Fast-rising film director, Udoka Oyeka, wants his colleagues in nollywood to step up their game, CHUX OHAI writes
For talented movie director and Tinsel actor, Udoka Oyeka, the sky appears to be the limit in his quest for artistic excellence. Only last May, his latest movie titled Living Funeral, was one of few African films that was chosen to screen at the Cannes International Film Festival.
“It was accepted in a short film corner in the film festival,” Oyeka notes, with enthusiasm.
Starring Liz Benson and Nobert Young, the film was commissioned by a cancer foundation known as the Pink Pearl Foundation to create awareness for breast cancer.
The movie revolves around a girl dying of breast cancer, who has about two weeks to live. It focuses on what she does to ease the pain of her family. What she decides to do is to have a funeral while she is still alive. The purpose is to enable her loved ones and her friends to celebrate her life.
This short film of about 20 minutes long was shot mostly in Delta State. Only one scene was shot in Lagos. Although it is considered quite impressive, there seems to be no plan to turn it into a full-length feature. Oyeka says his hands are full.
“I have other projects that I am working on now. But if the cancer foundation wants me to make a full feature film out of it, it is an open idea. If it ever comes across my table, it is an idea that I’m open to,” he says.
Apart from the Cannes fiesta, Living Funeral has been screened at the 2014 Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, the New York African Film Festival and at the 2014 Durban International Film Festival.
It got not less than eight nominations at the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards and it was nominated in the Best Short Film Category at the last Africa Movie Academy Awards in Yenagoa, capital of Bayelsa State.
In case anyone asks what magic wand he had to wave to get this far, Oyeka says, “There is no magic wand, just hard work. What I try to do in my films is to make sure that every department is up to the standard that I feel my film should be. That way, if I play my film for an audience in any country, everybody will want to watch it through the day. I don’t necessarily have a Nigerian audience in mind when I make a film. My films are for everybody, no matter where you come from.”
The young filmmaker, however, thinks that Nigerian filmmakers need to work harder to attract the attention they deserve from foreign investors.
Explaining why most Nollywood films are not acknowledged as good enough to be screened at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, he says, “I think what has been plaguing the movie industry in Nigeria is the simple fact that we haven’t really paid attention to detail. We overlook a lot of things, such as cinematography, lighting, sound and production values. We need trained actors. We don’t have a lot of trained actors. There are many elements in filmmaking and we don’t pay enough attention to them. I feel that if you are going to make a film, it should be done properly.”
Oyeka thinks that the strength of Living Funeral is in the story itself and the way it is told. He wonders why anyone would bother about shooting a film that has a weak storyline, in the first place.
Once more, taking a swipe at Nollywood productions, he says, “I have a problem with the way the storylines turn out in many of the films produced in our movie industry. Sometimes it is hard to talk about these things because some of these people are your friends. But the reality is that we don’t pay much attention how we want to tell the stories. We don’t pay attention to the plots and other detail.”
Interestingly, the movie director claims he actually stumbled into acting and filmmaking. Initially he had wanted to study music at the University of Texas in the United States. But in his second year in the university, he discovered the theatre and developed deep interest in acting.
He acted in some plays at school and afterwards, proceeded to Drama School. All that happened in the United States.
Oyeka says that he started writing scripts and directing films properly when he returned to Nigeria. Before Living Funeral, he had shot another short film titled Down and Out as well as a feature film entitled, The Red House Seven in 2011. The latter is actually his first film.