ABBA TADURIKINI MAKAMA, A PATRIOT AND A FILMMAKER
Abba Tadurikini Makama, born and raised in Jos, Plateau State, is a young visual artist and filmmaker who studied Business Management at the State University, New York, as well as Film at the New York University. His first solo art exhibition Hypnagogia was held in February, 2016 at the IAMSIGO showroom. Makama has scripted, produced and directed several short films like Direc-toh and Party of Ministers, which have been screened, nominated for and won awards at several film festivals like the Eko International Film Festival, Inshort Film Festival(sponsored by the Goethe —Institut) and the Black Star Film Festival, Philadelphia in the United States. In May, 2014, Al Jazeera commissioned him to direct a documentary on the Nigerian film industry. His first feature length film Green White Green, which he co-wrote with Africah Ukoh, produced, directed and edited, is a coming of age story about 3 young boys from Nigeria’s major ethnic groups, on an adventure to make a short film inspired by the history of Nigeria. This debut effort was rewarded with an international screening slot at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) City to City spotlight on 8 Nigerian movies by filmmakers living and working in Lagos, Nigeria. It was also the opening film of the 2016 Lights Camera Africa (LCA) Film Festival, which took place between September 30 and October 2 in Lagos.
What inspired your first feature film and why did you choose to give it the title Green White Green?
The full title is Green White Green and All the Colours in My Beautiful Mosaic of Madness. It is a reflection of what Nigeria is– a beautiful abstract painting, a collage of different colours indicative of our diverse society and culture as we have over 500 ethnic groups and languages. What inspired it was a transfer from the University of Jos to the University of Fredonia, upstate New York in 2004. I was very popular back at Uni Jos but when I got to Fredonia, I became so homesick because it was the ‘Whitest’ school ever I wanted to do something to remind me of that break I enjoyed between leaving secondary school and waiting to go to university. So I wrote a script about 3 friends from the 3 major ethnic groups. I also wanted to silence some clueless people asking me random questions about where I came from, what animals I saw on the streets, whether there is electricity in Nigeria and so on. I have always been big on music because my dad listened to a lot of jazz and we watched many films. I would make reference to the likes of Spaghetti Western and my classmates would show surprise and wonder how I knew who Rick Rubin or Frank Zappa were. I just wanted to do something that would silence the Western audience about where I came from. It is also a social satire that explores many ethnic prejudices, stereotypes and classicism. I love satires because they come easy to me as I think there is so much to play around with especially with the social issues on ground. For example, in our country there are the super wealthy and the extremely poor. This conflict provides the room to play about with.
You are known for producing and directing short films, commercials, digital marketing skits and documentaries for other brands as well as yours. Why a feature film now?
Most of the actors in Green White Green are young and relatively unknown. Was this deliberate?
I wanted to do something like American Graffitti. In Hollywood up until 1960, they didn’t have films that represented youth culture until George Lucas made it. Green White Green is like that. We don’t have films or characters that young people can relate to. My company is set up and designed to create cool, engaging and thought provoking content for the youth. I am trying to capture the young audience and create pop icons for them to look up to and aspire to be like.
How do you plan to distribute your film?
We might have a limited release in the cinema by the end of the and have received offers from major Video On Demand (VOD) platforms, which I cannot disclose because we are still at the negotiation stage, as well as from international distributors. So far it’s been awesome.
Your film was chosen from among hundreds as part of the 2016 TIFF City to City programme. How did that happen and how will this impact on your work and career?
I submitted it online, paid an application fee and waited. Looking at the film, it’s the anomaly of the 8 films selected. Mine didn’t feature any major superstars and is not your typical Nollywood film. I consider it a ‘motion painting’. It is very colourful and a shout out to other filmmakers I have enormous respect for. About impacting my career, we have got onto the A-list Stockholm International Film Festival, which will have Francis Ford Coppola, the director of The Godfather as special guest. We are doing our UK premiere at the British Film Institute (BFI) Beyond Nollywood programme in November, and every single day I get emails from festivals, people who want to screen the film and sales agents; it’s been wonderful.
In 2014, you directed a documentary on Nollywood, which aired in 2015 for the Al Jazeera international news agency. How did you get the job and how did the Nigerian film industry practitioners and the world react to it?
I have been very fortunate and think people get great opportunities, but the question is whether they will rise up to the task when they do. With the Al Jazeera job, my cousin went to school with someone producing for the network and showed them my works. They reached out so I showed them some more. They later asked for a film treatment and before long I was shooting the documentary, and travelled to Jordan to do the postproduction. The rest is history. It was well received because we took a different approach and didn’t tell the Nollywood story the way Western media would have. They tell the story as though it’s a caricature, straight to DVD ‘kpakpakpa’ story. I told the story of the evolution of the industry from the cinema culture in the seventies, straight to VHS/DVD era and back to the cinema renaissance. Some people felt they were omitted from the documentary but generally, it was well received.
You are also a visual artist and had your solo exhibition Hypnagogia earlier this year. What inspired the theme, are you an autodidact and what are your art influences?
Hypnagogia is a transitional state when people see things between falling asleep and waking. They hallucinate and I experience it quite often; I see weird images. It is nothing sinister and is a common phenomenon. It happens often and different cultures have names for it. I am self-taught and was a very good art student at secondary school. Though this faded when I got older, it came back. I am inspired by artists like Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock, who I love and who is one of my biggest influences. There are also elements of pop art in my work.
How would you describe your style of painting?
I would say my work is abstract expressionist.
As a visual artist and filmmaker, do you find one aspect more fulfilling than the other?
They are both forms of expression and release for me but I enjoy painting more because it is uninhibited and just pure artistic expression. In addition, I don’t have people breathing down my neck telling me what to do.
What are we to expect from you next?
Follow me on social media and you will find out. Stay tuned, next year is going to be crazy. Thank you!
Image credits: ClutchPR and Abba Makama
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