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Nnaebue: Filmmaker takes a global leap

By Shaibu Husseini
15 August 2020   |   4:11 am
When the 32nd jury of the coveted Berlinale World Cinema Fund (WCF) released its 2020 funding recommendations with respect to film projects...


When the 32nd jury of the coveted Berlinale World Cinema Fund (WCF) released its 2020 funding recommendations with respect to film projects from 14 countries of the world, Nigeria featured prominently on the list that has prominent film societies such as Argentina, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Egypt, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines, Senegal, Turkey and Venezuela.

One quietly effective filmmaker got Nigeria on the list of nations that will benefit from the WCF that supports films that stand out with an unconventional aesthetic approach, that tell powerful stories and transmit an authentic image of their cultural roots. Enter the tall and well-built writer, director and producer Ike Nnaebue.

Nnaebue’s documentary project No U-Turn, a co-production between Nnaebue’s Passion 8 Communications, Steps from South Africa and Don Edkins from France, fetched the WCF, sponsored by the Federal Foundation for Culture and in cooperation with the Goethe Institute, the Foreign Ministry and German producers.

A statement from the WCF secretariat indicates that the WCF jury made its selection from among 153 submitted projects out of a total of 50 countries. Only 14 projects from 14 countries made the list and Nnaebue is flying Nigeria’s flag at on the short list.

Born and raised in Ojoto in Idemmili Local Council of Anambra State, Ike described his winning the grant as a win for the Nollywood industry and as a fulfillment f his vision and dream as a filmmaker. He said, “My vision and dream has always been to play at the global level and to continue to push the Nollywood brand internationally so this is totally a leap in the right direction. This means that more and more stakeholders at the global level are reckoning with the Nigerian film industry otherwise known as Nollywood. So it is significant.”

The director of the 2013 advocacy movie, A Mother’s Fight, his directorial debut, Ike’s documentary project is a co-production between his production company and a South African company called STEPS and a France based production company, Elda Productions. He explains in an answer to the question on why he didn’t pitch for the grant with just his production company that international collaboration is key for growth of the local industry.

“International collaboration is very key for the growth of the local industry. No U-turn has also received funding from Arte France, which meant we had to add a coproduction partner from France. So, we are set to deliver on the documentary that is about West Africans trying to migrate to Europe through what is now known as the back door—via the trans Saharan highway and by crossing the Mediterranean by road despite knowing the dangers ahead.”

A multi-award winning filmmaker, who also trained on the job as a film editor, Ike is one practitioner, who makes it a point of duty to attend at least two international festivals annually. In fact, he revealed that but for COVID-19, he would have made it to about five festivals because of the importance of festivals to the filmmaker.

“The importance of attending festivals and international movie meets and markets can never be over emphasised for any filmmaker, who has a vision of playing in the international space. I do not think that Nigerian have attended enough; we can never attend enough,” he enthused.

Currently prepping for the documentary project, Ike is also focused on ensuring the smooth take off of Love Portion, a creative hub located in the Sangotedo area of Lagos. Also, he’s part of the team working on launching a Video on Demand (VOD) platform soon.

“We are coming to the VOD market with a new platform launching soon. Our platform is a homegrown global brand with a great passion to supporting the local industry, thus the setting up of the creative hub as a gift to Nollywood in particular and the African film industry in general. The hub is a serene space where creative’s can come in and work, play and collaborate. It will also serve as a primary production hub for the COTSeries originals; COTSeries is the name of the platform. It is also a beautiful space for trainings, film screenings and other creative activities.”

An award-winning filmmaker, Nnaebue studied filmmaking and audiovisual production via apprenticeship under the tutelage of the respected Sani Muazu and Yakubu Lamai of Lenscope Media in the beautiful city of Jos. He tells his career story further: “When I came to Lagos to pursue a career in filmmaking, I was privileged to work with the veteran filmmaker Teco Benson as his in-house film editor; that experience really helped in shaping my career. As you can see, I came from a line of men of great artistry and high level of excellence. My journey has been quite interesting. I came to Lagos after my training hoping to start directing films, but no one would give me a chance, because I had no previous job to show. But I needed to break into the industry so badly, so I devised a plan. My plan was to become an editor; that way, I could gain access to directors and producers. I was always pitching my story ideas to them while I edited their films. It took me 10 years to eventually grab the chance to make my directorial debut in 2013. It was a short film that I am yet to finish but that film opened the first door to me.”

Director of the emotive movie False, which turned out as the most nominated film in Nollywood in the 2013 and 2014 award season, Ike named the actress and producer Uche Jombo as one of those, who gave him his first chance to make a feature.

“It was an advocacy movie called A Mother’s Fight. I applied myself totally to that project and the outcome earned me a second project with Uche Jombo production titled False. I have had a couple of international festival screenings and awards later and we are here today. The rest they say is history.”

His ambition is to be one of the top five most successful African filmmakers in 2025. He is also interested in setting up more structures that will support Nollywood and filmmakers in the continent. ‘’I just launched an international story development and film consulting platform called Screenlab Africa with a focus to supporting Nollywood and African filmmakers with story developments and adhering to international best practices. One can hardly go wrong when you stick to laid-down processes that have continued to work for more advanced film industries,” he surmised.