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Battle Heats Up For The Soul Of Movie On Ebola, 93 Days

By Shaibu Husseini
10 January 2016   |   2:20 am
• We disassociate ourselves from the film; Adedevoh was not well portrayed, says family • Threat ridiculous; we will tell the story, producer insists When the news first broke on social media on Monday that the families of the late physician who died of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) after contracting it from American-Liberian diplomat Mr.…
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode presenting a plaque to Hollywood actor, Mr. Danny Glover, when the cast and crew of 93 Days paid him a courtesy visit last year

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode presenting a plaque to Hollywood actor, Mr. Danny Glover, when the cast and crew of 93 Days paid him a courtesy visit last year

• We disassociate ourselves from the film; Adedevoh was not well portrayed, says family
• Threat ridiculous; we will tell the story, producer insists

When the news first broke on social media on Monday that the families of the late physician who died of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) after contracting it from American-Liberian diplomat Mr. Patrick Sawyer, Dr. Stella Adadevoh, had rejected the production of 93 Days, most observers thought it was a gimmick to promote the movie that was shot last year and is set to premiere this year. The movie centres on the true-life story of the men and women who risked their lives and made sacrifices during the outbreak of the disease in Nigeria.

But by the evening of the same day, news that the family has disassociated itself from the film which parades a stellar cast including popular Hollywood actor, Danny Glover, and top Nollywood acts like Bimbo Akintola, Hon. Desmond Elliot, Segun Arinze and Keppy Ekpeyong Bassey was everywhere. A statement to that effect, signed by Dr. Ama Adadevoh on behalf of the Cardosos and the Adadevohs came into circulation and it trended with the same speed as that of the news about the spread of the Ebola disease two years ago.

In the statement, the Adedevohs stated categorically that they did not endorse the film. They also faulted an earlier claim made by the producers of the film, Native Filmworks, Michelangelo Productions and Bolanle Austin-Peters Productions, that the film had the endorsement of the family of the deceased physician. They declared that they did not endorse the movie because it “strongly questions the integrity and authenticity of the story as it relates to the depiction of Dr. Ameyo Stella Adadevoh”.

Part of the statement read, “It has been brought to our attention that a movie titled 93 Days written by Paul S. Rowlston and produced by Native Filmworks, Michelangelo Productions and Bolanle Austin-Peters Productions is in works for imminent release… The Adadevoh and Cardoso families have not consented to the use of the Stella Adadevoh’s name, likeness or image for commercial profit. The family intends to hold the filmmakers legally accountable for any falsehoods and innuendos in the movie 93 Days with regard to Dr. Adedevoh and her family”.

Although the families stated that the copy of the film script was given to both families for approval, they claimed that some aspects in the movie does not represent the true accounts and role of the late physician during the Ebola outbreak.

While stating their commitment to ensuring that the true story that pertains to the late physicians was told to the public, the families threatened to seek legal redress should the producers of the movie still go ahead with the screening of the movie as they have proposed.

But in a swift reaction, producers of the movie have denied all the allegations contained in the statement released by Dr. Ama Adedevoh. They described the allegations as “not only untrue” but “malicious and scurrilous and a calculated attempt to sabotage” the film, 93 Days.

The producers clarified that 93 Days is not a biopic of one individual and that they never claimed that what they have helmed “is the story of Dr. Stella Adedevoh”. While the producers admit that the story of Adedevoh in itself is a strong story, they said they found it more compelling to tell a story that celebrates many of the heroes of the fight against Ebola, including “doctors, nurses and staff of First consultant’s Hospital, the employees of the Lagos State Government and Federal Ministry of Health, members of the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) as well as corporate and individuals who rose to the challenge of fighting the scourge at the risk of personal injury and even death”.

A statement released on Thursday by the General Manager, Terra Kulture, owners of BAP Productions, Mr. Joseph Umiobom, noted, “For us, this presented a more universal story of human courage, dedication and sacrifice that may inspire our great country and its people. Ours is a pride story that shows Nigeria at one of its finest hours and casts our country in a positive light around the world”.

Also, the producers stated that they did not require anyone’s consent to make the film as they have a constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of speech and expression. Besides, they stressed that the matters portrayed in the film were derived from facts that were well within the public domain. Even where the facts were not already publicly known, the producers maintained that they relied on those who were privy to those facts to provide them.

Umoibom further stated, “For instance, we obtained additional information from interviews with the survivors of those who lost loved ones, volunteer doctors and nurses as well as officials of the Lagos state Ministry of Health. To honour those protagonists of the Ebola story, it was essential for us that the film be, as much as possible, an accurate, genuine and sincere record of the facts relating to the country’s effort to fight the disease. In fact, that was the only way of doing justice to those brave individuals (and foreigners) who had given so much in the service of the country”.

Contrary to the allegations contained in the statement by Dr. Ama Adedevoh that the producers never got the family endorsement; th, producers said they enlisted the help of the Adedevoh and Cardoso families from the start of the project. In fact they stated that the story of Dr. Stella Adedevoh depicted in the film was obtained partly from facts provided to the team by the Adedevoh and Cardoso families, and more importantly, by the late Adedevoh’s son, Mr. Bankole Cardoso.

“We enlisted the help of the Adedevoh and Cardoso families from day one,” Umoibom noted. “They gave their comments on the script and their amendments were incorporated into the final script. Further, the late Stella Adedevoh’s son, Bankole Cardoso, consented to the making of the film and to being portrayed in the film. Not only did he consent, he was kind enough to provide us with information concerning his later mother’s actions during those trying times. The facts provided by him proved useful in the development of the script and we have his interview on film (tape) should anyone require further proof”.

While assuring of their commitment to fully exploit the story, the producers restated that 93 Days features many of the people who were in the vanguard of the fight against the terrible disease. “We refuse to be bullied or cowed by empty, petty and ridiculous threats based on false and trumped up allegations. Many of these people lost loved ones and made other sacrifices still unknown to a majority of Nigerians. They have supported the film and want their story told and it is only fair that their stories are told,” the producers surmised.

Directed by Mr. Steve Gukas (A Place in the Stars), 93 Days is a co-production between MichelAngelo Production, Bolanle Austen-Peters Production (BAP) and Native FilmWorks. Due to the unique nature of the movie and its importance for Nigeria and Africa, the production of the movie has enjoyed tremendous support and interest from different institutions and government including the Lagos State Ministry of health, Ford Foundation, First Consultant Hospital, Fieldco, AXAMANSARD, Nigerian Breweries, Fahrenheit Loft, UBA, WAPIC Insurance and Danjuma Foundation.

The director of the film, Gukas, revealed that what would eventually be released, as 93 Days is a story that celebrates the icons of the Ebola crisis. According to him, “In celebrating these icons, we celebrate our own potential to stand for what is right, serve selflessly and make a difference in our world. Our aim is to create a feature film that will resonate with many people across the world particularly in Nigeria and its sub-region. At its core, 93 Days is a tale of common humanity and just how much we can achieve when we stand united”.

However, stakeholders have canvassed a peaceful resolution of the issues, as the disagreement has potential of discouraging genuine investment in the entertainment industry if not well handled.