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Niyi Towolawi: HOW I BROUGHT HOLLYWOOD TO NIGERIA

16 Feb 2013

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Niyi Towolawi, a prolific filmmaker and scriptwriter addresses racial prejudice in his movie titled Turning Point. With a flurry of Hollywood, Nollywood and Ghollywood super stars, (Jackie Appiah, Patience Ozokwor, Todd Bridges, K.D. Aubert) Towolawi’s latest effort reflects on the danger of luring people into marriage by ethnical preference. He speaks to LANRE ODUKOYA


How did you arrive at the Turning Point?
Normally I point cameras on people and I scream action and cut. Turning point was a project I started in 2011. It is set in New York and Nigeria. In New York, we actually filmed in three states. We filmed in New York itself, Philadelphia and Delaware. We filmed for five weeks, between October and November of 2011. The plan was to start shooting in Lagos first week of January but that didn’t quite happen because there was that fuel strike thing. We came to Nigeria eventually to shoot in March. We spent between April and September of last year doing post production for it. In September, we had a press release in the UK and we started working on a release calendar for it and we had a UK premiere tagged 12-12-12 because of the date. We had that at a very prestigious venue called the Indigo which holds about 1,600 people and the place was packed out. All the cast of the film came as well. After the successful premiere in the UK, we thought why not do something similar in Nigeria? And currently, we are working not just in Nigeria but with other African countries. My first film was ‘Twisted’ shot in 2007.

Should the Nigerian audience start expecting its release at the cinemas anytime soon?
It will go to the cinemas. We are planning to premiere in Nigeria in March. Essentially, it is the distributors that will make that decision but if we premiere in March, I guess the earlier the film will come out will be April thereabout. It is not my decision unfortunately.

How easy was it getting the Hollywood crew to come to Nigeria?
It was much more difficult. It is ridiculous. I know very little of Nollywood and I thought I did know a lot now because as of 2008, I thought there was a place called Nollywood. I went out looking for it and I ended up in Surulere. Making this one, the first character I tried to cast was Jackie Appiah’s character and I described the type of character I am looking for and people mentioned Mercy Johnson. I did a Google search of Mercy and I saw pictures of Jackie Appiah and I thought it was Mercy Johnson. I then met with a lady who had worked with Nollywood people and she corrected me. Mama Gee’s character is the only Nigerian on the set that I had known before, so with that character, there was no second choice. It was so much more difficult because the Americans for instance, they all had agents and managers and they all belonged to very strong unions and we had access to them.

What is the idea behind the multi-cultural cast?
Film generally is a mirror of reality. I grew up in London and there were some things I experienced that I wouldn’t if I lived in Lagos. I lived here as a child, so there is that comparison that I actually have, something that is very much prevalent in Europe and America now. It is like the plight of the black person in the Diaspora. Europe and America have similarities but they are different. It was nice to actually set it in America because what that gives you is that extra dimension whereby you have Africans and other black people that are African American. Even though they might look identical, they are very different human beings with different types of reasoning.  What generally happens in America is that Africans like education and we get rich from that but a lot of African -Americans are apparently more likely to end up in prison than in college, so they look down on Africans. They see Africans as immigrants who are meant to be dirty. So, there is that tension and that conflict. That gave us that extra dimension because if the film had been set in Europe instead, that tension will be on a racial level which is so much obvious.

Tags: Entertainment, Niyi Towolawi

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