A small number of new well-produced movies are upping the ante and altering the perception of the local Nigerian film industry, called Nollywood. Okechukwu Uwaezuoke reports
House lights! All small talk ceased as a sudden hush descended among the small audience at the Lagos Sheraton Hotel room that Sunday afternoon. A special screening of Mahmood Ali-Balogun’s Tango with Me was about to begin.
Sitting almost incognito among the audience – largely made up of film critics and art writers – screen diva, Genevieve Nnaji watched from her seat. Beside her, her manager Ajua Dickson looked ever ready to offer any moral support she would need.
Also in the audience was Joseph Benjamin, who played the lead role as Genevieve’s husband. The film also featured industry leading lights like Joke Silva, Bimbo Akintola, Kate Henshaw-Nuttal, Tina Mba, Bimbo Manuel and the stage director, Ahmed Yerima.
A lead role in the 35 mm celluloid film ups Nnaji’s rating among her peers in the industry. How long would those Nollywood shoddily-scripted home-videos, churned out in DVDs, sustain its incredibly mammoth followership?
Mindful of the flaks these locally-produced films have drawn for their poor quality, Ali-Balogun decided to go the extra mile to produce a first-rate Nigerian film. It took the 1984 University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) graduate of dramatic arts, who specialised in film production more than two years to produce the script. This was while cross-fertilising ideas with other accomplished scriptwriters.
Shooting Tango with Me on 35mm celluloid was a clear statement of his mission. To achieve his dreams of producing a high-quality film of international standard, he travelled to Bulgaria, where he availed himself of the latest Kodak technology to master the film.
His previous productions were no less painstaking. One was his award-winning MNET short film, A Place Called Home, which, shot in 1998, clinched