Tears all over moviedom for Mama remdel of life
The film industry is clearly a male-dominated industry. So, it feels good to know that in the Nigerian Nollywood industry, there are a few women who have been able to break the gender inequality barrier.
From Amaka Igwe to Biodun Ibitola, and from Emem Isong to Mildred Okwo, and then to Stephanie Linus and more recently, to Uche Jombo, Tope Oshin and Omoni Oboli, Nigerian women working in film have shown that through hardwork and dedication to the craft of movie making, they can achieve as much and even more than the men.
However, one of the few dogged and tenacious women working in the motion picture industry, Pastor Abiodun Ibitola, has just passed on.
The Managing Director of Remdel Optimum Communications and Director of Remdel TV reportedly passed on last week while receiving treatment for an illness at a hospital in Ile-Ife, Osun State.
Her husband, Remi Ibitola, a former editor of Sunday Punch newspaper, confirmed the untimely demise of the Akure-based music and film promoter at the age of 52.
Condolence messages have continued to pour in for the restless creative spirit, mother, wife and devout Christian, who once hinted that her career ambition was to “run a world-class one-shop production and broadcast outfit.”
President of the Association of Nollywood Core Producers and vice president of Federation of International Producers, Alex Eyengho, described the late motion picture producer as “a warrior, a compatriot and a dependable ally.”
Eyengho said she was a believer in common good and had a felt passion for the arts and indigenous films.
For former president of Association of Movie Producers (AMP), Madu Chikwendu, the late Abiodun was “a great woman of vision and extraordinary abilities,” who would be sorely missed.
President of the Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (ANTP), Victor Ashaolu, said her demise “would leave a huge gap that will be difficult to fill in the industry.”
Described as an Amazon of the screen, particularly of the Yoruba film industry in Nigeria, Mama Remdel, as she was simply called by her colleagues and close friends, was a strong promoter of indigenous language films and music.
She was also passionate about mentoring and building capacity for the industry, a reason she and her husband founded the Akure-based Remdel Art and Film Institute.
But the Institute came out of a programme called Behind the Screen, which Mama Remdel conceived in 2006 to further her commitment to breeding professionals that would impact positively on the Nigerian motion picture industry.
And for several years, she volunteered her facility in Akure to the training and re-training of practitioners in the different areas of motion picture production.
An icon and mentor to so many young people, Mrs. Ibitola also founded one of Nigeria’s indigenous film festivals- Festival of Indigenous African Films (FIAF)- which seeks to preserve certain African ordinances, norms and values, as well as facilitate the linkage of African kinsmen in the Diaspora to their roots.
Mama Remdel told The Guardian at the second edition of the festival in 2008 that it was established as “a platform to showcase indigenous language films, with a view to export the intrinsic values and potentials of Africa’s rich culture to other civilizations.”
She further stated: “FIAF has also over the years provided the platform through which attention is annually called to the need to revamp the apparent relegation of the African cultural heritage in favour of foreign ideas, concepts and cultures, which undermines the continent’s innate potential for growth, progress and development.”
As a producer, Mama Remdel was a force to reckoned with. She and her husband, who she doesn’t fail to acknowledge as her “pillar of strength and support,” have produced several Yoruba movies, including Bashorun Gaa; Afonja; Owo Eje; Ofin Ga; and Ojo Ola.
The last movie from their stable, Ofinga, starring Akin Lewis and Bukky Wright, among others, is due for release soon.
Mrs. Ibitola also excelled as a music promoter. Under her leadership, Remdel Optimum Communications promoted musical and video works of artistes, such as Evangelist Bisi Alawiye; Evangelist ‘Dunni Olanrewaju (Opelope Anointing); popular Yoruba gospel singer Tope Alabi; and Daniel Aregbesola. Indeed, Madam Remdel is credited to have discovered Tope.
But she didn’t just venture into the motion picture business because she had nothing else to do; she is a trained theatre artiste, in fact a graduate of Theatre Arts from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, where she majored in directing.
She worked at various radio and television houses, including the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) and has won several industry awards, including as the Best Indigenous Film Producer of the ZAFA Award, London, 2009; Nollywood Outstanding Personality Award, 2007; and Award of Excellence in Creativity by Yoruba Studies Association.
Mama Remdel also had a stint as a public servant, working as Press Secretary to the wife of former governor of Ekiti State, Erelu Angela Adebayo, between 1999 and 2003.
Founder of several motion picture institutions, including the Independent Film and Video Producers and Marketers Association of Nigeria and the Coalition of Associations of Film and Video Distributors in Nigeria, Mrs. Ibitola was until her death the chief executive of Remdel TV, broadcasting on Channel 171 on Startimes.
She was also a Pastor with Covenant of Peace Family Fellowship.