Wednesday, August 18, 2010


The Yorubas say, 't'ina o ba tan l'ori, eje o le tan l'eekanna'. Please join me in condemning and fighting Nigerians who maliciously post Nigerian films on Youtube for free download and illegal viewing. The battle to save our film industry from predators is serious and it's going to be a long campaign by the tone of our latest violator who replied my appeal to desist from hijacking and posting Arugba illegally on rhe internet as follows:

damilola200 has posted a comment on your profile:

‪ ​Well Mr kelani i gat just 1 word for u and that is, U ARE SO FUCKING FRUSTRATED i was actually waiting to read frm u.Am not ganna battle wrds with but i assure u of just 1 thing if my channel is shut down,i will open more on youtube and i will post what i wanna post to share with my fellow nigerian pple either u like it or not i dnt give a a person of few wrds so i belive in action so lets roll LOSER!

‬How did we come to this? Faced with massive piracy both at home and in the diaspora, attacked on land, sea and cyberspace, how can we defend and save the nascent Nigeria's film industry from these obstacles to progress and development?
Written by Tunde KELANI

Monday, June 28, 2010


I promised to respond to all comments on the newly released film ARUGBA. A half-year resolution to get me back to committed regular blogging.
The first is Yinka Bakare's which I am reproducing as follows;

Uncle TK,U deserve to be commended for your wonderful creativity and inestimable ingenuity in giving our long-lost cultural diversity a better face lift in this world of rare sense-imposing cinematography. As an advocate of culture and public analyst, I had pre-savoured your new movie 'ARUGBA' ever before it stormed the cinema market. Counting on your past efforts in this arena as well as your strong connections with other learned professionals in the field of arts and culture,I had not thought for once an icon of cultural value like u would settle for average. More power to your elbow!
Now,I only did not watch ARUGBA with rapt attention but also penciled down all the inherent lessons the story seeks to teach. My questions: is ARUGBA in parts or series? Apart from the political,cultural and educational lessons with the well tailored " ACTING AND ENACTMENT" in the movie, what other lessons are to be learnt there?
TK, I got a repetition of concert eliciting, classroom teaching and all round built philosophy about students as was in the case of the likes of "CAMPUS QUEEN AND THUNDERBOLT".That U are one of the wonderful producers in the Nigerian movies context is no more news. The test of time tells it all! TUNDE, My candid advice is that u should try put heads together with other theatrical cohort in perfecting your script to attain a far-reaching meaningful end. Sincerely, i am not favourably disposed towards the end of your long-awaited, much-enjoyed publicity and presumably award-winning story "ARUGBA"

Returning to Arugba's end sequence, I wish to emphasise that it is not for the shortage of writers but a deliberation which I claim all responsibility. I hate putting heads together in forging a workable screenplay because I detest writing or film making by committee/s which inevitably results in loss of focus. There is no one perfect ending, a thousand perhaps. This particular one can be digested as follows.
After the resolution where Adejare temporarily abdicates the throne by offering to jet out to foreign land to spend some of his fortunes and providing an alternate ruler, we return to Adetutu and Makinwa strolling hand to hand in near privacy because unknown to the duo, another contender lurks in the shrubs. The sequence is in fact, a combination of devices and justifiably multi layered. Firstly, I needed a closing glee in the nostalgic and in tribute to the standard Yoruba Theatre tradition having introduced an opening glee as the dream sequence at the beginning of the film. Secondly, fourteen days after the procession to the Osun river climaxing the annual Oshogbo festival, the procession is repeated and named IKESE R'ODO. For the Arugba, the principal celebrant, this is only a social ceremony. Well-attired and without any bowl to carry and accompanied by drummers and gaily dressed crowd, she leads the procession again. The practice in reality and from my research is that the Arugba after her last assignment is rushed off to marriage suggesting that a woman's purpose in life is no more than the role of a human incubator. Gbonjubola, the Arugba that I studied is now married with four children. In my previous documentary, she simply states that after her term she will do business but in the scripted version, Adetutu expresses her desire to start an N.G.O catering for the interest of women and children in response to Makinwa's anxiety about the outcome of their relationship. Here we have an ambitious young woman, although with cultural commitment but already a role model and a proponent of women empowerment. The third aspect is the apparition of the river goddess brief appearance which examines the popular myth that on the day of the festival the goddess appeared physically. Nowadays, the general consensus is that a curious 'white man' who attempted to photograph the mother is responsible for her justifiable anger and refusal to ever appear. Her apparition, right or wrong in the scripted one is important at least to lend strength to the documentation.
I guessed right that our audiences would request for a second or part three but I do not claim for once that Arugba is a masterpiece, it is nothing more than a cultural and social document, open for others who care to take it further.

Your comments are welcome.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Ayantunji Amoo Goes Home

My new xperia state of the art mobile device rang exactly at 5a.m. A little early for my 5:25 alarm I thought, as I reached for it. It was a missed call from Ayantunji Amoo, the famous drummer and drum maintenance engineer. He had manufactured the Saworoide drum and her less famous cousin with no name.. He maintains both every four months or so. I added a new task on the toolbar 'Call Ayantunji Amoo with a reminder at 7a.m. But before 7, another call from an unknown number announced the death of Ayantunji Amoo which according to the caller, occurred earlier at 2a.m. I chose not to investigate the 5 o'clock call from the dead man's mobile phone because there were other things to worry about. Obviously, he had called me with Ayantunji Amoo’s phone after he had stopped breathing. How do we replace such a man who possessed decades of experience in traditional drums and a vast drum vocabulary? His death is a further depletion of the ever dwindling number of surviving traditional drummers left in Yorubaland.

Ayantunji Amoo, born on August 28 1942, was a native of Okinni, Osogbo in Osun State of Nigeria, to a family of Bata drummers. He worked at the Centre for Cultural Studies, now Creative Arts Department of the University of Lagos from 1977 as a Bata drummer under the legendary musicologist Prof Akin Euba who came from Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile Ife to the University of Lagos (UNILAG). He was indeed a master drummer, who travelled far and wide with another legend, Duro Ladipo in 1963 and was awarded MBE (Member of the British Empire) by her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth 11 of England. His other memorable performances are, Ogedengbe, by late Prof Bode Osanyin, Ola Rotimi’s, The Gods Are Not To Blame, Shattered Bridge, Ayitale, Ogbanje Dance Drama, Lamb For Sacrifice by Femi Robinson and Election Fever.

His dexterity on the talking drum was never in doubt as he was indeed a master drummer who could play all kinds of traditional instruments. But his acting capability was unknown, that is, before the film Saworoide. The character of Ayangalu as crafted in the story by Prof Akinwumi Isola, demanded a drummer first and also a convincing actor. It was difficult, if not impossible to find the two attributes in one man. But Ayantunji Amoo accepted the challenges and invented his own method of tackling his limitations. He took the screenplay and methodically extracted only his dialogue scene by scene and reproduced them in a student exercise book which became his new bible. He simply memorized everything and kept the book next to him throughout the production. I had to get used to his needs and learnt to work around this method because a re-write, even a change of a line of dialogue was no longer possible as this would only leave him confused and disoriented. All in all, he did remarkably well in his popular role of Ayangalu in both films, Saworoide and Agogoeewo.

Personally, I feel the painful loss of my consultant talking drummer and engineer. He brought to life, drummed and managed the drums, Saworoide and her sibling. Now Ayan is gone, leaving only the irresistible sound from his drums in our memory. May his soul rest in peace.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

ARUGBA Goes Mobile

Right now, I feel like a recalcitrant, sober,  itinerant husband creeping into bed after a long, unexplained absence from the matrimonial home.  I cannot explain it and I am not going to try but why is writing sometimes so tedious?  I envy writers who have to write with deadline looming all the time. They are nothing short of super humans.  However, they continue to be my inspiration and hopefully they will dash me some more to write regularly. One thing for sure is that there is enough to write about as we embark on the special screenings of Arugba, our latest film in fifty seven local government councils and development areas of Lagos State.  I can confirm authoritatively that it is a reality. It was flagged-off yesterday 17th February, 2009 with a packed press conference held at the Press Centre of the Lagos State Secretariat.  My speech follows.

Ladies and gentlemen of the press, we are gathered here today to flag-off a very important journey, a set of premieres of our latest film Arugba in each local government and development area of Lagos State.

Physical contact with the audience is a filmmakers delight and this opportunity to observe and interact with the audience of Arugba is most appreciated.  I must therefore acknowledge the visionary leadership of His Excellency, Governor Babatunde Raji Fasola, the Executive Governor of  Lagos State for providing this opportunity to screen the film Arugba in each of the 57 Local Government councils and development areas of Lagos State.  By doing so, the Lagos State government is opening up an important communication channel between the government and the governed.  This feed-back channel, in accordance with modern approaches to governance will avail government a vital insight into the feelings of the people of Lagos State.  Modern approaches to governance puts a lot of emphasis on interactivity as interactivity with the governed ensures inputs from the  people in the governance process.  True development cannot be achieved without the input of the people, after all, development is fundamentally about people.  This set of screenings will surely fulfil this important purpose.

I am delighted to inform you that Arugba has been selected in competition at the approaching Pan African Film and Television Festival FESPACO 2009 holding in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso from  28th February to 7th March,  while The Women of Color Arts and Film (WOCAF) Festival in Atlanta, Georgia, USA has already programmed the film to feature at this year’s festival from 19th March  to 22nd March, 2009.  For me however, it is gratifying that we have this opportunity to show the film to its primary audience before it goes out to the international community.

The Film Arugba is yet another effort to state a case for our language and culture in a fast globalising world.  It touches on wide ranging issues such as gender equality, HIV/AIDS, good governance and many other contemporary issues, all within the context of traditional

and contemporary Yoruba culture.  The heroine moves smoothly between the two sides of the same culture coin, functioning as the votary maid in the traditional Osun festival yet, a key figure in her secular University.  She combines traditional virtues of chastity with modern life skills that enables  stand against the distractions of modern living.

Ladies and gentlemen of the press, I invite you to join me in flagging off the screening of Arugba in the 57 Local government councils and special development areas of Lagos State.

Monday, February 12, 2007

To Lapland And Back In Five Days

I wrote this over a year ago but did not publish for some reasons.  It still brings back colourful and fond memories of my hosts - THE SAMI.

My invitation to Finland had been quite simple. It read; 'we the Friends of Sami Art association would like to invite you, Babatunde Kelani to our Skabmagovat - Indigenous Peoples' Film Festival 2007. The festival will take place in Inari, about 1200 north from the Finland capital, Helsinki, from 25th to 29th January. I confess, I have never been this far north of Europe before and I had reasons to be apprehensive. But first, some education.

Who Are the Sami? They are an indigenous people of the North who are over 150,000. Spread through Finland, Norway, Sweden and Russia, they have their own history, language, culture, livelihood, way of life and identity. In spite of great odds, they have built great institutions and as I was to later find out; without fighting a single war. What about my own? The Yorubas estimated at some 35 million, are spread throughout the south western region of Nigeria, parts of West Africa and also in the diaspora including, Brazil, Cuba, Haiti and the United States of America.  Regrettably however, the tribe has very little to show in terms of institutions and cultural establishments. The principal cities, Ife, being the spiritual headquarters and Oyo, the political cannot boast of museum or centres worthy of tourism potentials.  The language and culture of the Yorubas at home is now under threat of extinction faced with the challenges of a fast globalising world. I suspect that mentally, we followed the colonialists after they voluntarily withdrew and decided to leave us alone. We became follow-follow and inherited a permanent colonial hangover.
As my departure day drew near, I started to develop cold feet. I had heard rumours of -30c temperature and I could not imagine how anyone could survive in such inclement weather. Or what would I eat? My imagination took over. How about roasted reindeer? Or penguin pepper soup or grilled bear meat? If I had hoped that I would be denied a visa to prevent my travelling that was shattered into smithereens as the Finnish consulate had been warm, friendly and had issued me a visa that same day.

My travelling is usually preceded by an incredibly busy day which leaves me completely fagged out and just about ready to creep on board of British Airways flight departing Lagos at midnight. Arrival was early in London around 5 a.m. and temperature at 1c. However, there was plenty of time for the 10:20 connection flight to Helsinki. Enough time for the slow and cumbersome security and immigration formalities which is a constant feature at the Heathrow airport in London.

Arriving Helsinki later that afternoon, my observation was that everything was white, caked with snow. The onboard in-flight monitor flashed outside temperature at minus 9c and the PA cracked to life to welcome us but unfortunately there will be bus transportation only to passport control. This meant an early encounter with the snow at -9c; well, better sooner than later.

We finally arrived Ivalo after another one and half hour flight from Helsinki. This could only mean that Finland has a larger land size than Nigeria since it takes about one hour to fly from Lagos to the farthest part of Nigeria. Despite the land mass, the total population of Finland I was to find out is only 5 million people. Now, Ivalo was whiter than Helsinki, I concluded, during our forty minutes ride by car to the village of Inari, both the centre of Sami culture in Finland and the appropriate venue of the festival, with only a short break at a local restaurant to a meal of hot salmon soup.

The highlight of my trip apart from screening the film 'The Narrow Path' was visiting a reindeer farm dressed in what was almost a space suit.  And not many people except the Sami can boast of having fed a live reindeer in a minus 30c and live to tell the story.

Monday, January 1, 2007

When Reality Overtakes Art

Agogo Eewo, our previous movie is a blend of traditional Yoruba folklore with modern political sensibilities in a scorching allegory of corruption in the highest places. Set in a fictional Jogbo but interpreted by many as a thin disguise for a socio-political entity named Nigeria. Can reality overtake art? Since the film was produced a few years ago, a lot of water has passed under the proverbial bridge. Events in the country last year alone make the events in Agogo Eewo pale into nothingness.

At the Los Angeles Film Festival, 2004 where the films were screened, I got interesting questions from the American audience. Will I come back to Hollywood to make movies? My answer was an emphatic NO. The ingredients I needed to craft our movies abound in my environment. The mountains, hills, forests, rivers, the old and new cities and indeed our entire cultural landscape are nearby at home in Nigeria. Are the movies action films. Another NO - they are films that are tied to issues that concern us as a developing nation. There is enough action in our lives already for free.

Did you watch the aircraft disasters whose victims are given mass burial with unmarked graves in full technicolor? The oil pipeline explosions engulfing people and environment with fire and flames roasting everything in its path into cinders? Or the collapsed buildings in glorious slow motion and wails of the trapped and wounded shouting for help that would come too late? Daylight bank armed robberies with the stacatto of gunfire coming from the most automatic and sophisticated weapons providing real sound effects? The commando style snatches of expatriate oil workers by armed militias operating from flying boats in the Delta region? Those bodies prone on the ground groaning from pains or already lifeless are not film extras or background actors. They are Nigerians. The tears and blood are no makeup but the real thing. And yet the real drama with unbelievable plot and twists has shifted to Aso Rock and its occupants, the national and state houses of assembly, the house of representatives, the local governments. The courts write the scripts installing, de-installing, re-installing of political office holders. Comedy comes in the form of my interractions with area boys who have installed parallel governments from local government to state and federal levels. That is comic relief indeed. Enough jagajaga. Let us, as Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the afrobeat icon sang, clear our minds from this musical contraption called 2006 and re-focus for 2007.

My prediction is full of hope and great expectation for the entertainment industry in the new year. We need great movies, music, drama, literature, art etc that will assuage the already battered mind and body of our people. The whole entertainment industry is poised to take Nigeria to the greatest heights in 2007 or has reality already overtaken art?

Friday, December 29, 2006

Year 2006 - a retrospective...

In my opinion, the Nigerian audience makes the art and business of the budding film and video industries worthwhile in the same way spectators and the supporters' clubs make the world of soccer tick. Although I am not a Nollywood star, I get stopped regularly by ardent fans who do an on the spot analysis of our productions. 'We like Mainframe Productions because you take your time and make only a film per year.' I never contest this assertion and prefer to smile in appreciation. Unlike other producers who make twenty or fifty movies a year to heap on an already saturated dunghill of Idumota and other industry markets. We like to work differently, putting the scarce funds in higher production values. We want to make films that are not only entertaining but are also purposeful because our esteemed audience deserves only the best. And that is why it takes so much time, confronted by a hostile environment like ours to craft a decent movie.

How did we fare in 2006? We broke records and made or released more than one movie. We gave our audience, Abeni, starring Sola Asedeko, Abdel Hakim Amzat, Ayo Badmus, Bukky Wright and many others. 'Great things sometimes come in small packages ' quoting Cameron Bailey, the international programmer for the prestigious Toronto Internationa Film Festival when Abeni was programmed last September. I was clearly overwhelmed. I had dreamt of Toronto Internation Film Festival of course but I did not reckon with a movie like Abeni to feature in the best of Africa and Africa in diaspora. Against my shrewed expectation, the movie got more invitations firstly at 'Africa At The Pictures, which held at Liverpool, United Kingdom and also the Cape Town World Cinema Festival, South Africa both events held in November 2007. More invitations are still coming in. But then this is a proof that nobody is an expert when it comes to judging a movie. We had anticipated the audience's interest in the concluding story and started work on Abeni2. A more robust movie in my opinion, to live up to expectation, we gave it every attention it deserves. Abeni2 was subsequently released in time for Christmas and other festivities. A premiere or launch was unnecessary since it was a long wait for our teeming audience.

The real heroines and heroes of 2006 are the writers, cast and crew of Abeni and Abeni2 in Nigeria and our collaborators in neighbouring Benin Republic where we shot the films. We have in the true spirit of ECOWAS (The Economic Community of West African States), a body set up thirty years ago to encourage economi, social and cultural integration in the sub-region, come, seen and conquered.

I have intentionally left out the just concluded movie, 'The Narrow Path', adapted from 'The Virgin, written by Bayo Adebowale. I prefer an overlap into 2007 which holds so much promise and excitement. I shall be here to give you a blow by blow account of the year of our collective breakthrough.