your husband?
He is very supportive. He goes as far as funding some of my projects.
Despite the controversies that surround the industry?
It’s about knowing who your partner is. If your partner understands that controversies sometimes come with the job, he’ll understand. It’s about knowing who you are, knowing who you are married to, having your friend as a wife or a husband. He understands my job so he’s staying with me all the way.
How do you respond to controversies?
I ignore it most times except when it’s really necessary. This is because over time, I have come to realise that journalism these days is not what it used to be. Yes, we all love juicy stories and all that, but what happened to really finding out the facts? To me, when I hear most of those allegations, I just ignore them.
So what really happened between you and She Baby?
I really don’t want to talk about She Baby. When the issue happened, I actually said my own side of the story, so why do I want to go on with it? How many times do I have to keep coming back to it? I said my own side of the story and I believe and I know it is the gospel truth. Some may believe, some might not but it’s all good. But I believe with time, the truth will always come out.
Are you in talking terms with her now?
Why not? My job doesn’t allow me to keep malice or have fracas with anyone. We have issues, we iron it out and that’s it. We are back to work. That’s how it is.
Are you saying the issue has been ironed out?
To the best of my knowledge it is. She said something; I addressed it and said my side of the story, there’s nothing to add. Some people might dwell in controversies, some people enjoy the moment, and it doesn’t matter to them while some other people’s character is assassinated already so they try to see how much of others they can bring into their own sorry life. It’s all good. I’m not in for cheap publicity. I’m here for business, hard work, success and I’m here as a role model to my true fans who really believe in the brand and support me all the way. The reason I had to give my side of the story in the first place was because everyone was concerned. People even started fighting for me before I got to know what was going on because I’m too busy. Trust me, I’m on set every other day. My job has been a rollercoaster. I’ve been all over the place working.