It was in 2009, film maker, Kunle Afolayan, was busy at his home editing his newly shot film, ‘The Figurine’, when his brother, Adeshina Afolayan, a lecturer at the Department of Philosophy, University of Ibadan, walked in. The editing system with which Kunle was working just crashed. Kunle was sad but not discouraged from bringing to fulfilment the dream he had about producing ‘The Figurine’. “Once I had a dream, it must be actualised,” he told his brother. “I have already dreamt about the film.” That encounter with his brother birthed the idea of the book, Auteuring Nollywood: Critical Perspectives on THE FIGURINE.
His brother, Adeshina, has always been the one in the family who has an uncanny love for books. “I have this brother who is a book worm,” Kunle said of his brother while giving his welcome address at the public presentation of the book on Thursday at The MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos.“My brother likes to read but I don’t. Whenever my parents travelled in those days for their theatre productions, he would use our feeding allowance to buy Pacesetters Series and newspapers. One day, I got so upset I packed all his books and sold them to the Boli (roast plantain seller) in exchange for some Boli. However, unknown to Kunle he will later benefit from his brother’s passion for books as he is the editor of Auteuring Nollywood: Critical Perspectives on THE FIGURINE.
For those who are familiar with Kunle’s career, The Figurine is an exceptional movie which deserves to be subjected to this kind of intellectual interrogation. Rasheed Gbadamosi, who was the chairman at the book presentation said he rarely watches Nollywood films except the ones produced by Tunde Kelani, however, his encounter with Kunle Afolayan’s latest film, ‘October 1’ has changed his perspective.
“The first encounter I had with Nollywood had to do with Babalawo,” he said. “I don’t watch it except Tunde Kelani’s works. I saw the pre-screening of ‘October 1’; I couldn’t believe what I saw. It was very impressive. I told Kunle it will go places. Kunle has finally made me see the light about Nigerian films,” he said. He also commended Adeshina for putting ‘The Figurine’ to print.
In his review of Auteuring Nollywood: Critical Perspectives on THE FIGURINE, Ikechukwu Obiaya, director, Nollywood Study Centre, Pan-African University, describes the book as a highly impressive work and he hopes it will be the first of many on Kunle’s works.
The book, a collection of scholarly essays, is the first of its kind devoted to the work of a single Nigerian film director. It interrogates the thematic focus and cinematic style employed in The Figurine, while also using that singular work to engage the new trends in the new Nigerian cinema popularly referred to as Nollywood.
Contributors to the 455-page book include Sola Osofisan, Dele Layiwola, Chukwuma Okoye, Jane Thorburn, Matthew H. Brown, Gideon Tanimonure, A.G.A Bello, Foluke Ogunleye and Hyginus Ekwuazi. An‘Afterword’ on “Neo-Nollywood and its Other” by Onookome Okome, is also provided in the book in addition to series of interviews with key actors and technicians that featured in the film.
Samuel Adedoyin, chairman, Doyin group of companies also commended Kunle’s ingenuity. “Ade Afolayan, Kunle’s father, is my brother and I’m happy with Kunle’s success. I want to weep for joy with his success. Though his father didn’t live long, I’m happy he has surpassed his father,” he said.
The event offered an opportunity for some practitioners to highlight some of the challenges facing the local film industry. Peace Anyim-Osigwe, chief executive officer, Africa Movie Academy Awards, said her pain is that industrious film makers like Kunle finds it difficult to get adequate funding for their films. “It pains me,” she said “that Kunle struggles to raise money for good films while others who don’t know how to make films get money because of who they know. I am happy ‘Irapada’ had a breakthrough at international film festivals.”
In addition, the pain for some attendees at the book presentation is the fact some of the film practitioners for whom the stage was set were absent. Ali Baba, comedian, decried the nonchalant attitude of some actors and actresses to intellectual endeavours.
“Intellectual events like this what makes industry grow,” he observed. “Capacity building is a major bane of the creative industry because capacity is not being built. If it was an empty shallow event, several of Kunle’s colleagues will be here. Nollywood is not a joke, it is serious business and we need to take it as such. Not a lot of deep people are in Nollywood. It is filled with lots of mediocre who feed fat on the labours of others by rehashing old works. Nollywood and comedy are serious businesses. Some people jump in and throw up rubbish. Sadly, the movies define us and we need to be careful. Numbers don’t make it, quality does it.”
Already, the book has been receiving critical acclaims. Nduka Otiono, former secretary general , Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) and a lecturer at the Institute of African Studies, Carlton University, Ottawa, Canada said: “this book is seminal in its inauguration of a new chapter in the study of Nigeria’s phenomenal contribution to global film culture … it makes a strong case for a more in-depth artistic and critical approach to the study of Nollywood that triangulates around orality”.
The book is: “comprehensive and informed about its subject and in unexpected ways gives solidity to the characterisation of Nollywood as ‘telling our own stories,’” said Akin Adesokan of the Indiana University, Bloomington, USA.