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Oloibiri…Niger-Delta’s Marginalization in perspective

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A scene from the movie

A scene from the movie

A media preview of the movie, Oloibiri was held recently at the Ozone Cinema, Yaba, Lagos. Weaved around Oloibiri, a town in the Niger-Delta, Nigeria, which is credited as the country’s first point of crude oil discovery in January 1956, the movie narrated the aspiration of the people when oil was discovered in their community, their fears now, and the local and international exploitation in the community.

The shooting of the film started in Winnipeg, Canada and ended in Oloibiri village in Bayelsa State.

The movie tells the story of how two sons of Oloibiri land, Timipre and gunpowder, who felt disenchanted with the exploitation of their resources. But while Timipre, a stock of the older-generation expresses grievances through lamentations and regrets of what could have been, Gunpowder, played by Richard Mofe Damijo, was angry and obsessed for a restitution.

Some of the characters in the movie are Olu Jacobs, Taiwo Ajayi-Lacett, Richard Mofe Damijo, William Moses, Ivie Okujaye and Ifeanyi Williams. The producer of the film disclosed that to ensure that the community feels part of the project, a sizeable number of the cast was reserved for the indigenes of the community.

The major characters in the play said that they were happy being part of the work because it is a great one. They also all claimed to be emotionally attached to the movie buttressing their points with the roles they play in the movie, which speak to an issue they have had in the past or currently going through.

One of the guests, commenting after the thirty minutes preview, said that it is a great project by any standard anywhere in the world noting that the sound and photography are outstanding. “This is good and will do well anywhere in the world.” He said he was proud of everybody involved in the project and every Nigerian will be proud that the movie came out of Nigeria.

Also, Kunle Bantefa, an actor, described the film as awesome and a beautiful work, saying he was proud to be a Nigerian again because of the quality of the work.

He however said that he was very sad that he was not part of the production as an actor.

The producer, Rogers Ofime, said that the movie addressed the theme through three subject matters; the tragic journey of Oloibiri into developmental retrogression, the socio-cultural under-runs which birth militancy and the governmental intervention to compensate a land which arguably has been raped of its resources.

According to him, when they set out to make the movie, they saw the need to reflect the stark emptiness that is in a town, which first generated Nigeria’s crude oil resources.

“We were keen to let the world see the extent of neglect faced by the village and its people, post the extensive oil-exploration in their land. This informed the decision to make Oloibiri a transnational film where the cosy world of the oil-explorer, as symbolised by American oil-tycoon, Robert Powell is confronted by the resentful Gunpowder, who symbolizes victims of mindless explorations, ” Ofime said.

He revealed that to a very large extent what informed the movie was basically the fact that they went to visit a community and discovered that the community is not celebrated. He however said that he does not want to be seen as an activist, one of the reasons he does not see the production of the film as an advocacy tool. “It is a bit of our imagination and history. I will give an instance, the character, Timipreye, we built it from a man, we interviewed in the community. He was one of those that worked with the white men when they first came. He travelled abroad and came back to discovered that his community has not moved from the place that he left it.

“When he told us the story, we discovered that he was bitter, so we visited the king in Oloibiri, who was a teacher then but when he was narrating his experience growing up in Oloibiri, it was still bitterness. Even the youth who do not understand how these things have played out, just believed they have been marginalized, oil has been taken from their community and nobody is giving back to them. They are not looking for money, but just a commensurate return to the community.

“During our stay in Oloibiri, I was able to find just two schools, tell me how two schools will be able to empower the youth in that area.”

Ofime disclosed that the conception and the execution of the film took about one and half year. In between, he said there were about five workshops, with the fifth was in Oloibiri. “We had eight different drafts of the movie and we shot the eighth draft and while the script was going on, we also had several visits to the community and audition, location ready, then the execution itself. “


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