The rise of the Igala film industry

April 21, 2018

-The Igala film making industry has continued to record significant growth and improvements in terms of content , quality of production and patronage from the public in recent years.

Not much was done in Igala film making until 1995 when the pioneer Igala film maker, Idachaba Aduku Armstrong blazed the trail when he produced a movie titled “Am’Oboni”.

Am’Oboni is a film about the life and times  of the legendary Attah Igala, Attah Ameh Oboni.

According to a paper by Ali Ojodale of the Department of Theatre Arts, Kogi State College of Education, Ankpa, Idachaba, in his passion for film making in Igalaland, had attracted a Lagos based film producer, Raymak Films to produce Am’Oboni drawing their artistes mainly from amongst the Theatre Art students of the Kogi State College of Education, Ankpa.

He said that the success of Idachaba’s first Igala film project encouraged him to produce an Igala folklore, “Otidi”, in 1998.

From that point onward, more Igala film producers have continued to make their marks in telling the Igala story to the rest of the world through movies.

A check today indicates that numerous Igala films now adorn the shelves of many studios and shops ,that serve as outlets for movie sales and distribution.

Apart from saturating major towns such as Idah, Anyigba, Ankpa and other localities in Igalaland, Igala movies have found their way  to markets in major cities such as Lagos, Kano, Abuja and Kaduna.

Such Igala films include ‘Arida-Ojo’ by Hajia Mero Agbas  (2000); ‘Enwabeli’ by Ejura Abah (2000); ‘Ujadibe’ by Gabriel Yunisa; ‘Okomaje’ by Isah Adamu Muhammed; ‘Omayeku’ by Thomson Makolo Jnr (2007), ‘Ile-one’ by Thomson Makolo Jnr (2013); ‘Chaduwami’ by Thomson Makolo Jnr (2016); Ona by the Rivers of Lokoja by Thomson Makolo Jnr (2017); ‘Edo’ by Thomson Makolo Jnr (2018) and ‘Chateko’  by Sunny Atabor (2018).

Movie makers chronicle journey into Igala film making and success stories

Daily Trust spoke with some of the personalities behind the Igala film industry who gave vivid accounts of their journey into film making, and chronicled their successes and challenges encountered in the movie industry.

One of the persons who has  revolutionised the Igala film industry is Thomson Makolo Jnr.

Makolo was the pioneer chairman of the Actors Guild of Nigeria in Kogi State.

He ventured into the film making industry in 2006 as a teenager, but today has more than 10 movies to his credit and still counting.

“Professionally, I came into the film industry in 2006 as a 16, 17 year old boy. I started with “Macafan” as my first film. Macafan is an Ogori name which means “I will survive”, he said.

He said that he brought in Nollywood stars such as Segun Arinze and Zack Amata in that film project which recorded great success.

“By 2007, I did my second movie titled: “Omoyoku”, which became my best Igala movie. From that time till recently that I broke my record myself, that movie was the highest budgeted Igala movie ever produced.

“It had a budget of about N2.7 million. I brought in Aquila Njamah, one of the top nollywood producers to come and work on the project. Nath Adaji was on the set. Martins Adaji, a former director with national troupe in Lagos was the line producer. I also gave opportunity to other new actors.

“In 2008, I took a sabbatical leave. From 2008 to 2013, I didn’t do anything. In 2013, I came back with another Igala film titled “Ile-one”. It was a film directed by Sunny Atabor. After Ileone, I came up with “Pushed”; Pushed was done in 2014. It was shot in Idah  and it was a blend of Igala and English.

“In the same 2014, I also did a film titled Nolstagia. By 2016, there was a national revolution in the Igala film industry. A revolution of quality, content, promotion and national awareness.

“I was on television and radio stations,and that became a turning point for the Igala film making industry.

“Until then, one hardly keeps records of how many copies of the film that were sold and the level of acceptance. But I forced the change. From 2006 until now, I have been the face of the revolution in the Igala film industry.

“Early in 1993/94, Armstrong Idachaba whom I referred to as the pioneer Igala film maker produced films like Am’Oboni.

“When I came into the film industry in the state, there was not so much happening. Even if there was anything, it was  at the very local level.

“I needed to change the narrative. I came up with a film titled “Chaduwami in 2016.

“We created a lot of awareness about the movie. We raised billboards in some strategic locations in the state. We raised about four billboards in Anyigba which is something new.

“That alone brought a lot of attention to us. The film was widely accepted in Kaduna, Kano, Lagos and all over the country ,based on the quality of the film and the person behind it.

“That marked the turning point for the Igala film industry. After Chaduwami, the next film was “Akpomayenwu”; between three weeks to one month, it sold 26,000 copies.

“Flying on the wings of the successes recorded in Chaduwami and the publicity created, we had express acceptance. I think that was one film that sold many copies.

“By 2017, I came up with “Ona” by the River of Lokoja. It was a highly budgeted film and the first of its kind in the whole of North Central Nigeria.

“It was a collaboration I went into with my senior brother Achor Yusuf ,a professional film maker based in Lagos.

“The budget for the film was much and  I couldn’t handle it alone ,so I needed to go into collaboration. I gave some percentage of the equity rights. We made a national and international statement with “Ona”.

“The premiere of the film was done at the Yar’adua centre in Abuja and was massively received. Prominent personalities from the state were in attendance. For the first time, we had the chance to tell our own story.

“My target was to get the Igala story to the continent of Africa through that film. I over laboured myself and invested heavily in the project. We raised billboards in Abuja and undertook a media tour to Lagos”, he said.

According to him, the movie, “Ona” was reviewed by the Channels TV in the UK a week after the premiere ,and was also reviewed by  Channels TV in Nigeria the same week.

“It was rated amongst the top 20 films that came out of  Nollywood in  2017, yet an Igala film. The second premiere was done in Lokoja.

“In our quest to create more awareness about the film, we made a tour to campuses. We have visited four and we are still planning to reach out to more.

“Rounding off the year 2017, I began working on another Igala film titled “Edo”. Edo means heart and it has just entered the market recently ,and is receiving massive acceptance from our fans across Nigeria.

“Between 2006 and 2018, I have stood very firm in what I believe in as a film maker and story teller”, he said.

For Makolo, he feels fulfilled on account of  the breakthrough he has recorded so far in the film industry even as he looks forward for greater heights in the industry.

“My best film  so far is “Ona.” “Ona” is a movie with a budget of 7 million. It was shot on black magic the second highest camera in the world film industry ,with crew like Achor Yusuf, a renowned African film maker .

“As I speak to you, Ona has entered for the biggest films award in the continent of Africa, the African Movie Academy Awards, and I know we will compete very well in any category, be it best costume, actors, sound, script writing, editing and the likes.

“Chaduwami sold about 20,000 copies and still counting. Edo has just dropped in the market just on Friday and today is Monday. Between Friday and today, it looks like the film can sell like 10,000 copies per week”, Makolo said.

Another person who has equally made a significant mark in the Igala film making industry is Sunday Atabor.

Atabor, a 2008 Mass Communications graduate from the Kogi State University, Anyigba, has been in the film industry for over a decade now.

His motivation in venturing into Igala movie making is to enable him disseminate information that would impact on the lives of his people positively.

“I have been into Igala movie making for over 10 years now. I started way back while still an undergraduate at the University. The experience has been good.

“My first movie was “Enekojodo” which I did while I was in 200 level then. Sixty five percent of my movies are done out of passion to send message across to the people, especially on the need not to pull others down ,but to rather support them to get to their destinations.

“I also did “Ajogu”. I did the first twin Igala movie where one person would act two different roles. I  got more than six awards for that.

“The feedback from the people has been massive. I have carried out four to five projects. The most recent one is “Chateko”.

“Chateko is a short movie for about 7 minutes and 45 seconds. It was uploaded online, basically for Igala people all over the globe to watch.

“I did not make a dime from “Chateko.” Within the first 48 hours of uploading the video, we got 800,000 views worldwide. As I speak to you, I have contacts from more than 16 countries.

“I get calls every now and then from people commending the project. I want to say that Igala film has gained international acceptance.

“Chateko was my project for 2018. Chateko brought us to international limelight. People have been calling to find out when the next movie would be coming out.

“More than three to four Nollywood actors are already calling for collaborations. Before the end of this year, we will have projects that will not be limited to Igala people alone. I want to say that the Igala people have come to the realization of accepting their own movies.

“It has been interesting. As a film producer, the energy that keeps you going for your next film is the feedback from the people. The feedback has been massive.

“Igala people have come to the realization of accepting their own movies. They have no option because their own is up to standard now. Before now, people would say they don’t want to watch Igala movies, but now, they look for it.

“Go to homes of our Igala people today and you will find that copies of other Nollywood movies that they bought two or three years ago may no longer be there ,but Igala films that they bought about 7 or 8 years ago are still preserved in their homes”, Atabor said.

Challenges facing the Igala film industry

There are myriad  challenges facing producers who are into Igala film making.

The challenges include funding, lack of sponsorship, lack of recognition/acceptance, poor marketing and distribution networks.

According Makolo, one of the challenges he faced was that of getting the people to accept Igala movies.

“Traditionally, film making is not an Igala thing. Coming from Igala, I had faced a lot of disadvantages. A typical Igala man knows doctors, lawyers, engineers, but movie, music, comedy and football is something that is quite alien to them.

“But the global trend is changing and a few of us who know what we are doing in the film making industry ,are trying to force the revolution down to the people.

Another challenge facing the industry is lack of sponsorship, adding that many people don’t believe in  film making.

“At anytime they (people) see you, they view you as “achiya” i.e a player, joker or jester. But again, like I have always said, this is my career. I’m growing; I’m not where I used to be in 2006. With all humility, I’m one of the biggest brands in the film industry in the state today and in  Nollywood in general.

Another big challenge of the Igala movie industry according to Makolo, is that of poor distribution structures.

“Our mode of distribution is still a bit shaky. But when we do promotion on our films, people begin to look for the products themselves.

“All thanks to some of the marketers who had stayed very long in the business. They have been able to help us build networks across Igalaland and other parts of the country”, he said.

He equally lamented that movie makers hardly get the deserved recognition  and support.

Also commenting on the challenges, Sunny Atabor identified marketing as a major challenge for Igala movie makers.

“After my research, I discovered that the marketing strategy for  sales of our movies is still poor. If after producing a movie you cannot sell more than 100,000 copies, how then do you break even?

“We have a massive acceptance but the marketing is a challenge. The networking is also poor. If an Hausa man in Kano would do a film project, his fellow Hausa man would want him to do the premiere in London.

“But we have not gotten that type of acceptance yet. Our Igala elites are yet to give such support. They would only give you a thumbs up and that is all.

“We have a government that is not yet encouraging what we have. If we have a government that is encouraging the personalities in the industry, we would have done better.

“We are investing our time, talent and money into this project. We are calling on investors to come and invest in this project. We are the highest employers of labour”, he said.

The movie players expressed optimism about the prospects that lie ahead in the Igala movie industry.

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