Could you tell me about your childhood? When and where were you born? Do you have any siblings? Is there anything about your childhood that stands out for you?
I had a basic childhood; the 2nd out of 6 children. I was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and grew up in Kaduna. My father was a military man, so we lived in different parts of the country; that is always something that stands out for me about my childhood.
Is there any person or persons that have influenced your personal development, helped form who you are today?
My grandmother and my mother have been strong influences on me. My grandmother was uneducated but understood the value of education and decided her daughter (my mother) would go to school and she worked hard to make that happen. My mother is a force of nature who conquered the business world and achieved success in industries that were dominated by men. Also, I look up to Jesus Christ as a model in the way I carry myself and conduct my business
How and when did you decide on pursuing film-making as a major part of your life?
Actually, my first degree is in theatre film and television and that is where I started my early career. I also have a Master’s degree in Broadcasting. Over the years as I raised my children, I stepped back from the industry and worked in various capacities as a Freelance Writer, Administrative Coordinator, Customer Service Officer, Property Manager and Assistant to the Regional Manager at National Bank of Canada (NBC) overseeing four provinces in western Canada. I left that job to come back to filmmaking which is always where I knew I would end up anyway.
Can you describe the milestones that have marked your film career? Did you study film in an academic setting?
My first film role was playing Nko in excerpts of Buchi Emecheta’s “Double Yoke” in 1985; I then got involved in re-writing the scripts for the production of Things Fall Apart in 1986 while working as an intern at Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) Port-Harcourt. On graduation, I worked at NTA Kaduna before heading to Imo Broadcasting Corporation Owerri to head up the Drama Unit under the late James Iroha (Giringory of Masquerade fame). These opportunities gave me my start in made-for-TV movies and eventually led to producing my first length feature film: “Treacherous Heart” (2012) and my most recent film “2 Weeks in Lagos” (Feb 2021). Treacherous Heart won many awards and 2 Weeks in Lagos was recently nominated for an African Movie Academy Award (AMAA) even before it’s release date of February, 2021. Through my film production and distribution company registered in both Canada and Nigeria, my focus is now on social change, Edutainment – using the medium of film to educate and entertain at the same time. My focus going forward is on raising awareness on issues that affect the most vulnerable members of our society particularly women and girls. I am also focused on bridging the gap between traditional African storytelling and contemporary mainstream cinema storytelling, especially in North America.
What challenges have you faced as film producer? Has the fact that you are a woman helped or hindered your career?
Being a woman in the industry has presented it’s own set of challenges and I will say my gender has hindered me in some ways. I am convinced that a lot more people will take me more seriously if I was a man. I am grateful to God tht he continues to help me break down the barriers as I encounter them.
You are based in Canada, yet much of your movies reflect the lived experience of Nigeria, the country of your birth. Other than the fact that Nigeria is your home country, what is it about the country that attracts so much of your professional interest?
Nigeria has such a rich and diverse culture that we cannot allow to die. I am driven to ensure that our children born in diaspora are able to get an understanding of what it means to be Nigerian, beyond the negative representations and stereotypes we have come to expect from the west as par for the course.
Would you describe yourself as part of the Nollywood genre, the popular name for movies made in Nigeria?
Yes, I would but with a difference. I am more focused on telling the stories of Nigerians living in Canada. While we are all Nigerians, there are peculiarities that apply to us in diaspora that you don’t find back home. So, while I see myself as part of Nollywood, there is still a difference.
How do you balance your career as a film producer with your role of wife and mother?
I work very hard to make sure my filmmaking career does not impact my family life in a negative way. As a matter of fact, my biggest challenges have been to manage my different hats without negatively impacting my role as a wife and mother. While, it has been challenging, God has been good to me and kept me grounded.
What has been your biggest achievement and what was your biggest challenge?
Professionally, I would say my biggest achievement is receiving recognition from the government of Alberta in the form of a grant to tour Canada with “Treacherous Heart”. My biggest professional challenge was getting “Treacherous Heart” made and seen.
Your most recent movie “2 Weeks in Lagos” is due to premiere in the next few weeks. Do you have plans to show it in Ottawa?
“2 Weeks in Lagos” is premiering in Nigeria on February 12, 2021 and then it will come to Canada in late spring, Covid-19 allowing. We will screen it in Ottawa, as we are the very first Nollywood film to have a major theatrical release in Canada by a mainstream cinema chain. Landmark Cinemas Canada will screen “2 Weeks in Lagos” at it locations across 4 cities (Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton). We will have a Toronto release separately.
What advice would you give to a young Black woman who wants to get into the movie industry, as an actor, producer, director or any other capacity?
First, understand why you are looking to do this; then test your dream or desire to work in films and make sure you are actually pursuing the right dream and for the right reason; then when you are convinced, give it your all and never ever give up. Disappointments will come, failure will come but you must never give up. With each failure, you learn a little more than you knew before.
Finally, do you have a message for readers of Black Ottawa Scene?
Don’t ever give up on your dreams! Watch out for us and show support and love to black films. Go and see “2 Weeks in Lagos” when it opens in Ottawa; we want mainstream cinemas that we have the audiences to support our films. I will like to see more black films in Landmark Cinemas but that happens only if we go out and support. Together, we can grow Black and African storytelling in Canada.