Having financed top film projects such as Biyi Bandele’s Half of a Yellow Sun, Michelle Bello’s Flower Girl and Kunle Afolayan’s The CEO, the next indication of Bank of Industry’s support for Nollywood has emerged in Queen Amina, a period story of the legendary Hausa Muslim warrior queen of Zazzau.
Top officers of the Bank – Cynthia Nwuka, Group Head, Creative Industry; and Okey Madu, Assistant Manager – were last weekend at Shere, a desert and current set of the movie located in Jos, Plateau State, where more than 200 cast and crew members were shooting a war scene that exemplifies one of the travails of the historical queen, played by Lucy Ameh.
Produced by Okey Ogunjiofor of the Living in Bondage fame, Queen Amina is the second in production in the series of more than a dozen film projects, which have already received a nod from the development bank under the BoI Nollyfund scheme, an initial programme limit of N1 billion in easy-access single-digit interest loans.
Nwuka and Madu arrived the location in the company of veteran Hausa actor and member of the Advisory Board of NollyFund, Alhaji Sani Muazu, and were received by Ogunjiofor and the director of the movie, Izu Ojukwu, a notable director of epic movies in Nigeria.
Ogunjiofor, who got N50 million from BOI for the project, was glad to receive the Bank’s officials, introducing cast and crew members as he conducted his quests round some of the equipment on set.
It was an unusual site for a typical Nollywood film, with state-of-the-art equipment, soundless generating set, location vans, original props, period costumes and passionate cast and crew members who were excited by the opportunity of being part of a global African story.
Ogunjiofor, who produced the acclaimed Nollywood pathfinder, Living in Bondage in 1992, is optimistic that this next major project, although coming 20 years after, will make him more prominent than his first movie.
“I have researched the story of Queen Amina in the last 20 years and I’m glad that the opportunity to bring it to life has finally come,” he said.
Nwuka encouraged Ogunjiofor to be steadfast despite the challenges he might encounter in the course of the movie.
She said: “You are likely to encounter some challenges as it is with every production.
“But when that happens, let us know on time so that we can join hands to block it and move on.
“Before we got to this level with the Nollyfund, it wasn’t easy.
“I have always said that if Kene Mparu of Filmhouse did not prove that the feat we have attained with Nollywood now is possible, if Kene didn’t run with this assignment, we won’t be where we are today.
“So we should make it possible so that others coming behind can take it further.
Ogunjiofor however described the cast and crew as die-hard people who would surmount the challenges of the terrain to ensure a successful output.
He said: “We are working and I can assure you that when you see what we have done, you would beat your chest and say we are in the right direction.”
On the composition of the actors, Ogunjiofor said: “I’m using all-Northern cast to tell this story.
“I’m using a mixture of Nollywood and Kanywood to build a bridge.
“What I did for Nollywood in the South that has created a huge industry is what I’m transferring to the North so when I leave the North after this production, the North will never be the same again because all the people we have trained now on how to ride horses and fight with the sword are not Igbos neither are they Yorubas.
“They are all from this side and these skills are with them now.
“We are doing this film right in their presence and a lot of them are getting trained at the same time.
“So, when we leave, they won’t go back to doing less of what they are doing now and I am happy that the superstars of the North are all here.”
Ogunjiofor was referring to the likes of Ali Nuhu and Sani Danja.
He added: “And we have the permission of anybody who is ‘anybody’ in the North in terms of royal lineage for this story, so there is no stopping us.”
The ace producer also spoke highly of his crew members whom he said are experts in their various fields.
They include Izu Ojukwu, who is the driver of the whole picture; Peter Kreil, a specialist in lighting and pictures from Austria, who is the DOP; Dagogo Diminas, who is handling make-up; and Millicent Jack, who is in charge of costumes.
Ogunjiofor expressed his gratitude to all partners when he said: “Of course we are in collaboration with Clink Studio and our back bone is Bank of Industry, and a little support from with Project Act-Nollywood.
“So, these are the people who are making my dreams to come true.
“There are so many other ones.
“I have the permission of the Emir of Zazzau because, of course, this is his story.
“Washington has been on this case with me for a long time but I am happy that very soon they will be happy that what they have always wanted to do with me is seeing the light of the day.”
Nwuka expressed satisfaction at the level of work so far on the project, saying that the passion of the filmmakers can only encourage BOI to continue its support for Nollywood.
Nwuka said: “We are optimistic that filmmakers like you with track record of quality will prove it again.
“And this can only help to expand the Nollyfund scheme from the initial N1billion earmarked.
“It is our believe that as we produce international standard movies through this partnership, there would be the need to expand our chain of exhibition outlets such as Filmhouse, Viva cinemas, Ozone cinemas and others in the country, even as we get the best out of our accredited indigenous movie studios.”
Expressing confidence on the project, Nwuka said she was on location to show her Bank’s support for the cast and crew.
Despite the perceived dearth of auditable business structure among Nollywood practitioners, BoI’s support for the motion picture industry has evolved in a series of joint investments with filmmakers through a well-guided easy-access single-digit interest loans.
The special product enables Nigeria’s leading movie producers receive financial support to produce international quality films and screen them through various platforms of movie distribution available both in Nigeria and internationally.
During an interactive session with the Bank of Industry’s Divisional Head, Large Enterprises, Babatunde Joseph, at the just concluded Africa International Film Festival, he noted that the NollyFund was created to give an opportunity to Nollywood stars and fillmakers to make films, tell their stories and also make their profit, while helping them with various distribution platforms in Nigeria and Africa at large.
Interestingly, the Bank has already accredited some reputable sistributors such as G-Media, Filmone Distribution Company, Silverbird Distribution Company and Genesis Deluxe Distribution Company, as well as Studio Operators such as Fans Connect Online Nigeria Limited (i.e. Afrinolly), Kingsley Ogoro Productions Limited and 4Screams International Nigeria Limited) to support this initiative.
“It would be recalled that the Bank of Industry had in the recent past financed creative-industry projects such as Half of A Yellow Sun, Flower Girl, Digitization of Silverbird Cinemas, G-media and establishing of Filmhouse Cinemas, Viva Cinemas and Ozone Cinemas among others.