Toka Mcbaror on Directing Lotanna and Other Films

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Toka McBaror is a Nigerian film director, producer, cinematographer and television production consultant. He has worked documentaries, music videos and feature films. His film Salim was nominated in the Best Hausa Movie category at the 2017 edition of the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCA). McBaror also directed, shot and edited the Lotanna period movie, which premiered on April 8, 2017, and was released in cinemas nationwide on 14th of the same month. He is presently working on another film Kada River, based on true events that happened in Kaduna.

What drew you to film?

As a child, I had the opportunity to watch many Indian movies and I often wondered how they were made. In the mid-90s, a friend’s father, Abdullahi Nuhu working with NTA Kaduna invited us to his office; I was immediately drawn to analogue editing in vogue at the time. That was how my journey into film started.

You were nominated at the 2017 AMVCA for Salim, filmed in Hausa. What inspired this project and how did you feel with the nomination? 

Salim was not originally meant to be a Hausa film, it is a script I had for over nine years. I decided to film in Hausa at the time as I was in Kaduna and also because I’ve always wanted to make a Hausa film. When I studied the script again, it occurred to me that it could pass for a Hausa film because there was  no vulgar language and nudity; it was just an action flick. The cast and crew were overjoyed when we received the nomination.

Toka McBaror getting an actor into character on the set of Salim

You have also shot and directed documentaries and a feature film on the insurgency and communal clashes in the north-east, risking your life in the process. What was your motivation?

I am a Nigerian so I cannot be unconcerned about goings on in northern Nigeria where I was born. I was a part of Ibinabo Fibresima’s crew that filmed in Gombe in an IDP camp for 3 weeks. We lived there for the duration of the filming and it was a crazy experience!
When I heard of the southern Kaduna crisis with the herdsmen, my heart was completely broken. I decided to go see for myself because, sometimes, the news on social media can be contradictory.  We took some crew members, and with the help of Big Church Foundation, delivered relief materials to the camps, before heading out to film the affected areas.

Can you share and unforgettable experience?

That would be in 2004, in a village called Kujama while making a music video for Chris Morgan. Then, I had to build a whole village then for one music video. I filmed into the night then I remembered I had not taken a shot I planned for. I needed to do a 40-minute walk to the top of the mountain, but it was already 1am. Everyone discouraged me including Chris Morgan who dragged me to a corner and said, “Man of God, I think we have enough shots just leave that one!” I, however, insisted on going and so started my journey up the mountain alone with my tripod,a huge DSR 450p camera and a  dim torchlight. Getting up there was easy, it was also a beautiful shot but the problem started when I began my descent. I missed my way and found myself on the wrong side of the mountain! It was a night I will never forget because God spared my life. I took a wrong turn and had to descend through the steepest part of the mountain. Despite the fact that I was carrying heavy equipment, I practically had to walk on my toes to not slip and fall down. I still have the shoes I wore on that day. It took me over 2 hours to get down so everyone was worried because the descent was supposed to be the easy part. There was no mobile network in that area at the time so no one could reached.

Can you tell us a bit about Kada River?

Kada River is a film I have been trying to do for the past 12 years. It is based on true events drawn from the crisis, which took place in Kaduna in year 2000. I hope this film will change our country and put us on the path of forgiveness.

Toka McBaror with some cast and crew of the Kada River film on location

Fella Makafui the lead actress in Kada River on location

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Image credits: Toka McBaror

How did you embark on the Lotanna project since this is a re-shoot with the first shoot done in 2012?

When Ifan sent the script to me, I asked him why he wanted to film this movie again. He explained that he did not achieve what he wanted in terms of the location even though nothing was wrong with the shoot. I told him I was not going to shoot the same script, but he responded that Kemi Adesoye had totally rewritten the script. It was only after this, I agreed to be on the project.

Had you worked with the executive producer Ifan Ifeanyi Michael prior to this project?

Yes, I have worked with him before in 2008. He came to me in Kaduna and asked that we should work on an epic film together, which we called Redemption. It was a failed project and never completed because we did not have the funds to continue.

What was your experience on the Lotanna film project having worked with older and young actors from Nigeria and Ghana like Jide Kosoko, Bimbo Manuel, Victor Olaotan, Liz Benson Ameye, Chris Attoh, Ama K. Abebrese, Meg Otanwa, Keturah King, Chris Okagbue.

As a director on a set like this, one must first be patient, especially if one is upcoming like myself. Most of the older actors never heard about me before. No one trusted me except the producer. Honestly, I understand why, and so I tried to win their trust. After filming a scene, I allowed them watch it on the monitor; it showed that I knew what I was doing, and things became easier from then on.

Bimbo Manuel and Liz Benson Ameye

Victor Olaotan

Chris Okagbue and Ama K. Abebrese

Jide Kosoko and Ama K. Abebrese

Chris Okagbue, Chris Attoh, Ifan Ifeanyi Michael and Toka McBaror Image credits: Ifan Ifeanyi

The premiere of the movie was 70’s-themed. How did you find the experience?

It was great! Friends and family in the film, fashion, music and creative industry, as well as gentlemen of the press, turned out in their large numbers to support us. Some of the cast and crew, together with their families, were also present with Ama K. Aberese flying in from Ghana. The theme was Ifan Ifeanyi Michael’s idea and it worked well. From the special invites with a mini-brochure about the movie, a compact disc of some of the soundtracks, to the 70’s set and decor at the premiere by Olatunji Afolayan, the whole experience was unforgettable. All-round talented Chigul was the host and there were several musical performances. Fashion illustrator Obinna Emeruo, who illustrated the 70’s look for the invitation also sketched people live on the red carpet and at the venue of the premiere. In addition, Kelechi Amadi-Obi set up a photography studio to capture all those interested in being photographed. A big thank you to him and everyone who made the event a memorable and successful one. Ifan knows how to put together a good event!

Fashion illustration by Obinna Omeruo Image credit: Ifan Ifeanyi

Toka McBaror and son at the 70’s themed set for the Lotanna movie premiere

Kelechi Amadi-Obi with Taiwo Ajai-Lycett at the premiere

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Image credits: Kelechi Amadi-Obi studios

Chigurl Lotanna movie premiere host at the 70’s themed decor studio done by Olatunji Afolayan

Image credit : Spice TV

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Guests at the Lotanna Movie premiere Image credits: Spice TV

Adebimpe Adebambo is the Business Development Officer at Revilo, an art and culture publishing company. She studied Painting at the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos. Adebambo is also a fashion and accessories designer, and her work is concerned with environmental sustainability and recycling. She debuted as a costume designer on Tunde Kelani's award-winning film Dazzling Mirage, garnering for her efforts, 2 nominations in 2015 for an Africa Magic Viewers' Choice Award and an African Movie Academy Award for Best Costume Designer and Achievement in Costume Design, respectively. Adebimpe Adebambo loves to write and is presently working on a storybook.

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