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THURSDAY MOVIES By Amara Iwuala

Picture Credits: Manuel Schaffer and Kareem

Not much is known in Nigeria about Green White Green and All the Beautiful Colours in My Mosaic of Madness, (aka Green white Green for short).
Blame it on the refusal of Nigerian cinemas to distribute the film.
Yet, Abba Makama’s first feature film has been selected to, at least, 17 international film festivals, making it one of the Nollywood films with the highest number of festival showcases.

Makama was chosen for the 2018 Berlinale Talents, an initiative of The Talent Project Market, which offers participating producers an introduction to the international market, access to selected financiers and valuable expertise to help make their films. It is a global experiment featuring, this year, 250 Talents from 81 countries who, in the words of the organisers , “come with their own attitudes, cultures and work-specific methods in order to discover new forms of collaboration”.

MAKAMA IS, UNDOUBTEDLY, IN LOVE WITH SATIRE, which he handles adroitly. In 2011, he made Direc-toh, a short film that parodies the work of some half-baked Nigerian film-makers, who cut corners. Benedict Aromeh, who played the lead role of a charlatan movie-maker in Direc-toh, won the Best Actor Award at the maiden edition of the In-Short Film Festival in Lagos, Nigeria, that year.

Green white Green, is the story of three teenage friends from the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria, whose friendship subsists in spite of the shameful tribalism exhibited by their older relatives.

Much as the trio, who just rounded off secondary school, have parents whose purchasing powers differ significantly, their bond is strong, stemming from their innocence coupled with having common interests that are admiringly explored in the film.

The film, which has been screened in nothing less than 17 film festivals, had its world premiere in September, 2016 at the Toronto International Film Festival, TIFF, as part of the annual city-to-city programme, which, in 2016, focused on Lagos.

“For me, the Berlin Critics’ Week is the highest point in my career so far. 8 films were selected from different parts of the world. The Critics’ Week doesn’t just accept any kind of film, they only select films with depth and substance and so that’s a huge honour”

On September, 30, 2016, it opened the 6th edition of the Lights, Camera, Africa! Film Festival in Lagos. Green White Green also won the award for the Best Nigerian Film at the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) 2016.

“I have always been an artist”, Abba Makama tells me. “The only prize I ever won in secondary school was from being an exceptional Art student. I used to escape punishment from senior students by doing their homework that entailed drawing diagrams, maps, etc.”

That statement references the fact that in many public and a few private secondary schools in Nigeria, senior students are allowed to exercise some authority over their juniors. This right to enforce school rules and punish erring junior students, which is given to the seniors by the school authorities has, in many cases, metamorphosed into a tool for extortion and manipulation because it is largely unchecked.

Makama was initially at the University of Jos, Nigeria, but transferred to the State University of New York at Fredonia (SUNY Fredonia), USA, where he graduated with a BSc in Business Management.

He reveals: “While studying at Fredonia, I made amateur short films with a camcorder. Some of them were really good and based on the response I got from people, I was inspired to go and study film at the New York University, where I took an intensive 3-month course and shot two films on celluloid. Both films – Rendezvous and Graffiti’s Exit are on YouTube.”

Makama says that he is not interested in partisan politics, but enjoys history and has a general sense of how the world operates, noting that civilizations are replete with power struggle.

“I love Psycho-analysis and Analytical Psychology, so I’ve read a few books by Freud and Jung: The Ego and Id, Interpretation of Dreams, Civilization and its Discontent, Man and his Symbols plus Memories, Dreams and Reflections. I also enjoy a little of Philosophy – Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil, Anti-Christ plus Thus Spoke Zarathustra. By the way, I listen to audio books and play them whilst painting.”

When asked the highlights of his career yet, Abba asserts, “For me, the Berlin Critics’ Week is the highest point in my career so far. 8 films were selected from different parts of the world. The Critics’ Week doesn’t just accept any kind of film, they only select films with depth and substance and so that’s a huge honour.

“My film isn’t technically perfect; I cringe whenever I watch it, but I guess the art and substance outweigh its shortcomings. The French film at the Critics’ Week, Planetarium and Fuddy Duddy, starring Natalie Portman, was part of the line-up, so go figure.”

Of the home turf, Abba says “The growth of Nollyywood in the last two years has been quite exponential. Film-makers can actually make a living from their craft if they play their cards right. I think the cinema houses need to take more risks on some of the more experimental titles, there’s an audience for every film, not just comedy.”

Abba is obviously reacting to the fact that the cinemas in Nigeria refused to distribute and screen Green White Green. It has been reported that following the resounding success of a few comedy films at the box office, cinema operators in Nigeria disdain films of other genres, especially those that star up-and-coming rather than the more established actors as in Green White Green. Abba cautions film-makers to avoid herd mentality.

He narrates an incident that ranks as his worst experience in film-making until date, “A cameraman walked out on me while filming a TV commercial, so I had to shoot myself. It was a disaster even though the video still came out well and aired on national TV.”

He declines to say anything about his upcoming project, but hopes to build a global audience. “My films are going to be watched the same way cinephiles are familiar with foreign language French, Italian or Japanese films.”

Abba Makama’s Works:

  • ‘Direc-toh’ (short film) – 2011
  • Star Trek (Music Documentary Series) – 2011
  • Peak Talent Show Season 3 (Reality TV Show) – 2011
  • Party of Ministers (short film) – 2012
  • GLO Soccer Academy (Reality TV Series) – 2013
  • Quacks (short film) – 2013
  • Nollywood: Something from Nothing (A documentary commissioned by Al Jazeera) – 2015
  • City Bishop (TV Series on SliverBird TV) – 2015
  • Green White Green (feature film) – 2016
  • Visions (short film) 2017. Makama co-directed Visions with Michael Omonua and C. J. Obasi

Film Festivals where Green White Green and All the Colours in My Mosaic of Madness was selected and screened.

  • TIFF, Toronto, Canada, 2016
  • Stockholm International Film Festival, Stockholm, Sweden, 2016
  • AFRIFF, Lagos, Nigeria, 2016
  • Lights Camera Africa, Lagos, Nigeria, 2016
  • BFI Beyond Nollywood Weekender, London, England, 2016
  • Cascade Festival of African Film Portland, USA, 2016
  • Berlin Critics’ Week, Berlin, Germany, 2017
  • Spirit of Fire Film Festival, Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, 2017
  • New York African Film Festival, New York, USA, 2017
  • Africa-in-Motion Film Festival, Glasgow, Scotland, 2017
  • Monaco Charity Film Festival, Monaco, 2017
  • World Cinema, Amsterdam, Holland, 2017
  • Hollywood Paris Week, Paris, France, 2017
  • Made in Nollywood, Bordeaux, France, 2017
  • Youth and Student Festival, Russia, 2017
  • Virginia Film Festival, Virginia, USA, 2017
  • African Film Festival, Tel Aviv, Israel, 2017

Distribution History for Green White Green

1. Ethiopian Airlines: Feb. – Mar. 2017
2. Air France: April – July, 2017
3. Emirates: April – July, 2017
4. Netflix: December, 2017

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amarachukwu Iwuala is a Microbiology graduate of the University of Port Harcourt, but has, since 2010, been working as a writer and editor for several publications, including CSR Files and CSR Files Weekly, Shakara International magazine, Mode Men magazine and today’s woman magazine.  He was also, at various times, a freelance film reviewer/reporter at www.360nobs.com, pulseng and thenetng.   

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