SUPER producer and founder of Royal Arts Academy, Emem Isong on Friday, March 7, 2014, delivered another timeless piece with the premiere of one of Nollywood’s biggest budget movies ever, Apaye at the Silverbird Galleria, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Apaye, a true life story is a movie on the life of a spectacular woman who against all odds, fearlessly and uncompromisingly battled her way to success.
Superbly played by the beautiful and talented former Next Movie Star housemate, Belinda Effah, Apaye is an inspiring movie that would remain a reference in Nollywood for a long time.
Also starring in Apaye: Another’s Love, are A-list veterans Kanayo O. Kanayo and Clarion Chukwurah with the latter excellently playing the older Yepayeye.
ENCOMIUM Weekly spoke with the last child of the late Yepayeye, Mr. Faith Roberts, who was also at the premiere in company of his siblings. Emem Isong, the movie producer speaks on the biopic so also director, Desmond Elliot as well as the cast.
‘I saw a lot of Yepayeye in me’ – CLARION CHUKWURAH
What’s your view of the storyline?
The movie is a biopic about the life of a woman called Yepayeye. It was about a woman who made some bad decisions when she was younger, marrying a man who was already married. When you do that, it is 50/50 as you could win or lose. She was able to surmount the fruits of her mistakes due to her doggedness and I must say that these are the kind of challenges that African women are faced with today.
How easy or challenging was the role?
It was challenging because I had to be as believable as possible. This was a woman who died less than six months to production and we shot it in her community where her memory was still fresh, so I had to play her as accurately as possible. This was not an Abraham Lincoln that had passed on a long time ago. The challenge was that everybody wanted to see her in me so I would say it was more difficult acting a true story in her environment, especially as she was a woman that impacted her community greatly. It was a challenge I was happy to take.
What are the lessons you took away from the experience?
I accepted the role in the first place because I identified with the woman called Yepayeye. I saw her in me, the fact that hard work pays, that a single mother can train her children if she works extra hard, that it is good to help people when you have overcome those challenges and are now comfortable. I saw a lot of her in me.
This is your first time working with Emem Isong, how was the experience?
It was wonderful working with her. Emem is a wonderful producer and I enjoyed working with her absolutely.
‘I worked with professional actors’ EMEM ISONG, Producer
You’re looking gorgeous today, what’s the secret?
Thanks, God is the secret.
You’ve carved a niche for yourself and you are one of the top movie producers in Nollywood today. How does that make you feel?
I feel great about that, I feel good.
What should we expect from the movie, Apaye?
You should expect to enjoy the movie. I think it’s a movie that would touch lives. It’s very inspiring.
How did the idea come about exactly?
I was actually commissioned to do the movie. It is in memory of a lady that died after an exemplary life. She touched many lives in her community and in the process of research, I was touched as well.
How was the experience working with A-list actors like Kanayo O. Kanayo, Clarion Chukwurah and others?
It was indeed a pleasure. They’re very professional actors. It was my first time working with Clarion Chukwurah and it was amazing.
How was the production generally?
It was very challenging but it was great. We spent more than three weeks on set in Bayelsa.
Why should people watch Apaye?
Because it is a movie that is very inspiring, it is very interesting and it is generally enjoyable.
We know this is a big budget production, can you give an estimate of the budget?
Millions! Just know it is a big budget movie.
‘Apaye had a lot of funding’ DESMOND ELLIOT, Director
How are you doing today?
I dey o!
How would you describe the event so far?
Lovely, what do you think?
As the director of Apaye, what’s your view about the story?
It’s a true life story. It’s a narrative and it’s a story I love a lot. It’s all about a woman who went through a lot so it’s a nice one.
Did you have challenges working with the cast?
It was not challenging at all. They were all strong. I loved working with them. I can’t wait to work with them again.
How was the production?
When you see the movie, you would know that it had a lot of funding, you would know that we took our time to shoot it and you will see a major difference.
Quite a lot has been said about the production of this movie, that it is top notch. What made the difference, was it the money or what?
It was our desire to make a difference. It was also our desire to take Nollywood to the next level and the man who told the story was very meticulous. He’s very particular about standard. He said he wants something good, he paid for something good, so it was done.
‘To step into Yepayeye’s shoes was a tough one’ – BELINDA EFFAH
You look stunning in your outfit today.
Thank you very much.
What’s your impression about the movie?
I’d say it’s a great initiative, a story carefully and intelligently told. It’s a biopic about a philanthropist, a woman of God, a mother with a large heart. There are too many words one can use to qualify her, but I would say she was a great woman, a wonderful woman. I didn’t meet her personally, I didn’t know her but going to Yenagoa, to the village, everybody had a lot of great things to say about her. Even after her demise over some months, people still felt her impact. Just mention her name and they’ll just burst into tears. That says a lot about the impact she made on people.
What was your role in the movie?
I played the young Yepayeye.
How challenging was the role?
It was very challenging because to step into her shoes was a tough one. This was a woman that went through a whole lot of pains and struggles. Those struggles were real so I had to make them as real as possible.
What are the lessons you took away from the experience?
I learnt that it’s good to be God fearing. It’s better to give than to receive. I learnt to be open hearted, to be good, whether you get it back or not.
What advice would you give families going through similar experience to Yepayeye’s?
That they should never give up. That’s why she is being celebrated today.
How would you rate the production of Apaye?
I’ll rate it 100 per cent. It was perfect.
Your view of Nollywood?
Nollywood is growing, it has come of age, it is the future.
‘She impacted my life positively’’ -FAITH ROBERTS, Yepayeye’s last son
How do you feel about this project, coming to fruition today, sir?
It’s a mixed feeling, really. It’s what the English man would call an oxymoron. On one hand, I’m happy that it’s happening. On the other hand, I wished it would have been done while my mother was alive. I wished she would have been here to see this. But unfortunately, she’s not.
How active were you in putting this together?
I was very active in the project because it’s about my mom, about my family and her life’s struggles. So, I needed to be there to give my own input. I had a direct relationship with her. She impacted my life positively. I gave my own quota to the realization of what we have here today.
How would you describe your mom?
I cannot do that in few sentences. I’d probably write an entire book to describe her. The movie says it all about the kind of person she was, so I can’t describe her in few sentences.
What are the things you miss about her?
I miss everything about her. There’s nothing that I can take away and say I didn’t miss this or I didn’t miss that.
What are the biggest impressions she made on you?
The biggest impression she made on me is to aspire to the highest level. To be dedicated and attain academic excellence and to pursue my dreams to the highest level, because of her, I am who I am today. Without her, I’d probably be on the street begging.
‘Nollywood launders our country’s image’ – Jibola Dabo
How are you today sir?
I’m doing great.
We know you weren’t part of the production, but how do you view the project?
When I see a project such as this one that I can be proud of, and can stand tall as a Nollywood person, it’s always nice. I’m hoping for a time that this kind of work is what would be the yardstick for measuring Nollywood movies, not the ones in Alaba.
How would you rate movie production in the country at the moment, have they improved?
I don’t know what you mean by old kind of movies because really, our old kind of movies were better than what Nollywood is currently doing. The days of Dinner with the Devil and the likes, those were movies. What we’re churning out today in Alaba and Onitsha, they are not movies. I’m not condemning them out-rightly because those are home videos that put food on our table. The industry is actually moving, maybe the problem is that we’re moving too fast.
Where do you see the industry in three years?
I would say five years, I hope to see much more of this kind of production because we are having more learned people on set now, especially technically. I’ve been on movie sets and I saw that most of them are way young, between ages 20 and 25 and they’re all graduates, they’re all professionals. The sound engineer has a degree in what he’s doing, not just apprentices that are not sure of what they are doing. So, in five years, I want to see more of this high quality production.
Your advice to your producers out there?
Don’t be a lazy producer. Research your stories because the world watches and picks holes in our stories now. Another thing they forget is that Nollywood is laundering the image of our country to the world.
– AJOKE ONITOLO