Interview Session with Bogunmbe Abiola Paul on the production of his movie MAJELE (2019) moderated by Seun Afolabi (SeunStoryteller) on the 24th November 2019. Compiled from the WhatsApp session by Mide Adeleke.
Bogunmbe Abiola Paul is a Nollywood movie director and producer has been practicing since the year 2009. Bogunmbe claims to have learnt scriptwriting and producing basically from his Dad but went on to acquire more knowledge on film production from Muyiwa Ademola amongst others.
Bogunmbe cites Muyiwa Ademola, Adebayo Tijani and Razaq Olayiwola as his mentors.
Bogunmbe whose works cut across majorly in the “Yoruba Nolly” arm of the Nigerian film industry is a bankable filmmaker worthy of trust to make magic even with the most meagre production budget.
The movie ‘MAJELE’, meets our interest.
Q: What were your intentions with this movie?
Bogunmbe Abiola Paul: To propagate Yoruba culture and show the world that standard production values can be achieved in the Yoruba movies. That is, not restricted to the day to day Yoruba language exchange or Yoruba language heavy with poetry and proverbs. But just proof that Yoruba language can produce good movies that can compete in the world of filmmaking.
Q: Someone here once referred to the movie as a “love letter to Oleku” a film by Tunde Kelani. Would you admit so? Any inspiration drawn from TK on this project?
Bogunmbe Abiola Paul: oh yes. He is a source of inspiration for MAJELE. Before I came up with MAJELE, I tried it with a script I wrote for Adeola Ayoade production titled ‘Ookun’, but it was a bit of low budget movie. Later, I tried it with Ofeefe before I finally arrived at MAJELE. I gleaned ideas from him while making this movie. It is something I’ve been dreaming to do for many years now.
Q: What were the challenges you faced making this project compared to your past projects?
Bogunmbe Abiola Paul: About challenges, it wasn’t easy. First, we had to source for good actors. Also, compared to the other films I’ve produced, this particular one was a bit expensive. Getting the location in Ibadan didn’t come easy too, and the scripting was somewhat challenging.
Q: One major striking thing about the movie to me apart from the use of language is casting. The brown skin girls -this I love, because it happens to also be a TK signature-, the male and female lead. Some people felt the male lead could have been “a known” face and claimed it would have projected the movie more, but to be honest I think the actor did well. The female lead Omowunmi Dada isn’t a regular in the “Yoruba Nolly”. This is the second time I am seeing her in a Yoruba film after Abbey Jimoh’s SOMEWHERE IN THE DARK.
Bogunmbe Abiola Paul: Using brown skin girls was intentional. To show black beauty.
Q: Why did you take the risk on Babalola as the lead?
Bogunmbe Abiola Paul: Apart from the fact that ABIODUN BABALOLA could play the role very well, he has potential. Plus, he had the time to give me for the production.
When I first told most of my boss the story, they kept telling me to cast LATEEF ADEDIMEJI for the lead role because he is a face, yet I kept telling them that it’s not the face I want to achieve, but someone that could give me enough time, someone the audience will see and root for. Some star actors in the industry are now strictly commercial actors, therefore the acting lacks originality.
Let’s always look new and bring something new to the table. Now with the little ground I have gained with MAJELE, any actor coming to my set will come with the mindset of nailing performance like actors in MAJELE did.
Q: One would have expected one of the regulars, but a seemly new female lead who I suspected would have cost more. Why Omowunmi?
Bogunmbe Abiola Paul: First, Omowumi Dada has been my dream actress for a long time because she is a fantastic actress. Although she got paid more than any popular actor in Yoruba Industry, she remained the choice for the film.
Q: Looking back at the hard work and what it cost (money inclusive) to make this film and the returns it has made, and your intentions for making this movie, do you think it is worth it? And would you attempt it again or encourage those who look up to you and want to do something different especially in this Yoruba Nollywood, to carry on?
Bogunmbe Abiola Paul: I am planning to make another one soon, titled ALARINA. This is because MAJELE gave me what I made it for, which is the recognition, the award and cultural propagation.
I got amazing comments after uploading the film on YouTube. Viewers loved the language used in particular.
Q: Did MAJELE at least make back its “huge” investment?
Bogunmbe Abiola Paul: Not really, due to loss of the MASTER copy of the film after my hard drive crashed. But I am happy I made an effort to make a good Yoruba movie that has gone to at least a few film festivals and won an award as well.
Q1: For how long did you plan this movie before the shoot and what’s the duration of your shoot?
Bogunmbe Abiola Paul: I planned for just 4 months.
Q2: Is there a particular reason why you made the film in two parts?
Bogunmbe Abiola Paul: The film was not made for YouTube. The intention was to take it to Netflix or Amazon, but due to the lost Master Copy, Youtube became the only viable avenue for people can get to see the movie. Also, the distributors said it won’t be good to upload the film at once, that we should do it two parts.
Q2: From part 1 and 2, this project could have been a groundbreaking masterpiece if some redundancies were chopped off. You’ll still make a solid 1 part film and the end of Majele.
Bogunmbe Abiola Paul: I understand your point. If I am going to cut the 2hrs 2mins films that I shot to make at least 1:30 minutes a lot will be left out. Besides that, as soon a movie is up to 1 hour 40 minutes on YouTube, the distributor will prefer to make it 2 parts.
Q3: Why was the end part sort of rushed? Looks like it ended too cheaply sir.
Bogunmbe Abiola Paul: The cheap way isn’t understood here. All I can say is that the story has reached its peak and has to be resolved.
Q3: How many minutes did you submit for the festival? I’m sure not the 2 parts.
Bogunmbe Abiola Paul: I submitted the whole film to the film festivals, 2hrs 2minutes.
Q3: It’s totally understandable how 3 acts can be difficult to resolve, the rush to just include the detectives and pinning the girl wasn’t properly structured. So they had nothing on her and she confessed?
Bogunmbe Abiola Paul: From the way I shot the scene, you could understand that they had interrogated her and have gotten their way to her. At the beginning of the scene, you could have understood that she has been tortured or entered.
Q4: I believe the end was rushed. If you are going to solve a case by just interrogation then it was rushed. What made the detective suspect her? Nothing. She was the last person they would suspect. You don’t go torturing people who are not prime suspects. You didn’t even show the torture. You told us the detective was smart but we didn’t see him take charge/solve the crime. Just interrogations. You didn’t show what he noticed during the interrogations etc. That sole scene I believe.
Bogunmbe Abiola Paul: I implore you to watch again so you can see why she was suspected.
Q4: Most of us have issues with only the end felt there were some missing scenes before that end. Did you lose any scenes?
Bogunmbe Abiola Paul: The detective got their lead on the lady from their interrogation with ADEFELA and his friend.
Q4: Wondering how you lost the master and still have the two parts. Did you export different sizes before then?
Bogunmbe Abiola Paul: I did preview copy for film festival and award submission and it is on my laptop at home. If you watch it on YouTube you will see that it has a preview copy on it.
Q5: Please can you tell us a bit about your venture into filmmaking.
Bogunmbe Abiola Paul: I started with my dad around the year 1997 as a young kid, since then I have been serious with it as my career. I have not done any job as a career apart from filmmaking. Around 2001, I shot my first film which did not see the light of the day, I kept trying. Going further, I went to learn costuming for a year, cinematography for 2 years, continuity management for 1 year and have something like an internship with MUYIWA ADEMOLA, ADEBAYO TIJANI, RAZAQ OLAYIWOLA OJOPAGOGO as a director for 2 years altogether.
That’s the journey. My first major directing is my film ISIJU in the year 2010.
Q5: So your Dad is a filmmaker?
Bogunmbe Abiola Paul: Yes. He produced two movies before left the industry 1993 and 1995 respectively.
Q5: have you ever thought of crossing over from Yoruba to English? Or perhaps making an English film.
Bogunmbe Abiola Paul: Not really but I have tried one English production with Yoruba actors TO HAVE & TO HOLD it’s coming online soon. I shot it in 2017. It took me a few years to release it because I did not convince myself with the film. Though I shot it very well because of better equipment then. That’s when BLACK MAGIC URSA was in vogue. With better lenses and good lighting from CINECRAFT.
Bogunmbe Abiola Paul you did well with the film and I am sure greater films are coming from you. Please don’t relent. Not many Yoruba films are getting into festivals or getting noticed in that sphere. We appreciate you.