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Ojesebholo: There’s need to invest in cinemas

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Ehizojie Ojesebholo is a film director and animator. The CEO of Ceroms Media, which he runs with his wife, Ibironke, is popularly known for Jand Hustle, Chill Pill and Smoke & Mirrors to mention a few flicks. The award-winning filmmaker, early this year, released Jimi Bendel Show. Currently, Ojesebholo is working on Jimi Bendel movie, which he said, is in its pre-production stage. In a chat with Geraldine Akutu, he talked about the yet to be released flick and other issues affecting the Nigerian movie industry.

What is Jimi Bendel all about?
The movie is about a young man known as Jimi Bendel. He is an opinionated Nigerian man, very strong-willed and kind. He left West Africa for east London to find financial freedom and a wife. On getting there, he discovered that things were not as he envisaged.

After some years of hustling in London, he came back home. The movie shows the true experience of African migrants in the UK. Jimi Bendel returns to Nigeria, with a car, as a birthday present for his mother. A female gang steals the vehicle. Jimi sets out, determined to get the car back and bust the gang. I played the lead role in the movie.

When did you join the film industry?
The first time was in 1989 as a child actor. I actually started acting on stage and I was also a stage dancer. As I grew older, I found myself falling behind the camera. So, I did more of writing, directing and animating. I was creating TV shows and early music videos. In 1999, I co-wrote and directed my first feature film, Heaven’s Bride, and since then, I have never looked back. I’ve been directing for the past 20 years.

How has the journey been so far?
It has been an awesome experience. I’m happy to witness the birth of this great phenomenon called Nollywood. Every industry has its challenges but I think we are trying. Over the years, we have seen the quality of our films improve. Before, our movies used to be about telling stories that had to do with witchcraft, voodoo, rituals, and criminality. It looked like a seasonal thing because there were periods, the film industry was making films about love. Later, epic movies that African Magic was kind enough to give a channel known as African Magic Epic came.

In the last five to six years, we’ve branched into mainstream cinema. I think we’ve balanced out now because we’ve come to realise who our core audience is and what they want, where even if they are not exported to Europe and America, they can be sent to other African countries. People really want something that will entertain and also have lessons to teach. We no longer have wacky-looking comedians. They look so nice. This shows things are changing. 10 to 15 years ago, there were very few films in the cinema but we have grown. Also, we are using more sophisticated cameras and other equipment. Though we encounter challenges of finance and other factors here and there, we are improving and looking for ways to make things better.
Role models in the industry

In Nigeria, it is Victor Okhai, because I had the privilege of meeting him after I’d done one or two productions and he taught me the professional way of doing things. Another person is Kunle Afoloyan, who has done great works and made a name for himself in the industry. He was making his Figurine film while I was doing Smoke & Mirrors. In fact, he gave me hints on the kind of cameras to use and other great advise that was helpful.

How do you choose your casts?
It is based on performance. I engage about six professional actors to play the lead role and look for newcomers to cast in my movies. I also look at excellence and take work ethic seriously.

You are on a children’s TV Show known as Mr. Grumpy, what does the show seek to achieve?
The show in which I played the lead character, Mr. Grumpy, is about teaching young children how to use their time constructively. Children can use materials around the home to create things but not without adult supervision. It’s about using science, technology, and even arithmetic to help to unleash their creative side.

What positive changes would you like to see in the industry?
I would like to see the media and bloggers say positive things about the industry instead of projecting us in a bad light. I’m not saying they should cover up things that are not right in the industry; they should show the good things we are doing. We are trying to build a reputation. We should be commended when we do laudable things. I also think we should have more cinemas, because the more we have them, the more money everybody will make.


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