Talented Nollywood screen diva, Uru Eke, is a Business Information Technology graduate turned actress. She spoke to Mary Ekah, in this interview, about her voyage in the Nigerian movie industry and opened up about her next project focusing on the victims of rape
You just did your very first movie, ‘Remember Me’. Can you tell us about it?
The film, ‘Remember Me’, is my producing debut and it an upshot of my NGO called Chime For Art Foundation. Film is an extremely powerful medium that cuts across cultures, geographical spheres and generations. It is an ongoing dialogue between the past, present and the future. It centres on accountability, transparency and corruption. In a community where the rights of the poor and vulnerable are trampled on, where natural resources are stolen and witnesses are silenced, it takes a very brave man to stand up for what is just and true. Michael (O.C Ukeje) is that man and as he wades through incriminating evidence of the nation’s biggest organisations, he finds an unwitting helper in Harida (Uru Eke) and together, they try to overcome insurmountable odds with the arsenal of information at their disposal. ‘Remember Me’ is a captivating, action packed story about a young girl’s struggle as well as her fight to reveal the truth about one of the most corrupt organisations in the country.
Why focus on a subject like corruption and not anything else?
I wanted to deal with a serious subject. You know we had the option of doing a movie on domestic violence, drug trafficking, and other related issues but we decided to take the corruption because it is like shining the torchlight on current issues.
Does anyone really get changed from engaging or viewing a piece of art?
You can appeal to the consciousness of people with it. It’s not necessarily aimed at changing anyone but more about sending out a message that we can affect the change we want by initiating certain actions.
Remember me, you said, is a product of your Foundation, The Chime for Art Foundation, so how did you fund it?
The movie is being funded by Fort Foundation.
How will you ensure that the entertainment doesn’t steal the show in your projects against the messages planted therein?
I wouldn’t consider the film ‘Remember Me’ extremely entertaining as we are dealing with a serious subject but at least it isn’t boring, well in my opinion.
Who are your target audience?
Everyone, like I stated earlier the film cuts across geographic, generations and cultures. So ‘Remember me’ has a message for everyone and is for everyone.
What is the focus of your foundation?
The Chime for Art Foundation is a non-profit organisation that was set up to produce films on social change. It could be corruption, drug abuse, domestic violence, rape, or even child trafficking. It focuses mostly on serious subjects. I also have a production company, so if I want to produce a lighthearted film or a glamorous film, I will produce that under my production company, but right now, I want to deal with serious subject matters and those I produce under my NGO. And right now, I am planning to do something on rape.
I am focusing on that because the incidences of rape have been so high these days and when I read about it, it ruins my day and my mind and destabilises everything in me. Rape is so rampant in our society today, it is just that people don’t like talking about it, so that we do not know much about the victims and how they feel afterwards. There is usually no after care for the victim. It is not just about the act but the mindset and how they continue with life afterwards. That is really what I want to talk about–what happens to the victims afterwards, how do they recover and how do they come back to how they used to be before the incident. That’s actually my next project; “Chronicles of The Life of a Victim of Rape”. I will be dealing with the aftermath of rape and how it affects the individual. The act of rape is one thing and is a physical act but the mind suffers the most. It takes victims years to get over it and there are cases where some never got over it.
Like you said, people don’t talk about rape, so how do you intend to make headway in such project?
I have been meeting a lot of people and I read about a lot of cases and I think I should be able to do something on it. In order to be able to do a film that touches the mind of people, I need to be able to convince them, so I have to meet a whole lot of people, and that is really why I am focusing on after the incident has taken and how the person lives her daily life afterwards and how does she relate to men after that and even women. How does she get back into the society and live her life like it was before the incident.
Do you think this will help in curbing the incidence of rape?
I don’t know if it will curb rape. I think it will just shine a light on what happens to the victim and the damage done on them when such happens.
How did you get the inspiration to go into filmmaking, especially as IT expert?
I started as an IT consultant. I worked as an IT expert but always wanted to be an actress and struggled for a while to make the transition. Then when I eventually did I wanted to move along in my career and producing seemed to be the best option. I actually began my acting career with a London-based acting group called ‘The association of multinational performing artistes’ in the UK, where I featured in a number of stage
plays and in house productions. I gained a certificate to higher education in computing at Lewisham College from there I went on to study Business Information Technology at the University of Greenwich. I then launched my career in IT working as a Business Acceptance Test Analyst with some of the UK’s leading financial institutions such as Zurich International, Legal and General, HSBC, Halifax and Lloyds TSB.
In 2011, I decided to switch careers and focus on event hosting and acting fulltime after dedicating five years to the IT industry. If I didn’t make the decision at that time, I probably would never have. And if I had continued to work in that field and later on make the decision, may be it wouldn’t have worked out.
And while in my 9-5 job I took up vocational training courses and improved my craft. Today, I can say I am a seasoned, trained actor, event host and associate producer of ‘Dream Walker’ and producer of the soon to be released film ‘Remember Me’. I have also acted in a number of films namely Forgive me father, Ebony, Lucky Joe, Widows men, African Soldier, The return of Ogidi, friends in Love, Save the Prince, The Gift, Timeless Passion, Strive, Darkside, Last flight, Weekend Getaway, One Last Word, The Duplex and Being Mrs. Elliot to mention a few.
Why did you decide to do this project in Nigeria after your early exposure to foreign training and education?
I’m Nigerian and my parents are Nigerian so coming home to join the entertainment industry shouldn’t come across as strange. The opportunity presented itself and I took it. Nigeria is organic and the positive is there isn’t any red tape or bureaucracy to stand in the way of kick-starting your business, if you have the money and the support go right ahead. The land is free, open and welcoming to all ideas so I encourage anyone sitting on the outside to step in and make it happen.
Will you say you made the right decision, looking back?
Well, Iam fulfilled. I am happy. In four years, I have been able to produce my own film. I have the backing of the Fort Foundation and I produced the film with one of top filmmakers in Nigeria, Izu Ojukwu. I went all out to do this, it was not easy raising money and it is not a low budget film. I am not blowing my trumpet but I think I have done well.
How soon do we expect to see ‘Remember Me’ at the cinemas?
Remember Me, a story about accountability and transparency through citizen engagement thereby exposing and fighting corruption, will be in the cinemas from March 18. RED TV, the fast paced lifestyle channel, proudly associated with United Bank for Africa, supports it that puts Africa on the global stage as well as Bellanaija, Yudala and Pulse TV.
So why should everyone go to the cinemas and see “Remember Me”?
It’s a film that will appeal to you and hopefully steer whoever watches it in the direction to do their bit as an upstanding member of society. It has got your favorite actors in it as well as funny girl chigul who doesn’t play funny in the film and most especially to support my ministry.
Remember Me is quite star studded, any particular reason for the choice of cast?
I simply casted based on who I thought best suited the role. So I have in it great actors like O.C Ukeje, Victor Olaotan, Femi Jacobs, Anthony Monjaro, Enyinna Nwigwe and Chigul. The movie was directed by the legendary Izu Ojukwu and co-produced by Neville Ossai and Associate Producer is Bola Aduwo and Screenplay by Onyinye Egenti.
Wearing these various hats as a Producer, Actor, and the foundation’s director amongst others. How do you manage all these to ensure efficiency?
I hate being idle and enjoy being in a job, to be honest I don’t think I am doing enough. So combining all three isn’t a problem, I absolutely love what I do and I feel blessed everyday that God placed the opportunity to live my dream before me.
What is your advice to young ones aspiring to be producers?
Don’t come in looking for fame and glamour. Come in with the mindset that you are going to work hard. Come in knowing that you may not be necessarily get paid what you think that you deserve.And remember to have a relationship with God.