Why Ogunde’s Film Village went into extinction —Kola Oyewo

July 4, 2020

An Associate professor in Theatre Arts, Dr. Kola Oyewo is a Nigerian actor, dramatist, and scholar and was born some 74 years ago at Oba Ile, a town in Osun State. The veteran actor shared with FEMI OGUNTAYO in this interview, his experience as an old student as well as how the film village created by the late chief Ogunde went into extinction and other issues. Excerpts:

As an actor, a veteran at that, and a lecturer in the university, how has the Coronavirus pandemic affected you and how have you been coping?

The pandemic has affected every phase of life, some two weeks to the lockdown, my university, where I lecture said we should be teaching online, which we have been doing. So, since 14th of April, we have been teaching online. Now we are preparing also for an online examination, but in terms of production, you know it is not a thing that can be done online, we have to come together. I have not been able to go to movie locations also, because before the lockdown, I was ill and I had to return some of the advance I collected for some productions while I was in the hospital, but I thank God that I am okay now.

You have done a lot of stage plays; in fact you now train students in stage plays. What is the significance of stage plays to screenplays and do you think our present day stars should also venture into stage plays?

I started with stage plays, I started with the Oyin Adejobi theatre group in Osogbo, where we performed on stage and later performed on the television. Later I came to Ife, where I had the opportunity to study Theatre Arts and became a lecturer. So, I considered the stage as training ground, which is why you will see that anyone who has been trained on the stage will be good at any other type of production. If you have noticed, those of us who started from the stage, you can see how distinct our own acting has been compared to those who did not have the opportunity to train on stage. Compare those who studied Theater Arts, like Taiwo Ibikunle and the likes. There is no one who studied Theater Arts that won’t have stage experience. Some of them have also been going to study drama and attend training schools, which is good. So, they will see that their attitude to act has changed since they had that opportunity.

Some people still appreciate movies done in your time more than some of the movies we have now in the market, what do you think is wrong with present day Nollywood? How would you rate them?

Every profession has its past, present and the future. What obtains during our own time is different from what obtains now because we didn’t have the same opportunity which they have now. I started when there was no video and digital production, when the optical emerged and my first one was ‘Orun n Moru’. Nowadays, nobody can produce optical films, because it is too expensive and the type of equipments they use for videos now is so sophisticated that there is clarity with video and audio merging very well. So, modern technology has helped a lot.

So, would you say Nollywood is developing at the right pace?

Yes, it is developing. The only thing about it is funding because if our people have more funding, they would perform far better. In some cases, they have to make movies with what they can find, when they can find it, they will just say, let us manage it like that. Like Tunde Kelani said, when Ogunnde first film, he was working with some Brazillians, Tunde Kelani joined them to work to gain more experience. So, he told me a story when we were at a movie location for ‘Ko see gbe’ in 1995. He said, if they say a particular object is needed or they are short of a particular material, Baba Ogunde would ask, how much is it sold? How many of this thing are we going to need? If you tell him we can still manage this two, he would say don’t manage the two, here is money, go and buy six. You see? That was why Ogunde’s films at that time was unique because he made funds available for every object that was needed, not a case of managing or making use of what you can get.

Movies like Kurunmi, Afonja, Efunsetan Aniwura and the likes are historical movies which give the viewers a glimpse into what happened in the past and how it actually happened, what is your take on producing more historical movies in Nollywood?

They are very expensive to produce because there are some locations you will have to create yourself. The reason for that is that, structures like that do not exist anymore and Baba Ogunde tried then, because he had a film village in Ososa, near Ijebu Ode, where he did his first, second and third productions. But when the man died, nobody cared about the place and it has been taken over by weed. In fact, if you go there now, you won’t know anything of such was there before. If the government, maybe Ogun State government or Federal Government could take over the place and develop it, that could have been our Hollywood or Disneyland. If you go to America, there is a place called ‘Hollywood’, but our own Nollywood, there is no place to point to and say, take me to Nollywood in Nigeria. Where would you point to? Is it Lalupon? So it has been of great disadvantage that nobody took over that film village.


How have you been combining acting with lecturing?

Well, the two are related because I teach what I practice, and I practice what I teach. It is not a case of teaching let’s say, economics, and dabbling into theatre arts. The experience I garner at film locations, I bring to teach my students in class and the books I have read and the method I have taught in class, I make use of in film locations. So, the two complement each other. That is why it has been easy for me.


When you started acting, did it occur to you that you would further your education and become a lecturer?

It never occurred to me. Like I said, I started with Oyin Adejobi films, later I relocated to Ife and joined the University of Ife in 1973. It was later I decided to further my education, having been in the university for so long and I said, why don’t I grab this opportunity and educate myself? That was when I decided to study for my first degree. During that time, I was in the same class with my second son – Adeyemi and we both graduated in 1995. I was 49 years old then, when my age mates were already professors (laughs).

How did you feel being in the same class with your son?

It was all fun because we were studying the same thing, we acted on stage together and it was all fun.


Is there any funny experience from that period that you would like to share with us?

Yes, I remember one day; it was the beginning of the semester. I asked Yemi (my son) to go and copy the timetable from the notice board and he copied the wrong thing. So, the lecture that was supposed to start 9am, we were strolling into the class at 10 minutes to 10, thinking we had 10 minutes to settle down, whereas it was 10 munites to the end of the class. The lecturer, Dr. Uji just said, “Ahah, are you coming from a family meeting?” and all our classmates started laughing. I just said, Yemi see what you have caused now? So many experiences like that during that period, but thank God it all came out well.


Having trained students in theatre arts, what would you say is the future of the acting profesion or Nollywood in Nigeria?

The future of acting in Nigeria is bright; the only issue is that the lazy ones will be out of job. The lazy ones who do not want to improve on their knowledge will be out of job because nobody will call them when they have those that have been trained and are ready to work.


Reminiscing on the past now, what is your best moment so far?

My best moments were time I had to travel to the United States of America in company with the University of Ife Theatre group (now, Obafemi Awolowo University Theatre Group), with the likes of Wole Soyinka in 1982 for a performance. Also I was invited to London in 2002 to receive an award; it was called Afro-Hollywood awards. I went in company with so many other actors in the industry. We enjoyed ourselves for like three weeks and we came back home.


What about some embarrassing moments you would like to share with us?

Yes, there are so many embarrassing moments, but the most embarrassing moments of them all were times one would be confronted by area boys all around. In places like Ikorodu roundabout, even in Lalupon village in Ibadan, they will come to movie locations to harass us, saying we have to drop something or ‘settle them’. Even in Ilorin too, they disturb us and so many other places.


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