Ann Adeniyi

Her mission is more than serendipity. With an ingenious and contemplative mind, Ann Adeniyi exudes creativity and humanity in one piece. Dramatic in delivery, pragmatic in approach, she has held her own in Nigeria’s film industry, making money and gracing the silver screen. However, there is more than meets the eye about this Nigerian actress. Her newly released movie, Dark Days, will offer the first glimpse into the very deep mind of this youngster. Then, an interview with Ann fleshes out the depth of her soul, writes Funke Olaode

Not many 25-years-olds boast of the mind-boggling intensity and ingenuity that Ann Adeniyi possesses. An unsung Nollywood actress with a creative and transcendent mind, Ann has metamorphosed – from being an actress – to being a filmmaker. Her debut effort, Dark Days, is a testament to the industrious actress’ unrelenting imagination and dedication. The movie offers a peek into the depth of her mind and soul. Few Nigerian youngsters combine being brainy and beautiful – almost effortlessly – like Ann does.

A deep-thinking young lady, she says about what motivated her to produce Dark Days: “Aggression is inborn. Every crisis is decided, started and fuelled from the individual’s mind. Movies have great impacts on the mind. They affect your brain in ways you may not be able to detect. Everything I do today is as a result of my passion and resolution, and sense of purpose. No one will make them happen for me but me.”

With more than a decade’s experience in Nigeria’s entertainment industry, Ann offers more than the industry’s staple in terms of performance and techniques. Her new movie – Dark Days – is auspicious as it was released at the time Nigeria is grappling with various security challenges like the farmers-herders violence, Boko Haram’s insurrection and the menace of kidnapping.

But there is more to what inspired her to produce the film.

“Going into this kind of movie is not like playing to the gallery. I got the inspiration from the story of a young girl who was a victim of violence. She lost her home, family and everything during one of the crises in the northern part of the country. Until this moment, she’s yet to hear from her family members. She does not know if they’re dead or alive. I have watched ‘Hotel Rwanda’, ‘Sunset in Africa’. These movies left a strong message with me.

“Rather than just making a movie for entertainment that will just go to the cinemas, I decided to create a movie that will affect people’s lives positively. One of the ways we can prevent violence is to become a conscript in the advocacy for peace. We should always put ourselves in the shoes of others and ask ourselves how the outcomes of the things we say will be perceived by others. We’re often ignorant of the consequences of what we say or do. In the political sphere, together with the politicians, we should think of how we can promote justice – because justice is the foundation of a peace and harmonious society,” Ann pointed out philosophically.

Dark Days is a war story. According to the actress, it portrays the gory picture of war and the havoc it causes humanity, especially to women and children. What is the movie’s message?

Ann explains: “War is not, and will never be, a solution to conflicts – and that vengeance, aggression and intolerance have no benefit to the people who engage in them. In Nigeria, there are a lot of ethno-religious sentiments and differences. The central message in this movie is that we should be tolerant to other people’s religion and way of living. The movie, Dark Days, is basically a peace-building project that is helping to create a new consciousness on the need for all and sundry to become agents of peace in the society.”

To kick start her campaign, Ann is taking the movie to five cities across Nigeria, with the tour kicking off on July 29 at Saatof Hotel and Suites, Lokoja in Kogi State.

She added: “We are presently running a campaign called ‘a heart of love for an eye’. This means that reasonable reconciliation can be reached through dialogue when one party has been hurt by another without having to resort to violence. Beyond the cinemas and TV projections of this movie, we are hoping to do a movie tour round the country, hosting a programme where we will bring religious, political, traditional, and security leaders, along with youth groups and other stakeholders to have a dialogue on the horrors of war and the beauty of peace.”

Continuing, she disclosed: “We have selected five states for this purpose which includes Kogi because of its diverse ethnic groups and religions. The train will also be in Abuja – the Federal Capital Territory – that can stand for every other state in the country; Kaduna, a state that has experienced several violence in the past. We will also be in Lagos, a state that has people of diverse ethnic groups, religions and backgrounds as residents and the best state that can represent the South-west. And Benue, a state that has experienced gruesome violence in recent time and remains a volatile place. Plateau state would have been the sixth state in our tour plan, but for the security challenge. Due to the ongoing crisis, it has been withheld for security reasons.”

Ann has the fervent belief that her movie has the potency to drive people’s emotions, affecting their thoughts and philosophies afterwards. For the young actress, passion for Nigeria is her driving force. Despite her passion, not a few people have doubted her capacity to take on a task as challenging as conflict-peace resolutions. However, that did not start today for her.

“I have heard people say to me from my teenage years that: ‘You are too young for your thoughts’. ‘You ask too many questions. You bite more than you can chew – try realistic dreams instead.’ I could have listened to their advice if that crazy thing in me would stop driving me. I know many other young ladies like me who don’t have to go through all the stress I go through because they don’t dip their necks in my kind of project and sometimes, I admire their pleasure. But each time I’m out of the rave for a period of time, I would feel as though I’m useless and wasting.“

Going into a huge task like this is often costly. Where did she get the fund to execute her project? “I haven’t really got any major support. Most of the things I do are based on the passion I have for the industry. If I am to base things on people’s support, I would have given up a long time ago. I invested the proceeds from my previous films and my savings in shooting this film. The grace of God and sincere passion for positive impact in the society is what has kept me going. The fact is that life has become a sweepstake. Millions of people, who have lost the sense of being able to make anything of the collective effort of shaping their society, now expect fortune to descend like pie from the sky,” she said.

Expressing her disappointment in seeking collaboration, she stated: “I really wished to work with as many well-meaning individuals and organisations as I could get. I had approached a lot of bigwigs in the industry. But somehow, some only showed initial interest and along the line, lost the passion probably because they wanted to wait till I got major sponsors. I see impact, they see cake. Unfortunately, it takes someone who understands the vision behind this concept and is moved to effect change to join the train. Thank God my team members have been wonderfully and tirelessly working which is a big encouragement for me.

“Out of all the celebrities I already approached, only 20 per cent seem to identify with it wholeheartedly. Others are worried that people might easily misinterpret their involvements as a biased course against a certain group or religion even as it’s originally not. While some others are waiting till the project starts oozing so much cake. However, I will keep up the dream and good work until I get people of like minds. The show must go on.”

A self-driven individual, Ann is not averse to getting some support from the government. It has been a long journey for the intrepid actress and her path to the release of the new movie was never paved with gold.

“We encountered a lot of challenges. This film has more than a hundred actors. I sponsored this movie project on my own with the little revenue I generated from my previous movies. As a young girl, I chose this sacrifice over using the money made from my previous movies to live a lavish lifestyle because of how passionate I am about telling stories that will make impacts on the society positively through my movies. We had a lot of challenges in the course of production.

“It wasn’t easy to be responsible for the well-being of more than a hundred people on set for many weeks. At a point we lost some files. We had to spend more money, time and energy by coming back onset to shoot those files we lost. We shot it and I thank God that the movie is here today and ready for its premiere,” Ann added.

With Dark Days in her kitty and the message of hope it preaches, one may conclude that Ann is an activist in the making.

“No,” she said. “This cause is for impact in an unbiased way. I’m not a critic like an activist is known for. I’m not protesting either. I’m only advocating for love, tolerance and unity amongst humanity – a solidarity duty that I owe my nation.”