Friday, 1 November 2013

How I became a film director -Kenneth Gyang

Kenneth Gyang is a prolific writer and film director who directed a feature film, Confusion NA Wa, which debuted in cinemas last weekend. The graduate of the National Film Institute in Jos, Plateau, in this interview with ADA DIKE opens up on why he loves directing films.
Kenneth Gyang (Photo: ADA DIKE)
*Can you give us an insight to your background as a filmmaker?
I was born in Barkin Ladi, Plateau State, Nigeria. I studied Film Production at the National Film Institute in Jos. I also studied screenwriting at Gaston Kaboré's IMAGINE in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
I started working in film and television in 2006. I have worked as a director for the British Broadcasting Corporation’s Wetin Dey and also directed Finding Aisha for SoundCity, for which I won Screen Producer of the year at the Future Awards.
Game of Life and Mummy Lagos are my two short films selected for the Berlinale Talent Campus 2006. Mummy Lagos was also selected for the Sithengi Talent Campus as part of the Cape Town World Cinema Festival in South Africa. Also, my film, Omule won Best Documentary Film at the First Nigerian Students International Film Festival in 2006. Mummy Lagos won Best Film at the Nigerian Field Society Awards organised by the German Cultural Centre, Goethe-Institut, in Lagos and the Jury Special Mention at the ANIWA festival in Ghana.
I worked with Communicating For Change as an Associate Producer on Bayelsian Silhouettes- a series of seven short films on Human Immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS).
In 2010, I was listed by Y! Magazine as one of 50 people under the age of 35 that will change Nigeria.
I have directed two feature films: Blood and Henna in 2012 and Confusion Na Wa in 2013, funded by the Rotterdam Film Festival’s Hubert Bals Fund.

*How did your passion for filmmaking start?
I wanted to be a news caster so I fell in love listening to BBC news on shortwave radio. I also wanted to study Mass Communication but along the line, I visited a few film set around the museum of Jos, and I liked what was going on there.
One day, I saw a poster advertising the Nigerian Film Institute and went there and loved what was going on there. I registered for it and studied the art of filmmaking and started writing scripts.
The first major work I did was Mummy Lagos, a story about a woman who portray Africans as being stronger than the whites.

*What is the film, Confusion Na Wa all about?
I have two partners, namely Tom Rowlands-Rees and a Nigerian cinematographer, Yinka Edward. We met in campus in 2006 and we decided to form our company, Cinema Kpatakpata, which primarily aims to make films in Nigeria and Africa.
Tom Rowland Rees produced the feature film, Confusion Na Wa and I directed it.
It features Ramsey Nouah (Emeka), OC Ukeje (Charles), Ali Nuhu (Bello) and Gold Ikponmwosa (Chichi) and won the top gong - Best Film - at the Africa Movie Academy Award (AMAA) in Bayelsa State.
The flick is a social comedy drama of lust, infidelity, friendship, confusion, revenge and heartbreak that involves the lives of a diverse group of individuals as their paths cross over the course of one day. In a nutshell, the film is about what we do in life can affect other people. The underlying theme of Confusion NA Wa is that we should always be careful of our actions so that it may not have negative effects on the lives of others in the society. The film is a multi-layered story inspired by the film Amores Perros.
Kenneth Gyang (Photo: ADA DIKE)
How did you come about the title, Confusion Na Wa?
We decided not to give it a horror title so, we chose Confusion Na Wa due to the love we have for late Afrobeat maestro, Late Fela Kuti and Africa. We did not think of giving it an English title. We decided to give a title that is African instead of a fanciful English one. That is a trend and we actually love it that way.
This film was released on October 25, 2013, and it is being shown in many cinemas across the country.

*Which group of people will the film appeal to?
Like Quentin Tarantino, I have a philosophy of making thought-provoking film that will appeal to different class of people.
Confusion Na Wa is quite entertaining and educating. So the film will appeal to every mature adult that loves good film.

*Did you have premonition that you were going to get funded by the Rotterdam Film Festival’s Hubert Bals Fund for the film?
To be honest with you, when we were writing the script, we knew we had a very good material that is strong in story, characters and dialogue. When we wrote the script, we sourced for funds through a grant in Netherlands. We entered for it and also sent the same script to Hubert Bals Fund, which is part of the International Film Festival Rotterdam in Netherlands. We knew that if we could get a location, we could actually make it.
We also got production support from Kunle Junaid’s Refuge Island Media, Noah’s Creed, Cinecraft and Newage Network

*How did you feel when you received the Africa Movie Academy Award (AMAA)?
AMAA for me was the ultimate. When you find out that Nollywood are giving you an award, it means that you have actually done well. It’s indeed a huge thing. Though I have been directing films before winning the AMAA, the award brought more fame to me as an individual and to our company. I am glad that we have proved that a lot of young people can make good films that can win awards in Nigeria and beyond.

Are you a member of Nollywood?
In 2006, I met a famous cinematographer, Christopher Doyle, in Berlin and he said “ Oh! Nollywood”.
I will never say I am an alternative filmmaker to Nollywood. I am part of Nollywood because I don’t believe in segregation. For me, the content of the film defines you as a filmmaker. It does not have to do with the name you are practicing with or the body you belong.

*Are your parents in support of your choice of career?
Yes they are, especially my mother.

*If you’re not into filmmaking, what would you be doing?
Maybe, I would have been playing football. (Laughs).  

As a filmmaker, what is your future aspiration?
I want to be known as one of the best film directors in the world.

Why are you based in Jos?
 Well, the thing is that, it is not about Jos alone, it is where you can sit down, think and bring out an interesting peace. Jos has this serenity and of course, it is a better place to live, especially when one is due for retirement.

*Have you ever regretted doing your job as a director?
Yes, sometimes it is hard to get funds for films and it can be discouraging. When I was graduating, my mother asked me the government parastatal I wanted to work for and I laughed and told her that filmmakers can work alone. You must not work in a parastatal to become somebody.
Sometimes, if you are dealing with people, they don’t give one respect. Despite these challenges, I really love what I am doing.

*Who are your role models in film industry?
I admire the works Quentin Tarantino because he makes the kinds of films I watch. Every time his film is out, it is always an experience because he gives a viewer something to learn from and he is always paying tribute to cinemas.
Other filmmakers I admire include Fernando Meirelles, Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu and Alfonso Cuaron.
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