‘No human should have their organs removed without consent’
After his secondary education, he attended NIIT and APTECH computer training programmes, after which he founded WetClay with his childhood friend Ralph Shekwelo, an IT consulting firm, that designed websites, graphics, branding, and software development, which was later incorporated as a limited liability company in 2006.
Though he enrolled at the University of Port Harcourt to study Fine Arts and Design, Nelson had to drop out to chase his passion for filmmaking. After a course with the New York Film Academy in partnership with Delyork Creative Academy, his career in filmmaking took off. He directed and edited a couple of music videos and documentaries with the help of Linus Idahosa and later shot series of TV commercials for GAC Motors in 2017. In 2018, he released a short film titled Bodies, which focuses on illegal organ trade and dangers of social media.
In this interview with CHUKS NWANNE, the filmmaker, who has made documentaries for notable oil firms in Nigeria, spoke on the plans for Bodies 2 and his desire to reopen conversation on illegal human organ trade in Nigeria.
What actually informed your decision to become a filmmaker?
I was told I displayed art tendencies as a child and I’m kind of just naturally drawn to arts in general. I feel film encompasses all of the arts; painting, music, dancing and I wanted to be where I can practice them all. I had been running from it, but find myself back again.
My closest memory of art getting me into trouble was on one occasion my Ghanaian teacher at Montessori International School (the same school as Burna Boy, who was my brother’s mate). Before the ‘Ghana Must Go’ campaign, Mr Kofi pulled me out in front of the class and said the reason he wasn’t going to flog me for drawing on the centre page of my mathematics book was that the drawing was so detailed and fine. From then on, I was favoured as the representative for the school in Fine Art competitions.
I dropped out of Computer Science in UNIPORT because most of the courses were outdated, but I later went back to study Fine Arts & Design. I left my job with an oil company to finally to chase filmmaking again. So, becoming a filmmaker was never a decision I took; it was always there. I tried to run from it and be like everyone else, but find myself back again.
Do you consider yourself more of an advocacy filmmaker?
No, I prefer fiction films, as the audience would see in my future releases. But I feel passionate about this cause so did the Executive Producers of short film Adeleke Fayose, Oraye ST. Franklin, Masi Bright, and Diran Ogungbola. No human should have his organs removed without his consent. This and other hideous crimes are perpetrated during human trafficking. For me, this is about the value and dignity of human life; such an ordeal should not befall anyone. So, if this helps reduce that happening to someone, I feel it’s worth every blood and sweat.
Bodies, what’s the idea behind the short film?
The story is written by Abinye Bristol and the film aims to not only entertain but also educate our sisters and daughters to be more cautious in travelling to see strangers they meet on social media with promises of a better life, only to never return from the trip. Many people that miraculously survived this ordeal sent me their real-life experiences after seeing the film; I was shocked to find that men are also at risk. A boy once told me how his best friend for three years and son of the General Overseer of a very popular church in Ogun State drugged him at a party and transported him to where his organs will be harvested. He only thanks to God for escaping and me for helping tell his story in a way through this film.
What do you intend to achieve with this production?
I hope we can save lives, even if it’s just one, I hope with the support and partnership with government agencies, international organisations, and embassies that share the same human trafficking routes as Nigeria, we can change the wrong mentality propagated by the Nollywood film industry that rituals give money. The only thing scientifically possible of giving money in the human body is your transplantable organs, which go for hundreds of dollars in the Red Market ( black market for organs trade making $600million to $1.2million dollars yearly). If people know the truth, organ harvesters hiding under the disguise of ritual killings won’t fool them. With that, the cases will be better investigated, and fewer people will fall prey to these shadow criminal organisations.
Beyond the short film, are we looking at a full-fledged campaign against this illicit trade?
Illegal organ harvest and human trafficking is a global challenge; there are many international campaigns by the United Nations. Here in Nigeria, we plan to partner with them and NAPTIP (The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons) to make a feature film on this same subject matter. The movie will stare the likes of Hilda Dokubo, Regina Daniels, Tonto Dike, Tony Umez, Segun Arinze and O’ Tega Tunde Fadiniyi
This is a film about the investigation of the Nigerian illegal border routes to Libya and the crossing to Europe. Already, The DG of NAPTIP Julie Okah-Donli, her staff and partners are doing a lovely job in curbing this epidemic and returning trafficked victims home. We feel the film would be an invaluable tool for NAPTIP and other international non-profit organisations with related mandates in getting their messages to West African households and the world faster and more effective than any other medium.
Film remains a very strong tool for advocacy; do you think Nigerian filmmakers are making good use of it?
I feel the economy in Nigeria does not allow filmmakers tell the story they really want to tell; just a few really determined ones do that. So, most filmmakers would rather go with the flow than risk not selling, even if it means making another ritual killing film; even if the film director is aware that rituals don’t give money. The challenge is that most policies surrounding CBN loans for the Nollywood simple make it virtually impossible for 99.9 per cent of the average filmmakers to access it. So, no, the medium is still underused by Nigerian filmmakers. The Industry is a significant part of the arts, entertainment, and recreation sector, which contributed N239 billion to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as published in 2016. However, the industry has the capacity to contribute a lot more than the 2.3 per cent with better quality films exported to the world.
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