Tears in moviedom as Biyi Bandele, Otu Njama bow out
Death hit two big blows on the motion picture industry between Sunday and Wednesday. The grim ripper visited and snatched two illustrious members of the motion picture industry – award winning writer, photographer and filmmaker Biyi Bandele-Thomas and the filmmaker Otu Njama III. Bandele reportedly passed on Sunday, August 7, while Otu Njama reportedly breathed his last in the early hours of Wednesday, August 10, 2022.
Practitioners of the motion picture industry have been dripping in tears since Monday. They have not only been thrown into deep shock, but they have been forced to sing loud dirges and pay tributes first to Biyi Bandele and then to Otu Njama.
It was the terse obituary notice signed by Temi Bandele, Biyi’s daughter and published on Biyi’s Facebook wall that threw Moviedom into deep shock. Temi wrote: “As Biyi’s daughter, I am heartbroken to share the sudden and unexpected death on Sunday, August 7, in Lagos, of my father Biyi Bandele. Biyi was a prodigiously talented writer and film-maker, as well as a loyal friend and beloved father. He was a storyteller to his bones, with an unblinking perspective, singular voice and wisdom, which spoke boldly through all of his art, in poetry, novels, plays and on screen. He told stories, which made a profound impact and inspired many all over the world. His legacy will live on through his work. He was taken from us much too soon. He had already said so much so beautifully, and had so much more to say. We ask everyone to please respect the privacy of his family and friends as we grieve his loss.”
Dark clouds immediately enveloped Moviedom. Tears flowed freely and tributes poured in from home and abroad for the prodigiously talented writer and filmmaker who spent the last week before his untimely death promoting his latest effort as a writer and director titled Elesin Oba. The film, an adaptation of Professor Wole Soyinka’s epic play, Death and the King Horse Man, is produced by EbonyLife Films and was billed to premiere at a special section of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), this September.
Friends, colleagues, associates all engaged his timeline on Facebook hoping that Temi Bandele will return to say it was not true. A colleague and Biyi’s friend on Facebook Nuong Faalong wrote: “Dear Biyi, I am still hoping that this is some rude joke. This has been rough for all of us who know you and love you so dearly. Too sudden, too unexpected, too unprepared. There are no words. Please return if you can.”
But it is true. Curtain has fallen on Biyi Bandele and his body lies still at a morgue in Lagos.
Born to parents of Abeokuta, Ogun State in Kafanchan, Southern Kaduna, Biyi was studying Dramatic Arts at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Ile Ife, when he won the BBC Playwriting Competition, and thereafter relocated to England where he had a flourishing career as a writer. Novelist, playwright and filmmaker, he was a dedicated artist with strong passion for life and a string of successes in his writing and filmmaking career.
His latest work is Elesin Oba, the King’s Horseman (2022), which he adapted from Wole Soyinka’s classic drama, Death and The King’s Horseman, and directed for EbonyLife Films. He had earlier co-directed Blood Sisters, a 4-part Netflix-original television drama series, also for EbonyLife Films. His earlier works include Half of a Yellow Sun (Shareman Media & State Films, 2013) adapted from Chimamanda Adichie’s novel of same title; Fifty (Ebony Films, 2015). He was also a director of the highly successful Television Series, SHUGA: What’s Your Reality. He directed FELA – Father of Afrobeat (2018), a TV special documentary for the BBC; and his self-produced TV-Movie documentary, Africa States of Independence (2010).
A devoted father to his son Korede and daughter Temi, his fiction and non-fiction work include The Street, Burma Boy, a recreation of the story of his father and other veterans of the Second World War, who served in Burma, India, which he was working on to be adapted for Film. His other writing works include The Man Who Came in from the Back of Beyond, The Sympathetic Undertaker, and Yoruba Boy Running, which he recently concluded and submitted for publishing.
More tributes were pouring in for Biyi Bandele when news broke early on Wednesday morning that the filmmaker Otu Njama III had passed on. The dreadlock wearing Otu who is best known for directing the 2019 movie, Inhibition, was reportedly found dead in his home in First Unity Estate in Badore, Ajah, Lagos, on Tuesday August 9. The death of the 37 year old threw moviedom into deep shock.
Otu was at the thick of planning for an event, An Evening With Nico Mbarga, a 25th posthumous anniversary celebration of the music legend, which was to hold on Thursday August 11, on the Island. In between planning and ticking the boxes, Otu joined the Nollywood community, particularly members of the elite whatsapp group for creative, FILMIC, to mourn the passing of Biyi Bandele. He also shared Biyi’s image on his Whatsapp status and later shared the e-flier to his Thursday event in honour of Nico Mbarga. Otu later died same day.
In a tribute she penned on FILMIC, Founder of Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) Peace Ayiam Osigwe wrote: “It’s taken time to endeavour to process the reality of OTU Njamas transition. Otu was a restless soul on a journey trying to achieve his genius levels. He was there for everyone in his own way; he had plenty ideas for every ones individual projects. Otu was an amazing younger brother, friend and during the pandemic live saver with his firewood flavour. Otu has left his footprint. He will never be forgotten.”
Friendly, amiable and free spirited, Otu Njama III is a seasoned writer and author of the book The Flatmate. He is credited with several films and television productions including One Night Stand, 7th Commandment, August Visitor, O’s Island Reality Show and a list of documentaries, including the documentary series in production titled Sweet Mother.