Ibrahim Bashir: I’m Still Paying My Dues and Will Continue Doing So

Ibrahim Bashir is an actor and a filmmaker. His muscular look has earned him several roles in movies with characters where he has had to show strength. His recent movie, Four Lions, is already giving him a much-needed ground to expand his reach in the industry and further enrich the value of his artistry and excellent craftsmanship. In this interview with Tosin Clegg, Bashir talks about getting into Nollywood, his new movie, his discography, rising through the ranks in the industry and a lot more

The story of ‘Four Lions’

The story “Four Lions” was inspired by some individuals who are close to me. Those who had experienced some sort of cult activities while in school, of course, I wouldn’t mention their names but I picked from different stories and experiences that I heard from them. I didn’t have the experience personally, while I was in the university, but their stories were quite touching as they face some form of violence in school and being an actor for years and a movie maker, I felt the need to educate people and let people see the negative side of cultism, the effect it has on the family and the society at large. I put the movie together to let people know that cultism is not good, cultism is bad, and there is no benefit. Those involved can mask it, make it look good to our kids, and of course, let people know that they need to protect their kids when they send them to school and ensure they follow up with them. That’s how the story came about, with different ideas from different people.

Challenges of movie making in Nigeria

As you know, making movies in Nigeria is not easy. But of course, we thank God that we are able to manage the production cost by getting money to meet our budget, and there are also location issues trying to ensure we get the right casts. In fact, I contacted some people but one way or the other, they couldn’t make it, so we had to replace them and when we get to locations some people always feel entitled as they get to your location and they request for some sort of payment for you to film at the location. We had a lot of that which I feel it’s a normal thing and then post-production where you have a lot of back and forth till we got here, where we are. 

Our films are developing

We have had a lot of influences from popular countries that produce movies. Such as Hollywood, Bollywood, and all that and our films are really developing. You would agree with me that we’ve moved into different phases and in the phase, we are in now, I will say our movies are doing better, our movies are telling African stories with more originality with our movies taking over the big platforms abroad. We have people coming in to partner with filmmakers here to create original stories, original content for their platform, so we are doing well, we are not doing bad and yes for the cinema audience, that is a different market. Movie makers need to understand what the cinema wants at a particular time and also ensure that the movie is up to standard but for a movie to be up to the standard they are challenges like finance, getting the right hand, getting the right casts, the right story and all that. It’s a phase, we are getting there, we are getting better, as you can see from the calibre of movies that goes on streaming platforms and the cinemas. Coming back from let’s say 2010, 2012, to now, you can really see the changes and it can only get better. Nigerians should watch out and encourage us, they should see the good that we have been able to achieve and they should encourage us, that is all we need.

We are just helping each other to get better

The industry is a very big one and there is enough space for everyone to flourish. As we are not competing, we are just helping each other to get better, and of course, as a talent, it is important that one understands that growth is a continuous element. It continues so I cannot just sit down and just relay back, I keep pushing, keep improving, there are courses I even want to go for to improve my skill and there are people I look up to whom I call my mentors, they have helped me as they keep pushing me, helping me to become better and I give God the glory because when I look back I see that I have moved from point A to point B. Like I said, it is a career that I have decided to stay in, a career that will put food on my table; also, I keep partnering because I know partnership helps to improve the quality of the content you can deliver.

Other challenges

I could say maybe getting good jobs, the kind of jobs that I want. As I want to get my face out there and the more jobs you do, the more recognition you get as you can never be so sure of which job will become so big. Right now, I am still paying my dues and will continue paying them as I move forward and move toward the top. I won’t say there are challenges because for me, it’s fun and I am enjoying what I do which I think is important that people enjoy what they do. I am enjoying it, having fun and at the same time putting food on my table.

I look forward to seeing our movies begin to compete favourably. It seems like a dream that cannot be achieved but I pray, wish and want to see that possible, where we can see Hollywood and Bollywood freely coming to Nollywood to work with us. I want to see that we also get to the level where our films also have good recognition and of course, it will be a piece of really good news for a Nigerian movie winning the Oscars. Again, for Nigeria in particular, for Nollywood, there is this divide I see between English films and Yoruba films. A film for me transcends language barriers, I mean we watch Korean movies and we watch it passionately and they speak Korean all the way, we watch Chinese movies and they speak Chinese all the way and Nigerians watch them. I remember those days when we used to go to video clubs to rent Chinese films and they speak Chinese with subtitle, so why see a Yoruba film or a Hausa film and segregate it saying it’s a Hausa. A film is a film as long as you can watch and understand by reading the subtitle and it passes across a message. So, don’t let us begin to stereotype films into a particular section, segment, or region, no it’s a film, it communicates and that is what is important. I would like to see that togetherness within our film circle.

My decision to join Nollywood

In those days, when I was young, I used to watch home videos. I love the way those stars were looked at and loved, so I said to myself one of those days when I was watching those movies, ‘I think I will love to do this.’ That was my first line of thought. I started trying it out, sometimes I will face the mirror and act to myself. I practice, rehearse, demonstrate on a role of a particular actor and I enjoy it a lot. As I started getting close to some actors, I try to get information, about what can I do to improve myself, and what can I do to join the industry. I looked up to people like Saheed Balogun, Ibrahim Chatta, Taiwo Hassan, and Ronke Odusanya. They are people I saw doing well and I also want to do this, try the big screen and of course, while joining I started seeing that there are other things to it and I also found out that the Nollywood industry can change the mind of the society. I started researching what exactly I could do and that brought me to the line of making films.

I want to be known as a great producer, and Africa’s best actor. I’m putting a lot of work to ensure that I will be the best within the resources I have, and I also strive beyond my limit sometimes. I pray and I hope that my dreams come true. Maybe win an Oscar too if God permits, I hear that the Oscar is quite competitive. May God help us.

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