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I had my first kiss in Form Four —Fidelis Duker

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blackpearl

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Fidelis Duker, founder and Director of the Abuja International Film Festival (AIFF), and one of Nollywood’s biggest directors/ producers, has contributed immensely to the development of the movie industry. In this interview with Adunola Oladapo, he speaks on his journey so far. Excerpts:

SOME Nollywood movies are imitations of Hollywood. What is the industry putting in place to produce culturally-inclined movies?
I used to tell everybody that you cannot tell the American story more than the Americans. One of the problems we are having today is that people want to make movies that will suit the foreign market, but there is no market there. The bulk of Hollywood today is the American population. The strength of Bollywood are Indians. China today is an emerging filmmaking nation that also has a huge population.

What this tells me is that for any industry to grow, you must encourage your local industry and that’s the only way we can begin to see the kind of films we want to see. So, when I see such movies that tend to favour the American market, I begin to wonder why films are made for the foreign market.

Films must be made for the local market. That’s basically the idea of filmmaking. For Nollywood to grow, we must target this population. One hundred and fifty million people are enough to create an enviable film industry.

And our culture is important. The only way the Americans, the English will respect us is if we begin to produce movies that tell them about Nigeria, that tell them about our clothes. We must showcase Zuma Rock in Suleja, we must showcase the cocoa trees in Ilorin, the Tinapa in Calabar and the Calabar Carnival.

These are the kind of things we must show. The fine buildings will not move them. The suit I’m wearing is foreign, it’s Italian; it’s not what they want to see. But when they see something that is culturally relevant, they are more attracted to it.

Is there a structure in place where theatre artistes can search for jobs in their field like the lawyer or the accountant?
You can’t practice medicine without being a medical doctor and you can’t practice law without going to the Law School, even though you studied law at the university. So, for us in this business, we have approached the government to have a Motion Picture Practitioners of Nigeria (MOPPON) like you have the NMA or the NBA, where producers, actors, directors, and camera men can come under one body.

And if you don’t pass through that regulatory body, you cannot practice. You can’t say because you are Duker’s friend, then I must put you in a film and begin to brag tomorrow that you are a star. So, for us as an industry, government must perform that function. We cannot do it ourselves, so, it won’t be as if it was done for personal gain. There must be a government law that would say you must have passed through a basic training, at least.

How would you describe your growing up?
I grew up in Lagos, and my formative years were in Yaba, Lagos. I attended St. Patrick Primary School, Yaba and then went to the Federal Government College, Kano. Kano in the late 70s to early 80s was a perfect place where there was so much love.

I remember vividly my coming to Lagos and going to Kano then by air, when the airfare was only N17.50k. It was fun also travelling by rail from Kano through the Western line then.

It was simply great, I played football like any kid, watched films at Casino Cinema in Yaba and of course, Eldorado Cinema in Kano where I watched films too.

Life was really beautiful and very safe then. We were not rich but we got all the basic needs and attended good schools. I studied at the University of Jos, at the Yaba College of Technology, the Nigerian Television Authority College and the Nigerian Institute of Journalism.

Does your childhood experience in any way influence your career choice?
To a large extent, it did, because I grew up watching films and was attracted to the television of the early 80s with programmes like; The Village Headmaster, Adio Family, Winds Against My Soul and The Masquarade. All these influenced my choice of career

I had my first kiss in Form Four
 
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