Vera (Obuseh Princess) goes to pick her drunk friend (Aiwansosa Itohan) from a party, but she arrives and her friend is not there. The event that take place after now is why you should see the film (Link below). This premise is one that would evoke several questions even in the mind of Vera. “Did her friend set her up?”, the filmmaker doesn’t work on this question to a psychological end, rather director Adesuwa Omon takes a more social stance.
Adesuwa Omon is a trained Theatre graduate of Dramatic Arts, Obafemi Awolowo University. She’s a film director, writer, actor and producer. Here, in conversation with ‘Chukwu Martin she talks about her first film ‘Grapes’ – a short film written by Tobi Daniels. Adesuwa Omon describes the kind of narratives she wants to tell as ‘silent stories’, stories that we often consciously or unconsciously let sleep under the rug. It is pure ignorance.
The short film not only attempts to evoke emotions or horrible past experiences for many victims, but lends a voice to critique the society; one that is very much morally ignorant.
This is your first film. What inspired the story? Looks like one based off a true event.
Yes it is, but inspired by a series of true events.
Tell me more about your process in putting it all together, from the story idea to pre-production choices.
Okay so I am super passionate about women’s rights with a focus on sexual and gender based violence. So I find myself drawn to these women and the stories they tell. For my first film I wanted to express something I was really passionate about, hence the story. The next thing was to come up with a story that unify and embody these experiences in 10-15mins. It took me a while with the help of some persons to move my vague story idea into a single plot line and finally to the screenplay. I and Tobi Daniels (the script writer) are both great lovers of poetry and word play. You will find this evident in the feel and title of the film.
For casting, I didn’t have a lot of extra thought put in. Most of the time the story sold itself to the actors
Tobi Daniel is a beautiful wordsmith. So why “Grapes”? Grape is a healthy fruit.
Yeah it is, until it gets sour. Initially we were working with the tag line “sour wine” until I chose to lose it in post. But basically the grape fruit is most commonly used in wine, juice production. But the value on this fruit is attached to how sweet, healthy and pleasant they can be.
In the case of our character ( a representation of both male and female victims) life from there on really isn’t so beautiful anymore. What they become are a bunch of walking “sour grapes” made bitter from their experiences.
I can relate to that and so do many others. Reviews have been positive. People have commented how relatable the characters experience is. What has been the most heart breaking, heart rendering personal review you’ve gotten so far.
It has to be from a lady whose friend was raped by six guys. They didn’t believe her. The girl ended up taking her own life. It’s sad that this is the reality for a lot of victims who resolve to take their life.
It really is a sad reality. Do you think film; especially from this clime has been able do well in tackling rapes stories. What do you think is the effect or ultimate aim of making films like this?
I’d say awareness, sympathy, sensitivity, outrage and ultimately actions. It’s hard to sympathize when you don’t understand their reality. It’s hard to effect change when you have no idea what you are going to change. “Rape again” I got this statement from one of the people that saw the film. It so happens that many films have a case of rape, but most of the time they use rape as a plot filler, just on the top before they get to wherever it is they’re going with their story.
Off my head, I can’t think of any Nigerian mainstream film I’ve seen that actually tackles first-hand the vice that is sexual based violence. I believe in putting the ugliness right in your face, so you see it and you can’t unsee it.
“How did you find yourself there in the first place?” At the opening of your film, this question was asked after a lady tells them she was raped at a party. As the film progressed, you go on to talk about how people blame the victim in such situations. Can you tell me what your intention is with the film?
That ultimately it really doesn’t matter. I tried to create a protagonist who “did everything right” and still got raped. So it doesn’t matter because the worst can still happen in any case. Another question they choke victims that speak up after so many years with is “why didn’t you report immediately? Why didn’t you say something?” So I’m like okay, here’s someone who wants to report, who wants to fight….but she really can’t if you don’t let her, if you don’t help her.
It is an important topic that can never get old in the telling. What do you think is the challenge with making films about topics like this?
To a large extent, topics like this still leave a lot of people uncomfortable. And I think we’ve convinced ourselves that film should be about happily-ever-afters and comedy specials.
And you’re sold to making people uncomfortable in their dismissal of reality
100%. I feel like as humans it takes most of us being frustrated and enraged about something before we take action.
I should agree with you. And how angry can film get?
As angry as humans can. It is after all a mirror of life.
Let’s talk about production and pre-pro. What was the process to achieving this final output
So once the script was ready, I got my crew together. I’d call it our film sef because everyone was pretty much hands on deck. I went over my storyboard with my DOP so that we go into the shoot with a clear and unified vision ‘cause I didn’t want to have to shoot for two days. Same thing with my production designer too. Of course it’s my first film so I had a lot of anxiety which I naturally compensated for with over planning. Everything fell back in my face like two/ three days before shoot when I had actors cancel and locations became suddenly unavailable. But the amazing people around me made it super easy and fast for us to salvage the situation.
For Post production, I edited the film myself. The first and final cut before the person who scored and colored worked on it. Initially the script was written without the voice over. After watching the first cut over and over again, I just wanted more. Needed a way to draw out more sympathy from the viewers. I was banking heavily on what I could make people feel. Thus the decision to have the actor record the voice over. And that brings us to what we have today.
An ethical work process. Kudos. What was the budget for the film?
Initially, we planned N200k for a two-day shoot minus post production. But then I had more experienced people read the script and they be like “Suwa this is something you can shoot in a day, don’t waste your money“. So we made the slash and had a working budget of 160k. Ended up spending about N130k because I had tremendous support from people on the project who wanted to support a “young filmmaker”. I had actors and crew members who didn’t even collect a dime from me. I couldn’t have paid all of them with what I had. Because me sef I know it’s not their values worth, so just fended logistics.
That’s often advisable for a first. To work with friends and family or make them friends and family. If you’re not doing film what would you do?
So I have just as much interest in theatre as I have in film. If it’s not screen, it’s stage. But generally if I wasn’t in the art of storytelling I know for a fact that I’d be enroute law school.
In a sentence, how would you describe yourself as a filmmaker.
A filmmaker who always let the story lead.
I often wonder, we spend so much on films as budding filmmakers and hope to find fulfillment in our works. What to you is fulfillment?
One’s pretty evident from the responses I’ve gotten so far. It’s the social impact. As I of course seek to gain credibility as a filmmaker.
How soon should we expect another offering?