Women Rising: Screen diva, Funke Akindele, earns a deserved directing debut
It is official. Star actress Funke Akindele-Bello is now a movie director. The amiable, indubitable, unpretentiously friendly and award winning actress and producer is calling her first shot as a director in the latest feature film by EbonyLife Films titled ‘Your Excellency’. Funke, actress and producer of the award winning movie, Jenifa and the widely acclaimed television series ‘Jenifa’s Diary’ is also to feature in a leading role in the movie which parades some of the sector’s notable actors such as Lala Akindoju, Shaffy Bello, Alex Ekubo, Bimbo Manuel and Adeyemi Okanlawon. Written by Yinka Ogun, with Isioma Osaje and James Amuta producing, executive producer of the movie, Mo Abudu who announced EbonyLife’s partnership with the award winning actress and producer to direct and act in a leading role in the film, said she is excited about the prospects of the movie project and the partnership with hardworking actress and content producer. In her words, “EbonyLife Films is really excited to have Funke Akindele at the helm, directing her first feature. Her knack for telling a good story, her comedic instincts and an incredible work ethic make her the perfect choice for this film. Everyone will be able to relate to the characters and the way in which social media is shaping our lives and the country’s future.’’
An elated Funke who spoke from the set of the social media driven political comedy said she is thrilled to be working on the movie project which tells the story of Chief Olalekan Ajadi, a bumbling, billionaire businessman and failed presidential candidate, who is obsessed with Donald Trump and who later in the narrative becomes a credible contender all through the power of social media. Funke also said, “I am really thrilled to be calling the shot on the project and I am grateful to Aunty Mo for the confidence she reposed in my ability to deliver. Your Excellency has a great script, excellent cast and an experienced production team, so I am looking forward to making the best possible film. It is great to be working with Aunty Mo again, so soon after the success of Chief Daddy, and hopefully we can make another hit movie.’’
An actress that has remained relevant and that has continued to reign uproariously, Funke’s artistic contributions have continued to retain an irreplaceable place in the artistic scheme of things. Popular as Jenifa, an alias she earned for her delightful interpretation of the screen character Jenifa, Funke who has won all the major awards that are there to win in the movie industry including the award for best actress at the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) and who has also continued to sign multi million naira endorsement deals, hit the right notes when in 2009 she took the decision to produce and to feature in the ground breaking comic movie Jenifa. Released in 2009, the year moviegoers were inundated with heinous sequels of crime and love plot movies, most moviegoers agreed that they found refreshing, the fact that a movie that served a handful of over flogged clichés and situations, would end up being absolutely edu-taining.
An actress with her eyes on the summit, it was in high school that Funke proved that she was cut out for acting. As a student, she was a regular feature in most of the skits and major productions that were performed by the dramatic society and a few of the off-school drama clubs. It was with those well applauded runs especially during her fifth form that she was able to win over a lot of her peers who thought that perhaps because of the stern looks she wore then at school, that she was as good as deciding on a career in any of the armed forces. Though Funke went on to act and have in fact emerged a recognizable face in the Nigerian movie culture dubbed Nollywood, the actress of Yoruba stock and native of Ikorudu later studied law at the University of Lagos made a name.
Born under the horoscope sign Virgo to parents, Funke revealed that her sojourn into the world of make believe began one afternoon at the beginning of the century when she embarked on a driving trip with some friends around the Gbagada area of Lagos State. She had a passion and obsession for acting from childhood and had always nursed this urge to exhibit her talent. This was why she longed for an opportunity to ignite that passion that has been nestling inside of her for long. That opportunity came when she heard of a call notice for interested actors who wished to be part of an upcoming television serial. Soon as she hitched the ride and the car had made the Gbagada expressway service lane bend, she asked that they stop over at the Punk Palace owned by Charles Oputa aka Charly Boy to check up the notice. Done now, Funke made it to the audition venue, ‘somewhere in Ikeja’ where she grabbed the lead role in that Lloyd Weavers, cause-themed television serial ‘I Need To Know’. She explained that the television serial was not her first debut on screen. “It was not the first for me. I did something for Opa Williams. It was just a minor role in ‘Naked Wire’. It was my first experience facing the camera and I was so happy on the first day of shoot because that has been what I wanted. To stand before a camera and the next day I am on a poster. I was jittery at first and made one or two mistakes, but I caught up with it and with help coming from those on set like Yibo Koko and Kate Henshaw.” However Funke says that her effort in ‘I Need to Know’ ranks as her first in a lead role and indeed the project that shot her to limelight.
Indeed it was on the back of that widely screened take on safe sex that the lanky ebony skinned smooth talker Funke rode to prominence. While the programme ran, producers in the home video divide sought her out and engaged her. Months after, Funke found herself hopping in and out of location. Since then she has not looked back. She has continued to take smooth strides that have earned her a place in the list of the sectors recogniSable faces.