At the recently held Zuma Film Festival in Abuja, the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) under the auspices of the Nigeria Film Society, honoured renowned filmmaker Femi Odugbemi with the Movie Rock of Fame Award.
According to the Managing Director of the body, Dr. Chidia Maduekwe in his nomination letter to Odugbemi, the Lifetime Achievement award is “to recognise and reward excellence and immeasurable contributions towards the growth of the film industry”.
Organised by NFC as an annual part of the film festival, which is now in its ninth year, other Rock of Fame honourees include the late first Prime Minister of Nigeria, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa; TV veteran actor Chief Chika Okpala; former Managing Director of Nigerian Film Corporation, Professor Hyginius Ekwuazi; Mallam Ali Nuhu and Mallam Yakub Ibn Mohammed.
2018 has certainly been a good year for the prolific filmmaker. From being inducted in June as a Voting Member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Organisers of the annual OSCAR awards) in the United States, to being appointed as the MultiChoice Talent Factory Academy Director for West Africa.
Between 2002 and 2006, Odugbemi was President of the Independent Television Producers Association of Nigeria (ITPAN), where he championed professional training and workshops for the then nascent Nollywood industry.
He also led the organisation of the Lagos Forum on Cinema and Video which focused on the business of content marketing and film distribution.
Odugbemi’s career in the film industry boasts of many milestones. He was the pioneer and three-time Head Judge of the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCA).
He has also served as a Head of Jury of the Uganda Film Festival in Kampala for three consecutive years. He is a Co-founder and Executive Director of the popular iREP International Documentary Film Festival which has gathered filmmakers from across the globe to Lagos for the last eight years.
iREP has provided training and workshop opportunities free of charge to many emerging filmmakers especially those focused on the less glamorous documentary film genre.
Odugbemi through iREP has convened academics, intellectuals, historians and filmmakers under one umbrella to integrate their artistic vision, with thematic explorations of archiving, post-colonial narratives, cultural renaissance, impact of new media and technology on storytelling and many other salient inter-disciplinary approaches to film engagement.
Odugbemi himself established his pedigree as a documentarist of international repute with documentary titles like the AMAA-Best Documentary film ‘Bariga Boy’ and many others.
The general focus of his documentary work has been to preserve our culture as well as use film as an advocacy tool to bring to fore burning issues in the society, as a way of keeping the leaders in check.
One of his most celebrated recent documentary is the award-winning ‘Makoko’ a story on poor primary school education in Makoko, a slum nestled in the Yaba area of Lagos.
Makoko brought to light the impoverished state of the community, which attracted well-meaning Nigerians to come to the aid of the residents.
Perhaps where Odugbemi really displayed his ingenuity has been in the television space where he was a founding producer of one of the longest running TV series in Africa, Tinsel.
His current production ‘Battleground’ is one of the most watched TV series on Africa Magic channel, attracting millions of viewers to its compelling narrative of love, betrayal and revenge.
What really stands Odugbemi out among his peers is his quest for excellence. Expressing gratitude for the award, Odugbemi urged young filmmakers to pursue artistic excellence in their work.
“It is good to show all the glitz and glamour but if the essence of your story is lost, then you haven’t done a job. We need to find that untold story that reflect our history and the magic of the African culture more, not cloning stories informed only by pecuniary gains.
“Our stories should not only entertain but also inform and inspire. Filmmaking is a powerful tool which most of us are yet to fully grasp. Nollywood can and should be the most powerful voice of the black race.”