By ZIK ZULU OKAFOR
The who is who in Nigeria’s movie industry and other arms of entertainment will converge on Tuesday, February 16 on the National Arts Theater, Iganmu, Lagos for a tributes night in respect of the late movie director, Chico Ejiro
Chico Ejiro epitomised the creative genii of early Nollywood and the survival spirit that spurred their artistic race. The straight-to-home video productions had gained ascendancy in 1992 with the production of Living in Bondage by Nek Vdeo Links headed by Kenneth Nnenue. But it was Chico as he was simply called that would quickly emerge as the fetching symbol of this new phenomenon with his racy directing and pacy productions. By the time the New York Times Southern Africa Bureau Chief landed in Nigeria in 2002 to interview the creatives whose works were now provoking new conversations globally, Chico alone had directed 35 movies. The Japanese Canadian was staggered by Chico’s prolificacy when the incisive Director revealed the number to him. Onishi would quickly return to New York to write in his renowned paper, ” Step aside Hollywood, step aside Bollywood, here comes Nollywood “.
This was how Nigeria’s movie industry came to be known as Nollywood.
On Friday, December 25, 2020, the day Christians celebrate Christmas, the birth of the Lord , Jesus Christ, Chico Ejiro made his eternal exitfrom the earth. He had directed and produced about 105 movies before his cameras went off for good.
At 57, Chico’s creative strides and phenomenal accomplishments had placed him in the pantheon of Nollywood’s icons. For this reason , his fellow creative entrepreneurs, talent investors and cineastes were spurred to celebrate the Ozoro, Delta state born film maker. To achieve this noble quest, they decided to seek a partnership that will add fillip to their vision , for while Nollywood could boast of crystal ideas and a fat will to back it, a fat wallet to achieve its lofty dreams sometimes pose a little headache. And so some of the leaders approached the management of the National Theatre to seek collaboration to celebrate their departed colleague within the premises of the edifice, in what they tagged ” Industry Night of Tributes “.
Luckily, the Chief Executive of the epochal building, a bowel of Nigerian culture, is a locally and internationally renowned creative arts scholar and administrator. His name is Prof Sunday Enessi Ododo.
The eminent Professor of Performance Aesthetics and Theatre Technology pulled out his entire management team to receive the Nollywood leaders behind the organisation of the event. They include Fred Amata, President, Directors Guild of Nigeria, DGN, Fidelis Duker, a former DGN President, Segun Arinze, an ex-President , Actors Guild of Nigeria, AGN, Tunji Bamishigbi, a Lawyer, Director/Producer and talent investor , plus this writer, a former President , Association of Movie Producers, AMP.
Apart from the distinctive reception that delineated Prof Ododo’s respect for his guests, the professor , globally acknowledged for his Facekuerade Theory which derives from the maskless transformational practices of traditional Ebira, ( eku ), this portrait of total theatre that began his academic journey at the University of Ilorin in Kwara state, took an odyssey into history . He unveiled his encounters and connection with every Nollywood guest seated at his conference room, tales that date back to 30 years . He went even beyond to intimate his guests with an impending programme created by his office, a project that is bound to be a confluence of theatre and motion picture practitioners towards discovery and grooming of creative talents.
It was not therefore surprising that Ododo wasted no time in granting the proposal of Nollywood for a space at the Theatre to host a tribute night for late Chico.
He did not only grant it, he enjoined his Production and Technical Theatre Heads to work closely with the Nollywood team to ensure a grand celebration of the departed Director, Chico Ejiro.
The event slated for Tuesday, February 16, 2021 is expected to feature tributes from Chico’s colleagues, a documentary on his historic career , music and brief sermons.
The event is expected to be an exterior affair to ensure a strict compliance to COVID-19 protocols.
Speaking on the event, the Chief Executive of FAD FM, Calabar and former DGN President, Fidelis Duker, stated , ” it is not going to be a mournful night though there will be sober moments. It is going to be a night to celebrate an iconic figure in our industry, a man who will remain an exemplary Director and Producer, an accomplished creative entrepreneur. Chico was a huge influence”. Throwing more light on the event, he added, ” Chico affected and inspired so many stars. Many had their breakthrough through his films and he made over 100 movies. So, they are coming from far and wide to celebrate him at this Industry Night of Tributes”, he concluded.
Zik Zulu Okafor is a former President, Association of Movie Producers, AMP.