Filmmaker and author, Jude Idada, tells BLESSING ENENAITE about his career, achievements and other issues
You bagged three awards for your film ‘Kofa’ at the 2022 Africa International Film Festival. How did that make you feel?
First of all, I am grateful for the opportunity to have my work validated publicly and independently by people whom I have no relationship with. I have won a couple of awards at different times and in different pursuits – be it play, books and in film. However, ‘Kofa’ is my first feature film directorial debut. For it to bag all these awards and even be nominated for more, it was gratifying.
What is your drive as a filmmaker and what inspires you when you get involved in a project?
I have always been challenged or enthused to contribute my quota to the continual narrative of life. I am a thinker who is always trying to understand my environment, be it people or events around me. On a secondary level, I am always trying to add value and make things better understood so that people can react to it in a positive light. I believe that today can be better than yesterday, while tomorrow can be better than today; and that fuels my work. Regardless of trying to create entertainment with my works, my stories are aimed at addressing a particular issue. I want to enlighten, empower and inspire with my work.
Some filmmakers have complained about not getting enough returns for their quality works. Hence, they focus on more works with less quality. What is your experience in this regard?
It is very true (that some filmmakers do not get enough returns for their quality works). There is something called the low and the high art. Also, there is popular and literary fiction. Literary fiction never rewards you like popular fiction does, irrespective of the platform, be it film or stage play. That means that when one sets out to be a filmmaker, that person has to understand the expected returns. Focusing on issue-based works will not get one much revenue compared to focusing on entertainment and making people laugh.
Hence, those who complain should not do so because it is the nature of the craft. They should know that the medium they have decided to express their art has been stamped. It is a stamp of more money or less money. One still has to pray that the films in the minority can reward one enough to do the next film and a little bit above that. However, issue-based films are winning awards more than popular films.
Do you think the film industry is telling Nigerian stories that affect the people enough, or they simply focus more on entertainment?
We have to first understand things from a wider perspective. People are a product of their environment and we are in an environment that is not economically advantaged. The financial rewards are not pre-dedicated on what the economy will give to one based on the investment one has made, but on what connects with the audience that has a certain amount of money, which is limited to spend.
It is not that filmmakers cannot do quality films or address topical issues. However, one must realise that the audience has a limited amount of money to spend on such films. Because of that, they will not spend it on things that will make them think or make their hearts heavy. Rather, they will spend it on things that will make their burden lighter, happy and laugh. One can see that the economy already pushes the filmmaker to focus on films about laughter. So, he is literally between the devil and the deep blue sea.
You are also a stage director who has many works to his credit. Can you tell us some of your works on stage?
I studied Theatre and Films at the University of Ibadan, Oyo State. Even before I got into the university, I had already written my first play. I started as a theatre director at a church. Those works gave me the attestation to pursue a career in the field. Some of my works on stage include ‘Thomas Sankara’, ‘Threesome’, ‘Flood’, ‘Coma’, “’Oduduwa’, ‘The Movement’, ‘Devil’s Pilgrimage’ and ‘The March’. I think I have written over 20 plays. Some of my works have won awards locally and internationally. I have been doing this thing for almost 30 years now because I started writing plays when I was very young. My plays have been performed in festivals around the world, from Canada, to South America, Africa, and Europe. I have been blessed by the works of my hands, be it for stage, on screen, or for my published works.
You are also an award winning author. Did you ever envisage you were going to win the NLNG Prize for Literature in 2019 when you initially decided to be an author?
I will not say I envisaged that I would win the award. I was just compelled to share my work. Sharing my work was not about just publishing it; I wanted to put it out for judgment by my peers. However, I aspired that my work would be validated by the judges of the competition. I was long-listed and shortlisted for the award a couple of times before I finally won. I won the award for my book, ‘Boom Boom’, which was an issue-based work. That work explores sickle cell anaemia. With this, one can see that my works deal with issues that affect people and it is always proffering a solution to those issues. I am happy I could win the award. All light was shone on sickle cell anaemia and it has inspired me to even do more.
You initially studied agriculture in the university before you switched to the arts. Does that mean that art was an afterthought for you?
Art was not an afterthought. I wrote my first novel when I was about nine years old. I wrote it in eight 80 leaves exercise books. There were no laptops then. I gave it to my guardian and counselling teacher at school. I thought I would be groomed in the arts because of my work. However, I was put in the science department in secondary school because of Nigeria’s educational system which assumes that brilliant students should be in the sciences. I had to study agro economics at the university.
When I was entering the 400 level where I had to do my farm practical, I did not want to do it. At this point, I told my dad that I wanted to do what I loved, which was theatre and film. My father finally agreed after some deliberations. That was how I went to the University of Ibadan, Oyo State, to start all over again. Although I was given the option to start from 200 level, I said I preferred to start from 100 level because I did not have any knowledge of literature. I graduated as the best student in my department. Thank God I had the desire to go back to my first desire. I graduated from UI in the year 2000.
Can you tell us about your education and family background?
I come from a family of eight children. My father was a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and an ex-civil servant. My mother was an educationist and she spent her whole life teaching. I come from an elitist family. I grew up in Victoria Island, Lagos.
I am from a family where education is very important. I schooled in Kaduna for my secondary school. I attended the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, and then UI. I travelled outside Nigeria a lot as a child. My siblings are all professionals. I am the only one who is doing something different from my siblings.
As one from Edo State, do you understand your language?
I only speak English. That was not because I did not desire it; I think I am linguistically challenged (laughs). I grew up in Lagos but I am not fluent in Yoruba either. However, my mum speaks Yoruba, Igbo, Edo, and English. It is quite unfortunate when people say one is from where one’s parents are from. Instead, one should be from the place he is primarily domiciled. When one can establish that one has lived somewhere for about 10 years, that is where that person should be from. I see myself as a Lagosian and not an Edo man, although I connect with the ideals of the Edo consciousness. I believe in the Edo culture and also admire it.
Some people have often complained about lack of finance as a reason they cannot achieve their dreams. Will you say coming from a wealthy family made the realisation of your dreams easier?
Yeah! It is very true because one needs money, but one also has to be industrious and think outside the box. One has to build relationships that can help one to put enough funds together to get things done. My parents had money but they did not put it at my disposal. They were not enthused about me studying the arts. When I did my first film, I had to sell my property to fund it in conjunction with my business partner then. My father had passed away by that time but the wealth was still there, because we (my siblings and I) still had our mother. One has to realise that one can have access to money when one is ready to put in all the means needed to get money. In addition, one has to start from somewhere, not necessarily as a producer or director.
You have much involvement in the arts industry in Canada. Why is that so and can you tell us some of your works in the country?
I have lived in Canada for over 20 years now. I continued practicing my arts when I got there. Also, I acted in ‘Death and the King’s Horseman’, I directed a couple of plays too, including plays that I wrote myself. I also did diploma courses in film directing and creative writing. My interest in arts followed me to Nigeria. I actively pursued it. I started writing ‘My Box of Chocolates’ in Canada and I also wrote some of my other works there. I actually wrote ‘Boom Boom’ in South Africa. So, my works have practically followed me all over the world. Wherever I find myself, art always finds me there.
You once had a copyright infringement issue with Omoni Oboli and her husband over ‘Okafor’s Law’. How was it resolved and did it affect your relationship with her?
I cannot comment on this because the case is still in court. However, I believe in light and in the abundance of positivity. The case is what it is. It will be resolved when it will be resolved.
You are known for your stories on social media. Are they fiction or real life happenings?
I am a storyteller at heart. I have been writing on Facebook for about 11 years now. I try to write everyday but I dramatically recount things that have happened and that I am also told. Sometimes, people tell me things and they insist on being anonymous. So, I have to change the nature of the story. For instance, if the person has five children, I can write that the person has three children. I can also change the location of the story so that the people will not be easily identified. My goal as a writer on Facebook is to add value, change mindsets and mould minds. I also write with the angle that can inspire change.
How will you describe your relationship with Prof Wole Soyinka?
Prof Soyinka is the pinnacle of what we (writers) all want to be. He is the best of his kind and I am in awe of him. I respect him, not only as a fellow art person but as a humanist. He is someone who is conscious of the power he has. Besides, he has always been on the side of the masses and he has done incredibly well.
What are your other areas of interest?
I am a humanist, I believe in the human enterprise, the progress of humans, and the betterment of the world. Also, I love sports, especially football. I am a fan of Arsenal Football Club. I am also looking forward to adopting a Nigerian football team. I love to be at the beach and I equally love to travel. Likewise, I am a voracious reader and a movie buff. I love God too.