Kemi Adetiba is a household name in Nollywood and around the world, especially for her movie projects which, according to industry critics, are changing the face of Nollywood. In a recent interview by journalists, she spoke about her love for telling meaningful stories, her recent project with Netflix (King of Boys: The return of the King), among other issues.
There’s this love for Lagos that you have been displaying and which seems to heavily reflect on many of your works from music videos to films, what’s behind this?
I don’t know any other place. I live part-time abroad but I grew up in Lagos. I live part-time in New York and probably the greatest cousin to New York is Lagos. Anytime I’m there, it’s a departure from Lagos stress, but trust me, in about three weeks, I am missing Lagos. The thing about Lagos is that it has so much flavour.
It can be better but there’s nothing like home. It’s just so colourful. Lagos is also like the melting point of Nigeria; you can have someone from all parts of the country here. The funny thing is that when I meet people who say they are actually from Lagos, I am surprised because it’s so rare to see because everybody is here. It’s like Lagos belongs to everybody and no one.
So, I think for me, in every project that I am doing, I always want to be as authentic as possible and even though I live abroad now, I will never know abroad more than I know Lagos because it’s in my genes, my skin, in the food that I eat, so much that even if you wake me up with a slap and I have to answer questions, allow me answer about Lagos please.
When I am creating, I always want to be as authentic as possible, so anyone watching will know what I am talking about. Lagos will always occupy a special place in my heart.
You spoke about authenticity, though the film has disclaimers…
Yes, very much so because it’s fiction!
So, I know the disclaimer precedes the film but using the Randle name, aren’t you afraid of what could happen afterwards?
I was looking for a generic name when writing. Funny enough, I didn’t know any Randle when I was writing. I was looking for a very Lagos name, it could be the Johnsons. Definitely it wasn’t about JK Randle or any particular Randle. It was a pull out of heart for me. I am pretty sure there are Randles that are not members of that family. So, it has no affiliation with anybody’s name or otherwise, I won’t have put it in it.
You took some bold steps and daring decisions in the King Of Boys (KOB) sequel series with the introduction OF local languages, which was different from the norm in such a big budget Nigerian film. Why is that?
Again, be authentic. The guy that played the babalawo in the film has played it in several movies and it’s even scary shooting the scene. He was very believable and like I said, it goes back to being very authentic. It is either something you know about or you have heard about or that people have indulged in, so why am I worried that people will think it’s a Yoruba film? I am not, I am trying to create. And then, I am not part of the bandwagon of people who look down on Yoruba movies.
My Yoruba is not so fluent but there’s so much flavour and colour and if you notice, one of the things that was important to me was having local languages in KOB. There are some sentences, if you say it in English, that won’t be interpreted well, but if you express them in Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa, they aptly communicate in a unique way.
All I wanted to do with KOB 2 is elevate whatever we had done with KOB 1 and you’d see that it’s very haunting but looks very pretty to look at. So, if I am saying I want to bring this element here, I want it as raw, and authentic because I want it cinematic and you can see that the art director really put his heart into it and it was amazing.
You work with several established stars on your set, how do you cope on set or how do you manage them?
First of all, I never go for stars. I always go for actors that I feel are drawn to playing a particular character and it just happens to be these people. I think where I am very lucky is that my amazing talents come to the set with a mutual respect for me and I treat them like talents. I treat them like people that are lending me their skills, I’m in awe of what they bring in front of the camera but I am also grateful that when they come in, they respect me enough as director so that if I say jump, they would only ask how high.
I mean I have people who I used to watch as a child and they come to me and say, “I have heard about you, I am nervous and I am like wow”!
So, working with the stars came in with so much respect. Like Aunty Sola, she calls me Aunty on set and she would say, “what do you want me to do Aunty and I would say “stop it o Aunty Sola”.
And when I am working, I call them by their character names so it’s not Aunty this or Uncle this but when we are drinking beer, that is totally different. On set, it’s Eniola or it’s this or that.
Why is there no original soundtrack (OST) for KOB despite having two big music stars on it?
The infrastructure is kind of different and you also have to understand that I am also learning while I am growing. Music is not my forte.
So in the first one, you would notice that we had one single which came out which was ‘Original gangster’, which had Reminisce, Adekunle Gold and Sess. Now, with this one, I’m still learning how that side plays out. I don’t want to take too much of a cake that will give me indigestion at night. With this one, I extended it a bit, so we have three or four songs coming out. This time, we have a song with Illbliss, Zoro and a rapper from Los Angeles called Iso. We have another one with just Illbliss and another one with Niyola. Those are the artistes and every other thing are like scores that we created for KOB that people would want to have.
So, there is a body of work coming out, it’s not as elaborate as most people will think but it’s still a space that I am still learning how to play in. I want to do it great, so I don’t want to overdo things.
What’s your thought process like when you are writing?
Everybody thinks I am crazy. I am probably a little bit crazy (laughs). Somebody once asked me, “were you damaged as a child”? I am a little crazy, very daring and I’m like a sponge.
For instance, if I sat down and hung out with you and you are telling me about your experiences and everything, I always register it. I am very curious about people and I ask a lot of questions, so, when I am writing a character, it could be years down the line and I would be like, who is closest to this character, think down the line and when I remember, I add it in. This happened in one of the scenes in the film where you see someone in a cell that looks like an apartment.
I was in Vegas with some friends of mine two years ago and it was for someone’s birthday and everybody had come in. One of the people that came in for the birthday was a lawyer and he was telling us about a client of his, who had to pay $100,000 a day, for him to be in a cell with air conditioning and I was shocked.
I elaborated it and I imagined having a mini apartment with cell bars. It may not be far fetched that there are people that live like that and that’s their reality. Yes, I’m probably really weird and I embrace my weirdness when it comes to creating because I am creating walls and fantasies to hold people’s attention and that’s it.
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