With Okowa, Ugbomah’s Asaba Film Village gets a boost
• Sets agenda for new AMP president • Cable TV company ruining Nollywood • Firm disagrees
ALTHOUGH he is the oldest filmmaker in the best tradition of the term in the country, his unbounded enthusiasm for a better Nigerian film industry has no rival. He doesn’t quite make as much films anymore, but he keeps fighting for a stronger filmic environment for the younger ones. Unfortunately, the quest for better films, better returns, a more sanitised industry by regulatory agencies often brings him at loggerheads with those he fights for and anyone else who fails to see things from his standpoint.
This is the fortune of Aboh, Delta State-born, veteran filmmaker Chief Eddie Ugbomah whose 13 celluloid films and other home video movies unarguably stand out. In the last few years, he has been working to establish a film village for the industry. Babatunde Raji Fashola and Emmanuel Uduaghan, past governors of Lagos and Delta States, sorely disappointed him after promising land and sundry take-of facilities. They both left offices without making good their words.
But feelers from Asaba, Delta State capital, according to Ugbomah, indicate that there’s renewed hope for what the director of The Death of a Black President, Oyenusi, The Boy Is Good and The Mask calls a major legacy project that will be beneficial to the entertainment sector on may levels. The new government of Ifeanyi Okowa seems receptive to Ugbomah’s idea and activities may start soon.
The Asaba Film Village, which he conceives as a joint project of Delta State, Edifosa Film Production and Hollywood-based Califco, will save Nigeria N9 billion yearly lost to music video shoot, computer graphics effects (CGE) and editing in South Africa and India. He said a whooping N4 billion would be saved yearly patronising Asaba Film Village, as it would be complete with hotels, studios, film training school, editing suites and all the modern facilities of filmmaking.
In all thousands of jobs will be created in the village, as it would be a composite facility that would truly make Nigeria Africa’s film hub. Ugbmaoh advised governments to urgently appraise themselves with the power of entertainment and its image-making potentials and make the most of it by also investing in it, as a way of diversifying the economy.
He noted, “It’s a mistake for government not to see entertainment and Nollywood as priority. It can and has been creating jobs; it should not be politicised or tribalised”.
Ugbomah expressed gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari for giving ascent to fighting piracy, but advised that he should co-opt committed movie practitioners into the fight to make it effective. According to him, “Nigeria Film Corporation (NFC) and Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) have failed; they should sit with practitioners to get a controlling body to be known as Movie Pictures Practitioners Council of Nigeria (MOPPCON) that is answerable to the industry and government. MOPPCON will sanitise the industry”.
MPPCON has been lying at the national Assembly for over eight years without action. Ugbomah chided government for pandering to those ruining the industry, saying losers of guild or association elections rush to set up parallel associations to cause division in the industry and advised that the trend must stop for a cohesive industry to emerge.
“If Nollywood isn’t stupid, why should it allow a water engineer to be NFC Director-General?” he asked.
He accused former boss of NFVCB, Mr. Emeka Mba, of indiscriminate licensing of film distributors who have no facility to distribute films.
“Of the all-comers who got licenses, how many of them distribute films? Distributors now buy petition from NFVCB’s staff that Patricia Bala is not competent. Censors’ board should revoke all the licenses given to non-performing distributors”.
He also chided the board for not doing enough to fight piracy, “What has censors’ board done to those dubbing America films into Yoruba and millions of foreign films in our country at cheaper rates? Six weeks ago, Federal Government and Lagos State signed agreement to fight piracy, but nothing has come out of it yet. What are they doing to rid Idumota, Alaba, Trade Fair and streets hawkers of pirates in Lagos? There are more than 50 films in the market that are uncensored”.
AS Chairman, Board of Trustees of Association of Movie Producers (AMP), Ugbomah has set conditions for whoever wishes to contest for its presidency. Mrs. Lilian Amah-Aluko and Mr. Ifeanyi Nwachukwu are the frontrunners for the post.
“All past presidents in the last 10 years – Madu Chikwendu, Zeb Ejiro, Zik Zulu Okafor – failed because they compromised for personal gains at the expense of the industry,” said Ugbomah. “The next president must support me to set up MOPPCON and build a film house, set up a film village for Nollywood and be vigorous in the fight to salvage the film industry by sanctioning MultiChoice cable TV, which has eaten too deep into the industry”.
For Ugbomah, MultiChoice represents the single most destructive agent hampering the growth of the Nigeria’s motion picture industry. He said this was being done in connivance with some Nigerians even as government and filmmakers stand and look another way. Although the South African cable TV company has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, saying instead that it was doing its best to help the industry, Ugbomah remains unconvinced and categorically canvases that government should sanction the company for illegally encroaching on the industry. Ugbomah said apart from showing Nigerian movies more than agreed number of times, MultiChoice shows Nollywod films in 37 countries without paying the dollar equivalent to local producers.
What is worse, Ugbomah accuses the cable company of undercutting the film industry by engaging little known directors with poor technical ability to make bad and uncensored films that are shown on the cable to pass for Nollywood films. Eh said this was undermining genuine filmmakers and giving the industry a bad name. For instance, he said these directors, mostly based in Asaba, are paid to produce no less than five ‘Mega Movies’ a week. Ugbomah decried such practice, saying MultiChoice would not attempt it in its home country South Africa, without attracting severe sanctions.
He also accused NFVCB and NBC of looking the other way. Ugbomah tasked the board to take a cue from Nigeria Protection Council which recently raided the cable TV company for rights violations. According to him, “Nollywood used to be something. But now, MultiChoice has made it to be Nothingwood. Save Nollywood before we all drown. Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC) should stop MultiChoice from producing films locally”.
Ugbomah points accusing fingers at former NFVCB and current NBC’s D-G, Mr. Emeka Mba for MultiChoice’s unbridled, brazen and condescending attitude towards Nigerians and the film industry. He said the argument that the activities of a cable company cannot be censored or regulated is indefensible in the face of what he called massive economic sabotage.