TOPE OSHIN: THE RISE OF A FEMALE FILMMAKER
Tope Oshin is an award–winning film and TV director, screenwriter, producer and casting director. Named as one of Africa’s leading women and one of the top 7 powerful women in Nigerian film, she studied Theatre Arts at the Lagos State University, Nigeria and Filmmaking at the Colorado Film School in the United States. She is also an alumna of Berlinale Talents and Talents Durban—international workshops for people working in film, where selection is based on merit.
The only female director till date of Tinsel, Africa’s biggest drama series, Oshin has directed about 500 episodes. She has also directed Africa Magic’s drama series Hotel Majestic and is presently directing their new series, Hush. Her short films like The Young Smoker, New Horizons, Till Death Do Us Part and Ireti, have been screened and won awards at national and international film festivals. Oshin has also produced and directed TV movies like Conversations at Dinner, Love and War, and a full length movie Journey to Self, which received a nomination at the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCA) 2014. Regarding her work, she asserts, “I don’t believe in making films for sheer entertainment. I believe in making films that have incredible influence over our lives and can open us up to a whole new world of possibilities. Films that change lives are thought provoking and highlight social causes/human problems and societal issues that everyone can relate to. This is what I love to do with my work.” Ireti, one of her short films and a psychological thriller, was premiered and in competition with other international shorts at the Festival Cinema Africano, Asia an America Latina in Milan, Italy in March this year. This festival is the only one in Italy and one of the only three in Europe wholly devoted to films about the realities and cultures of the three continents—Africa, Asia and Latin America. At the recently concluded Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) 2016, Oshin was chosen as one of the panelists at DIALOGUES: Nigerian Cinema 2016 alongside Mo Abudu, Wendy Mitchell, Funa Maduka and Abubakar Sanogo, though she was unavoidably absent due to ill health.
Tope Oshin is inspired by the work and professionalism of Nigerian filmmaker, Amaka Igwe (1963 – 2014). In her memory, Oshin wrote, produced and directed a documentary titled Amaka’s Kin: The Women of Nollywood. Her latest work, the documentary was privately screened at the Afrinolly Media Centre last September to a close circle of family, friends and industry practitioners.
It chronicles the journey and challenges of female directors working within the Nigerian motion picture industry popularly known as Nollywood. Oshin revealed to the audience that when she was an actress on an Amaka Igwe set, the late filmmaker told her she would make a great director because of the attention she paid to detail. “She observed how I spoke passionately about the character I was playing, the entire story, production design, interpretation and direction. She then told me I should be a director and this was a time in Nigeria when there were only one or two female directors including Igwe herself. I said to her, ‘I am just a girl’ and she retorted with, ‘what am I?’ I refer to her in the present because she lives in me. She did so much for us in the Nigerian film and TV industry and was a voice for women. She can never be forgotten and this is my way of keeping her ever present”. Oshin asserts that Igwe may neither have realised the magnitude of her work and all the millions of people she inspired and influenced, nor was she afraid of people getting better than her.
The 45-minute documentary was a 2-year project and features female directors like Mildred Okwo, Michelle Bello, Stephanie Linus, Omoni Oboli, Blessing Effiom Egbe, Pat Oghre Imobhio, Jadesola Osiberu, Adeola Osunjoko, Dolapo Lowladee Adeleke, Belinda Yanga Agedah, Ema Edosio and Tope Oshin. They told the stories of their journeys to the director’s chair as some started as actresses and others as technicians on film sets, and their encounters with discrimination in the industry. Sometimes on their sets, they have had to contend with disbelieving and recalcitrant male staff who found working under them a hard pill to swallow. Some of them even fired such staff. One of them recalled that a clueless technician addressed her as the makeup artist on her own set!
Also featured were clips and still pictures from some of Igwe’s movies and TV soap operas like Rattlesnake, Violated, Checkmate and Fuji House of Commotion, as well as a clip of her speech at an entertainment conference where she talked about the challenges and progress made in the Nigerian film industry.
Mildred Okwo in Amaka’s Kin.
Amaka’s Kin is set for its world premiere at Beyond Nollywood, a 3-day programme of international Nigerian cinema at Blackstar British Film Institute (BFI), South Bank, London on November 19, 2016. Other credits for the documentary include; cinematography– Segun Adekoya, Ema Edosio, Ebenezer Sogo and Ade Oshin; editing – Ade Oshin; music score and sound design– Michael ‘TRUTH’ Ogunlade.
Image credits: Omide Photography.