Nigeria @ 59: Projecting a Better Future through Humour

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Nigeria as a sovereign nation has evolved over the years since it got her independence on October 1, 1960. As the nation commemorated its 59th anniversary few days ago, it was one of mixed emotions- hope for the future, juxtaposed with a state of helplessness. To address these feelings, Three Thieves, a comedy by Trino Studios’ movie, showing in the cinemas this independence weekend, provides a kind of paradox to Nigeria’s present situation and has a timely message for Nigerians. In this interview with Mary Nnah, one of the scriptwriters, Egbemawei Dimiyei Sammy, a Development Executive at Trino Motion Picture along with Frank Donga, Shawn Faqua and Koye Kekere-Ekun, the three major characters in the movie, talk about the significance of the movie and the message it portends

 

Directed by Udoka Oyeka, Three Thieves is the story of three young men who are unfulfilled with their present occupation and end up getting involved in theft and other forms criminality, while also taking to kidnapping. As the plot unfolds with a comedic twist to it all, it baffles everyone how they become champions but not without turning over anew leaf.

Inscribed by Egbemawei Dimiyei Sammy, Abba Makama and Africa Ukoh, Three Thieves, showing in the cinemas from October 4is a comedy and kind of paradox to the Nigeria’s present situation.  This is probably why the filmmakers have chosen to show it around this year’s Independence celebration, sending a strong message that despite the desperation that abounds, Nigerians should not harp basically on the gloomy side of life, but should look at the sunny side of life with hope for a better future.

Your movie, Three Thieves, is showing in the cinemas on October 4 at a period Nigeria is celebrating its 59th independence. What’s the connection? 


Egbemawei Dimiyei Sammy:

Even though the script was written and filmed over a year ago, I’ve found that some messages are better accepted when couched in humour, and Three Thieves has messages for different Nigerians at home and in diaspora.  What would you do if you could commit a crime and no one gets hurt by it? While that’s part of the premise of the movie, it also inadvertently points a finger at the persistent corruption in the country, and the harmful effects of a seemingly harmless crime.

Nigeria just clocked 59 years of independence and yet she is still very much in disarray. Why choose this period to give Nigerians humour when indeed they need serious solutions to the persistent problems in the country?

Egbemawei Dimiyei Sammy: 

Would a movie about despair, incompetence and sadness be more appropriate? I don’t think many cinemagoers want to pay money to see everyday news in the cinema.

 

What is the exact message you have for Nigerians with a humorous movie like Three Thieves?

Egbemawei Dimiyei Sammy:

Essentially, that harmless as it might seem, crime has its consequences. And also for us to not lose sight of what we have as we aim for something else, like we see with Fuwe and her father.

What exactly did you have in mind when you set out to write the script?


Egbemawei Dimiyei Sammy: 

The initial idea was to create a scenario where a simple theft turns into something out of hand, and with much brainstorming, other themes came into play without losing sight of the story.

What informed the choice of your character bearing in mind the message you set out to portray in with the movie?

 

Egbemawei Dimiyei Sammy: 

Each character has something that is desired that we can all relate to. Their desires shaped their character and personalities. Africa Ukoh and Abba Makama, my co-writers, had a big hand in presenting these characters as vessels for what they represent: the educated hard worker seeking respect and recognition, the menial worker seeking simplicity, the street-smart hustler who wants to score, and the neglected child seeking attention from her father. The characters and their desires intertwine in the movie much the same way it happens in reality, if not to the same comedic conclusion.

Are you satisfied with the outcome of the movies?

Egbemawei Dimiyei Sammy:

The quality of work that went into the production is worth its own respect. Each department brought their A-game, and the actors nailed the characters better than I imagined. I believe the audience will love it as much as I do.

Tell us a bit about your career in the movie industry. How did it start?

 

Egbemawei Dimiyei Sammy:

My writing brought me here. It started with poems and short stories, and then I studied Media in the university and screenwriting and filmmaking followed quite naturally. When I heard Trino Studios needed a screenwriter, I put in my CV, sent in some of my work, and here we are years later.

How many movies have you written/ produced so far?

Egbemawei Dimiyei Sammy: 

So far, six of my short films have been produced, and Three Thievesis my first feature film to be produced. A few other feature films are currently in production right now, with at least two more slated for production in 2020. I’ve written quite a few, and I’m still writing more.

Which has been your most challenging?


Egbemawei Dimiyei Sammy:

Every script goes through multiple drafts to be sure it’s the best we can get it. But “Samuel’s Cross”, hands down. The script is still in development, and when it’s in cinemas, you’ll see why.

As a scriptwriter/ producer, what are your future plans for the movie industry?


Egbemawei Dimiyei Sammy: 

My vision is to change the narrative regarding Nigeria. I want to tell quality Nigerian and African stories that will stand the test of time and challenge people to do more, be more, and know more about where we’re coming from as a country, and where we need to go. I want to contribute to the Nigerian image in a way that makes people proud to be Nigerian.

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The three major actors in the movie Three Thieves who spoke simultaneously with THISDAY are fast becoming Nollywood’s delight.

Kunle Idowu, popularly known as Frank Donga is an award-winning actor, comedian and digital content creator.  Donga currently runs Maxani Films- a Production outfit that makes corporate videos and documentaries, films and brands around the world and he continues to build a loyal audience with his many viral comedy skits and funny web/TV ads across social media. He is Rukevwe in Three Thieves.

On the other hand, Shawn Faqua is a Nigerian who represents a distinctive cocktail of talent, professionalism, character and versatility. He is an exceptional artiste, who has repeatedly demonstrated remarkable skills in screen and stage acting, directing, modelling, choreography and singing. He started his acting career when he joined Nollywood in 2010 and has since progressed steadily.

Faqua is always excited to take on roles that are dramatic, cheesy, comical, and intense as they are challenging and inspiring. Many of the productions he has featured in address salient issues that border on love, politics, culture, human rights, conflict, rape, betrayal, patriotism, selfless service and sacrifice.  He takes his craftsmanship very seriously, holistically and pays attention to details. He played Oreva in Three Thieves.

While Koye Kekere-Ekun or K10 as he is popularly known, started off as an associate at one of the top firms in the country, Banwo & Ighodalo. He then ventured out to follow new passions as an actor, content creator and event host. K10 is recognised for his roles in RedTV’s online crime comedy series, Inspector K, in which he plays the lead role, as well as appearances in movies like the Royal Hibiscus Hotel (2017). He is a regular on the hosting scene and is also well-known for his comedic skits on social media. He acted Tega in the movie, Three Thieves.

The trio also expressed their views on Three Thieves, Nigeria’s 59th independence and more:

What was it like acting in a humorous movie like Three Thieves?

 

Donga: It was fun. The story is simple, the plots are interesting and the entire team was quite professional

 

Faqua: Fun, intense and then some.

Kekere-EkunI’m a comedy lover, so acting in this movie was a blast. It was fun from beginning to end. The script itself was crazy, and the actors just brought everything to life so well.

What does the movie portend for Nigerians and the nation at large especially as it is coming at a period Nigeria is marking its 59th independence?

 

Donga: The movie is a sober reflection on the economic state of the country and the stark reality of unemployment and underemployment for many youths. As we celebrate another year post independence, we have carefully woven humor into telling the reality while encouraging the youth not to give in to evil means of acquiring wealth.

 

Faqua:.  It’s just a reminder for Nigerians to do better; and to the government to realise that at 59 we cannot keep living in a society where almost everyone have lost their morals in the process of striving to survive, all the more painful considering how tremendously blessed this nation is.

 

Kekere-Ekun: I think the movie shows the Nigerian hustling spirit in parts but also, there are moral undertones about not letting that hustling spirit lead to crime… and for parents, not favoring a male child over a female child.

What is your view about Nigeria at 59?

 

Donga: We have a lot of growing up to do. We still struggle with things (in 2019 ) which we shouldn’t. The true change and growth we desire will only come from the followers-hip because as long as there’s political, religious and tribal bias in choosing a competent crop of leaders, where not going to make any progress.

 

Faqua: Hopeful. Dwelling on the past is depressing to say the least, but I’m hopeful for what the future holds.

 

Kekere-Ekun: Nigeria at 59 is still a work in progress. It is under construction. A lot of us would like for the construction to be happening faster than it is, but great things take time I guess. We will get it right at some point, and we all have a part to play in that, no matter how little. We also need our elected representatives to internalize and live by our national pledge if we are going to see the growth we want. We are still not where we need to be in terms of accountability and checks & balances, but again, we will get it right. We have to.

You have acted in other movies before now, what makes the difference with your role in Three Thieves?

 

Donga: Three thieves establish a relatable and believable predicament of three struggling youths. The story is told in a way that is easily understood, funny, witty and has loads of moral lessons.

Faqua: Well, anyone who is familiar with the #ShawnFaquaBrand knows that there’s always something fresh, exciting and inspiring to look forward to with each project that I’m involved in.

Kekere-Ekun: I would say the synergy between the ‘three thieves’. It was honestly just a lot of fun feeding off the energy of Frank Donga and Shawn Faqua. Also, because they have more experience than I do, they were always gracious enough to give me pointers and guide me when the need arose.

Would you say you have adequately portrayed the message intended by the movie with the part you planned?

Donga: Oh yes! Very much so. Everyone on this project from the director, Udoka Oyeka to the cast and crew did a good job.

 

Faqua: Well, I’d leave that to the audience to decide.

 

Kekere-Ekun: I think this is a question for the audience to answer.

Can you tell us a bit of your backgrounds as Nollywood actors?

 

Donga: My journey into Nollywood started behind the camera. After my master’s degree in genetics, I was trained by a team of international experts in journalism. I later worked with different media outfits in and outside the country in differential capacities as a writer, director, videographer, editor, sound expert, animator etc. My debut into acting was due to serendipity. I continued making comedy skits because I simply wanted to make the kind of comedy I’d like to watch.

 

Faqua: I started my acting career when I joined Nollywood in 2010 and have since progressed steadily. I have featured in a number of films – ‘Ojukokoro’, ‘Lagos Cougars’, ‘A Few Good Men’, ‘Put a ring on it’, ‘Code of Silence’,  ‘Render to Caeser’,  ‘A New You’,  ‘After the Proposal’ just to mention a few and also TV series – ‘Retreat’, ‘Oasis’, ‘Head over Heels’, amongst others

Kekere-Ekun: For now, my background is quite short. In fact, I am still building my background. I have starred in two seasons so far as the lead character of the web series ‘Inspector K’ on Red TV (shot and produced by Suss Productions). I have also had cameos in Ndani TV’s web series ‘Skinny Girl In Transit’ and the Ebony Life movie, ‘The Royal Hibiscus Hotel’.

What were your childhood dreams?

 

Donga: Being a problem solver; whether it was in science, arts or in my community. I always enjoy finding solutions to problems.

Faqua: To be a pilot and fly across the globe.

 

Kekere-Ekun: I had one childhood dream – to play professional football.

 

How did your journey into the movie industry start? Was it planned?  

 

Donga: My journey into the movie industry started with me as a content creator. I was already making videos for clients. I used to watch foreign movies and say to myself that I could do something in the entertainment industry. I read a lot about what I’m doing now before I went professional.

 

Faqua: It was unplanned. Fate happened and I was wise enough not to fight it for too long. Nothing prepares you for this journey but life itself.

 

Kekere-Ekun:It was unplanned in the beginning. I used to do comedy skits on social media, which led to me playing the lead role in the web series ‘Inspector K’. Since then, it has been more deliberate. I have had to learn and keep learning about the craft from books, YouTube, short classes/courses, etc.

If you weren’t an actor, what would you have been? And if you are not acting what else would you do?

 

Donga: I’d be a molecular geneticist and lecture.

 

Faqua: I would have been an engineer, I practised for a bit already and I still got my credentials ready to roll.

 

Kekere-Ekun: If I wasn’t an actor, I would have liked to have been a professional footballer. I am a lawyer as well, so maybe I would have continued practicing law in some capacity. What else do I do apart from acting? I create content (comedy skits on Instagram and Twitter, via my @officiallyk10 account on both platforms), and I host events.

How would you describe the movie industry in Nigeria, especially with the nation clocking 59?

Donga: We are growing fast. We need to put better structures to our craft, get better skills and collaborate more to achieve the next level of greatness we desire. Individual efforts won’t take us further than this. The government should just ensure they secure a better economy for people. We have some good policies already. Enforcing them to prevent intellectual property theft or piracy will help more.

Faqua: There’s a breaking forth brewing and it’s going to extend to every nook and cranny of this world; this beyond anything we have ever seen, things that only a few have dreamt of. Brace yourselves. Nollywood is taking over.

 

Kekere-Ekun: The movie industry in Nigeria is ripe! So many people before us have laid the foundation for what it is today. We are making authentically Nigerian movies of international standard with international appeal. Watch this space!