July 19, 2024
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Special premiere screening of ‘The Man Died’ biopic on Wole Soyinka holds July 12 in Lagos

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  • July 3, 2024
  • 6 min read
Special premiere screening of ‘The Man Died’ biopic on Wole Soyinka holds July 12 in Lagos

By Editor

A feature film inspired by the “Prison Notes” of Africa’s first Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, The Man Died, will have its ‘Special Premiere Screening’ on Friday, July 12, in Lagos. The screening, a strictly-by-invitation event, is designed as a flagship of the global celebration of the 90th birthday anniversary of Soyinka on July 13, and it is expected to be witnessed by a gathering of eminent dignitaries, members of the diplomatic corps, industry stakeholders, family, friends and associates of the Nobel laureate as well as key members of cast and crew of the film.

“This is not the premiere yet but a special screening to commemorate the 90th birthday of Professor Wole Soyinka,” stated the organisers, stressing that guests would only be admitted based on their invitation and RSVP. A later date will be set for the formal premiere of the film, assures the managers of the event. Shot entirely in Nigeria – Lagos and Ibadan – late 2023, the 110 -minute feature is directed by the cineaste and culture scholar and academic, Awam Amkpa and produced by the ace storyteller and media content producer, Femi Odugbemi for the renowned film company, Zuri 24 Media.

A fictionalized adaptation of the stories narrated in the prison memoirs, the screenplay written by young but tested writer, Bode Asiyanbi, is “not a biopic of the prison life of Soyinka, but an expanded narrative on his prison experiences, and includes stories that you would find in his subsequent memoirs on his life stories,” stated Amkpa, the director in an earlier released The Making of The Man Died, produced by Odugbemi.

Amkpa, a former student and long-standing associate of Soyinka, said stories from Soyinka’s subsequent memoirs, Ibadan Penkelemes Years and You Must Set Forth at Dawn, are also accommodated in the film. A trained theatre artist, filmmaker and culture scholar, Amkpa is currently Professor of Drama, Film and Social and Cultural Analysis, and Dean of Arts and Humanities and Vice Provost for the Arts at New York University, Abu Dhabi.

Produced by ZuriMedia24, with generous financial support from the New York University, Abu Dhabi, the film is shot by an entire Nigeria crew with no input from any foreigner, except in the post-production. The director of photography is Agbo Kelly while the Production Designer is Theo Lawson, an architect who has, however, been involved in other film projects in recent years.

A Scene From The Set 4

Solitary confinement… a scene from The Man Died

On reason for relying entirely on an entire local production resource to realise the film, unlike projects of its status, which usually bring certain crew members from outside, Amkpa said this was a deliberate and intentional choice. He said in making such a film based on the “colourful and fascinating life of an enigma who is also an eminent global citizen, authenticity is very important. We need to stress on the input of people intimately familiar with the cultural and political environment that shaped the Nobel laureate and his narratives, irrespective of their skill sets. I have an army of former students who are big-time filmmakers in Hollywood and elsewhere that I could just call on a whim to make the film and shoot it in Nigeria, but that, for me, there’s no learning curve. For me, every creative project is like going back to the basics and building back upwards. That was why for me it was very educational to come here.”

Odugbemi, a veteran of the Nigerian movie and television sets, stated in an interview, “As you probably know, it is a very intimate account of Soyinka’s 22 months in solitary confinement for his role in trying to bring a halt to the civil war. I hope this narrative of resistance and courage inspires this generation. It is also an ambitious adaptation that brings to life an iconic literary work offering a deep, personal perspective on Nigeria’s conflicted political history and the intense challenges of nation-building. By transforming Soyinka’s poignant narrative into a visual medium, I hope to reach a broader audience, particularly young people, who might be less inclined to engage with the written text, but can be profoundly impacted by the film.”

Over 100 film workers of varying specialties and industry experiences featured in the project with notable performers including Wale Ojo in the lead protagonist role of Soyinka, and Sam Dede as the main antagonist, Yisa, Soyinka’s interrogator and torturer. Aside the Hollywood rising actor, Abraham Amkpa, who played Soyinka’s bosom friend, Femi Johnson, other lead actors are Nobert Young (Prison Superintendent), Francis Onwochei (Prison Controller), Edmund Enaibe (AIG), Christina Oshunniyi (Laide Soyinka), Similoluwa Hassan (Emeka Ojukwu), Segilola Ogidan (Morenike), Dili Ezugha (Agu Norris), Ropo Ewenla (Olusegun Obasanjo), Henry Diabuah (Yakubu Gowon), Temilolu Fosudo (Bola Ige), William Idakwo (Victor Banjo), among others.

Odugbemi, renowned for his indelible signature on many successful movies and TV series projects, including Maroko, Gidi Blues, Eve, Code Wilo (movies) and Tinsel, Battleground, Movement JAPA, The Covenant (TV), continues: “Of course, this is not just a memoir; it is a testament to the resilience and courage of the human spirit in the face of oppression. It vividly chronicles Soyinka’s experiences during the Nigerian Civil War, highlighting the brutal reality of political imprisonment and the relentless struggle for justice and freedom.”

Odugbemi, a voting member of both the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Oscar Awards) and the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (Emmy Awards), among other film service roles, continued on the making of the film: “Through this film, we aim to inspire young people to embrace their role in demanding humanistic ideals from our nation’s political leadership. In a world where authoritarianism and corruption often threaten democratic values, we hope the film will resonate as a call to action for citizens to remain vigilant and proactive in pursuing justice and equity. We hope it sparks meaningful dialogue to inspire positive change in our country.”

The July 12 premiere of The Man Died in Lagos is supervised by the film’s Associate Producers Makin Soyinka and Jahman Anikulapo with the Production Manager, Adewale Emmanuel Orosun, and managed by ONE Management. The project is supported by Lagos State Government, Providus Bank, Dr. Kayode and Erelu Bisi Fayemi, among others. The media partners are Arise TV and Afia TV.

After the Lagos premiere, The Man Died will be screened next on July 25 at The Africa Centre (TAC), London, where it will feature as part of WS90 – a 9-day programme of events, jointly organised by the Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange and the TAC, also to commemorate the 90thbirthday anniversary of the poet, playwright, essayist, memoirist, human/civil rights activist and global cultural icon. It will thereafter go on a tour of select festivals around the world, before hitting the public cinema screens in Nigeria, the UK, the USA, Europe, UAE and other centres around the African continent.

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