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Evening Of Delight As Ake Film Is Screened In Lagos


 Dr. Olakun Soyinka (left); Mrs. Toyosi Alabi and film director, Mr. Dapo Adeniyi at the screening… in Lagos

Dr. Olakun Soyinka (left); Mrs. Toyosi Alabi and film director, Mr. Dapo Adeniyi at the screening… in Lagos<br />

THE venue of the film screening was impressively crowded by 5pm which was the advertised opening time for the event. The guests continued to pour into the foyer of the Agip Recital Hall of Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos. The drinks party, also known as the red carpet reception, was in full swing in no time. Cameras flashed as news reporters from both print and broadcast media houses engaged the arriving dignitaries. Most guests were brilliantly attired underlining the importance of the colourful, invitations-only event.

Among the early arrivals, Mrs Yetunde Akin-Olaiya, a director at the Lagos-based marketing communications company Connect commented that the turnout was especially good, and surprisingly so because of the traffic gridlock all over the city. Confirming this later on were reports from very many on the guest list who got stuck in the traffic and remained so late into the night, and because of that, could not make the programme. Among them were Chief and Mrs Onigbinde, former head coach of the national soccer team Super Eagles and his wife, who came all the way from Ibadan and were landlocked in the traffic at Western Avenue, Lagos Mainland.

Guests interviewed on the red carpet expressed their feeling of high expectation. Some expressed that it was a great privilege to be among the first to publicly view Ake, the film adaptation of Wole Soyinka’s world famous childhood memoir Ake The Years of Childhood which has been much advertised and reported in the media in the last two years as having been in production. Most of the cast members in attendance also said they were anxiously looking forward to seeing the film in full. The official trailer of the film was released along with other snippet scenes months ago. Even the Executive Producer and director of the film, Dapo Adeniyi said he was, in a sense, also about to see the film for the first time. Pressed further on what he meant by that, he responded that “what one saw on the desktop is never quite what is seen on the massive big screen. The audio experience in the studio and in the theatre setting are not the same”.

Yinka Davies the famous singer, who also starred in the movie, told reporters that the whole experience of participating in the film was a great privilege for her. She played one of the lead roles, as Mrs Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti; mother of the late musician Fela and leader of the women of Egbaland whose mass protest in 1945, popularly known as the Egba Women’s Riots, led to the deposition of the powerful Alake of Egbaland. Davies said she enjoyed playing the role of Mrs Kuti who she said was cool, collected and tough.

Madam Taiwo Ajai-Lycett OON, who played the role of Madam Amelia in the film, is a very vocal Egba Women’s leader. She told reporters that the film is a thing of pride to all women and to womanhood. She said, back in the days, women were active, vocal and a force to be reckoned with. They did not indulge in mere noise-making. They succeeded in deposing, albeit temporarily, the powerful king of the land. Today, Nigeria is better off for it: universal adult suffrage was won; before then women were not allowed to participate in elections. Also it was as a result of the Egba women’s riots of 1945 that poll tax on women was abolished and the law is still in force all through Nigeria to this day. Madam Amelia rendered the speech before the Alake (king of Ake) where the women delivered their demand of NO MORE TAX on women in the kingdom.

Responding to earlier media reports that Mrs Kuti’s role was to be played by Madam Lycett, director Dapo Adeniyi said, “Yes, Madam Lycett is one of the brightest actresses the continent of Africa has produced, especially in the English language theatre and film. She looms larger than life when you remember the days in the United Kingdom when she was a shining light on the television featuring in the popular series Crown Court and so on. The role of Mrs Kuti is the lead role in Ake but not the most vocal. Madam Amelia was among the intellectual powerhouses of the women’s movement and she, with Wole Soyinka’s own mother, Eniola, known in the book as The Wild Christian, were the main pillars on whom Mrs Kuti herself leaned. So, Mrs Kuti, as Yinka Davies just reminded us, is tough, cool and collected. Her authority was a bit quiet, restrained but patently volatile. That made Yinka Davies the more obvious choice for Funmilayo Kuti.

“So, Amelia has more speaking lines, particularly at the riot scenes. Madam Lycett has the ability to deliver Amelia’s volcanic speech in a clinical, sartorial manner. Another reason we gave Yinka Davies the part of Mrs Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti is age. Mrs Kuti in 1945 was of child-bearing age. That makes Yinka Davies more credible for that part. I think seeing them all together – Madam Lycett, Yinka Davies and Lanike Onimisi-Bennet who stars as Eniola Soyinka “The Wild Christian”, is satisfactory and delightful. Lanike Onimisi-Bennet nails it as Wole’s mother and works in harmony with the others – her husband, Essay (Wole’s father played by Gbenga Ajiboye), Abosede Oladele (Lawanle) and others in the women’s movement such as Funmi Aluko “Ma Igbore” and Oluwatoyin Kareem, “Iya Adunni”.

Among the many other dignitaries that graced the inaugural screening were Professor and Mrs Osofisan, Ingo Herbert the Consul-General of the Embassy of Germany, Pierre Cherrau the Audio-visual Attaché of the French mission in West Africa, Pascal Ott director of the French school in Victoria Island, Dr Ola Soyinka former Commissioner for Health in Ogun State and eldest son of the Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, Paulina Bala Director General of the National Film and Videos Censors Board, Pascal Atumah Los-Angeles-based Nigerian-born film maker, Segun Oyekunle Managing Director Abuja Film Village International, Steve Ayorinde Honourable Commissioner for Information, Lagos State, Kehinde Bamigbetan Special Adviser to the Governor of Lagos, Film maker Mahmood Ali-Balogun, Eric Maydieu Managing Director of Peugeot Nigeria, Odia Ofeimun the poet, Claus Becker Managing Director Sub-Saharan Africa for Lufthansa Airways, among many other important dignitaries.

Dr Soyinka in his remarks before the film screening commenced described the production of Ake as a thing of great excitement for him. He said, the plan to film the 1982-published memoir by his father had been on for a while before he became aware of it, nevertheless, he became a supporter and advocate for the project at once.

He said it was a delight for him to see his aunties, uncles and other relatives in their formative years and learn how they evolved over the years. He compared the film to the new James Bond 007 movie Spectre expressing the belief that it will get to every corner of the world.

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