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60 loud cheers for Mahmood Ali-Balogun of moviedom

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Ali Balogun

It is a season of 60th birthdays for members of the motion picture community. It was actor, Norbert Young, two weeks ago, and just yesterday, a big motion picture ‘masquerade’ turned 60.

Make way for foremost filmmaker, cultural worker and Managing Director of Brickwall Communications Limited, Mahmood Abayomi Ali-Balogun. An accomplished filmmaker, MAB, as the bearded practitioner is simply called by close friends and colleagues, turned 60 yesterday, and to commemorate the date, his wife of near three decades, the adorable and respected public relations expert, Nkechi Ali-Balogun, organised a quiet thanksgiving shindig for him and his daughter, Ikeoluwa Ali-Balogun, who turned 16 same day.

At the shindig held at an upscale restaurant on Victoria Island, Lagos, guest took turns to eulogise the documentarist and strong advocate for a virile motion picture industry, who is also simply called ‘Uncle Mahmood’ by younger colleagues.

President of the National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP), Israel Eboh, described MAB as a very principled man and one of the living icons that laid the foundation and helped build NANTAP.

“What stands Mahmood out is his principles. He is down to earth, frank, straightforward and a man of his words. He is an efficient leader and a man manager. He is also a perfectionist, who sets high standards for himself and those who work with him. He is passionate about the theatre and creative industry as a whole and deserves every accolade that comes his way as he celebrates 60,” he stated.

A former director general of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Emeka Mba, described MAB, who was born on July 19, 1959, as ‘Nollywood’s voltron,’ adding: “Every time Nollywood needs a fighter, someone who not only embodies the spirit of our industry, but also inspires new creative energies, we call Mahmood Ali-Balogun, and he answers.”

For Founder and President of the Nigerian-domiciled African International Film Festival (AFRIFF), Chioma Udeh, he remains a committed friend that always stood by the industry and me. He is passionate about the creative industry and always true to his words. I love and respect him. I wish him many more years in good health.”

The eulogies went on and on for MAB, who is undoubtedly one practitioner that is genuinely and tenaciously devoted to theatre and filmmaking vocations. Not only is he roundly respected and his approval rating as a filmmaker and movie aficionado remains sky high, but Mahmood is also considered a major force whose views and positions on the creative industry cannot be ignored.

Born Mahmood Abayomi to parents who he said instilled in him the zeal to always make a difference, Mahmood, a former president of the National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP); former vice president of the Independent Television Producers Association of Nigeria (ITPAN); founding member of the Conference of Motion Picture Practitioners of Nigeria (CMPPN); former co-chairman of the Ministerial Motion Picture Practitioners Council Review Committee and founding and current Chairman of the Audio-Visual Rights Society of Nigeria (AVRS), was raised in the north, where he also had his early education.

A Dramatic Arts major, with specialisation in film and television production from the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, Mahmood worked briefly at the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) before moving on to set up Brickwall Communications, an outfit that has produced commercials, documentaries and films for some A-list corporate organisations.

Director of the MNET short film, A Place Called Home, and the commercially-successful feature, Tango With Me, who has served as a resource person to a number of training institutions within and outside Nigeria, Mahmood is on the board of several creative arts and corporate institutions and has served on the jury of some of the world’s prestigious international film festivals, including the Cairo (Egypt) International Film Festival and the Durban (South Africa) International Film Festival.

Reputed as a pro-active participant in the Nigerian motion picture industry, to say that Mahmood is in the forefront of getting the industry professionally organised is to be stating the obvious; hence his colleagues believe he deserves to be celebrated for exuding a reputation anchored on unparalleled professionalism.

Asked how it feels to be 60, Mahmood said it feels great, noting that all glory must be to God for keeping him strong and healthy. He added: “I really like to give thanks to God for his mercies and the grace to be alive, not just to be alive, but to be well. I thank God for it. Some people before me have passed on without crossing the line, but I thank God for allowing me to cross the line.

“So, it is going to be essentially praise and thanksgiving to God for keeping me and my wonderful family alive and together. Glory to God.”

Described by close friend as a power dresser, Mahmood revealled that he toyed with the idea of being an engineer and even a lawyer in his early school days, but switched because the arts later took a better part him.

“I was in the sciences. I also had my eyes on Law. But my growing up in Kano and watching Indian films and some Chinese and American films changed all that, and I got to read Dramatic Arts and specialised in filmmaking.

“Since then and right from the university till date, I have never looked elsewhere, as regards my career choice. It is something I enjoy doing. I find it fulfilling and thank God I am able to make a living off it. Some people are not that fortunate, but for God’s grace, I make a living off what I love doing- making films, documentaries, commercials, movies and what have you. I have never looked back,” he said.

Even as he celebrates, one thing Mahmood is not happy about is the fact that at 60, he is still going to playing in an entertainment industry that is highly unregulated. He explained: “I had thought that before I get to 60, one would have been able to witness an industry that is professionalised and well regulated, so that only those who have genuine intentions will be allowed to do business.

“Unfortunately, it is not yet Uhuru for us. Most of the things one yearns for are yet to be in place. Some of them are around the corner, but generally speaking, it is not yet Uhuru, but the struggle continues.

“I am looking forward to a situation where the document establishing the Motion Picture Practitioners Council (MOPPICON) will be passed into law. There are a lot of hiccups here and there, but there is a definite move forward to get it across to the National Assembly, so that the Bill can be passed and the industry will be better regulated once MOPPICON comes on stream.”

So would he continue advocacy or slow down now that he has fully walked into the ‘elder class’ of the profession? Moshood responds thus: “No, no, no. The struggle continues.

I am even more energised now to advocate the more. We shall continue the struggle to organise the industry in such a way that the practitioners can work as elephants and eat as elephants.

“That is why I accepted to be chairman of the AVRS for the second time. We must get it right in Nollywood. Things ought to be done professionally. So, there will be more activism and advocacy. We will be failing in our responsibility if we don’t bequeath a virile industry to the next generation.”

Asked his career ambition, MAB, whose close friends described as a devout Christian, replied: “I want to affect lives positively with my work. My ambition has always been to effect a change through what I do. Whatever I do is to be able to touch lives through my work.
“When people are deprived, I expose their situation through my work and that way extending love. That is my ambition.”


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