Despite producing multilingual movies, people still tag me tribalistic – Afolayan, celebrated director
Foremost movie producer and director, Kunle Afolayan, has reiterated his commitment to continue to produce movies which celebrate Nigeria’s diversity and cement inter-ethnic relations despite the untrue labeling placed on him by a section of his movie audience who would rather tag him as being tribalistic in his creative oeuvre.
Afolayan, a Nollywood actor, producer, director and culture enthusiast made these remarks while featuring on the Toyin Falola Interview Series. The interview series which is a brainchild of renown historian and distinguished professor, Toyin Falola, has featured prominent individuals, policymakers, politicians, academics, captains of industries across the African continent.
Speaking, Afolayan stated that “When I started out in 2006 with Irapada, I decided to test run making a multilingual film and bringing in actors of different ethnic backgrounds. Even with that, I still was tagged a Yoruba actor for a very long time. It really doesn’t matter. I have proven my style and my ways and how I like to use film to unite the country and to also show people that film really doesn’t have a particular language. You can produce a film without dialogue and it would make sense. In this age and time, you can do a film in Ibibio and dub it in other languages or subtitles. Some people still say I am tribalistic and that I only feature Yoruba people. But if you are a talent, where you are from will not even come to people’s minds, what they will always see is what you are capable of doing.”
The panel of interviewers led by Professor Falola, represented by Adepoju Oluwatoyin was made of prominent film critics and media stakeholders. The audience included Molara Wood, Steve Ayorinde, Pelumi Folajimi, Professor Richard Joseph, Professor Jumoke Yacob-Haliso, Dr. Abimbola Adelakun, Oyeniyi Bukola, Ibrahim Odugbemi, Ken Harrow, among others.
While reacting to a question from Ayorinde on how much of the Odu Ifa ( a verse from the knowledge base of the Yoruba god of divination) went into the production of Anikulapo, Afolayan’s most recent movie, Afolayan said: “I have been working on Odu for over six years. The background story was Saro and Akala which was a verse in Odu Ifa. In film, if you are going to have the right ingredients, you must infuse some fiction. The Akala and Saro stories are true to Odu Ifa. But there are quite a number of other things that we infused which are not in that Odu. When I started nursing this idea, I started with Baba Elebuibon who told us the story. I brought together a group of writers: Tunde Babalola, Ropo Ewenla, and others. We sat with Baba Elebuibon and we had an interactive session. After this, we went further to sit and develop like ten episodes. I shopped this around for about five years, I couldn’t get it off the ground. I started talking to Netflix as far back as 2016. They said we test Anikulapo as a film. We did that. To the glory of God it became a success. Then the conversation started with getting it to the original proposition which is making a series. This year, we are going to be doing the first season of the series. What informed the story was my fascination with exploring the idea of the orisha and finding a way to create a balance between entertainment and visual art without necessarily preaching a particular religion. What we want to do is create masterpieces that capture the essence of Yoruba mythology and the world beyond us. We want to use audio-visual to do justice to that.”
Asked by Folajimi on what he would love to be remembered for after his success in the movie industry, Afolayan noted that “I don’t know honestly. It is automatic that I will be remembered for my works. All I want to do is keep my name intact, keep impacting. When I’m gone, I really would care less what anybody would say about me. I would be gone. Some people’s views have been documented about me. There will still be more to be documented. This is more important to me than what is posted on social media.”
Earlier, he told the audience of his plans to keep his father’s legacy alive, noting that he owed his father that much considering the influence which he had in his life and career. “All over the world, there are archives for classics. The films are so well preserved in a lot of countries. I know that there are funds now to restore a lot of films. I don’t know why we are not looking in that direction in Nigeria. We looked for some of these films and we found them in London. Since 2002, I have engaging the relevant laboratory to see how to get those movies out. They have the films of other Nigerian filmmakers, not only that of my father. I worked with a lady called Modupe in London who had been championing these things. She recently asked me on how to reach out to the estates of the people who own these things. I told that whenever I returned we would go back to the lab to find out what films we could bring out and then inform.
“The first time that I went in 2002, I went with Tunde Kilani. We have managed to get Ija Ominira, Kadara, and Taxi Driver (1 and 2). We have Iyaniwura and Ija Orogun there. We have been trying to get these films out but the problem in the last five years is the fact that some reels are missing. When they checked the storage, they couldn’t find some of the pictures but they have the sounds. We have been at it.
“I recently engaged an independent person who would go into the vault again in UK to search. Since we are in a digital age, we have also been paying in London to keep the raw files there. So those things are there forever. Because we now have digital version, it means that we can preserve them forever. Recently, my brothers and I found 16mm reels of Iyaniwura and Ija orogun, even though they were bad.
“We are doing everything possible to ensure that. I think other families of filmmakers should take such steps. I feel that I owe my father that much because I have benefitted from what he started,” he said.The interview was beamed across Youtube, Facebook, Telegram, and zoom.