Monday, December 8, 2008

Interview with Victor Okhai, Queen Amina [2]

About Queen Amina project

Queen Amina is a project I am passionate about. The idea did not just drop from nowhere. I have to give credit to a lady from the American Embassy, (the United States Department of State). This idea came when the woman challenged us during a workshop. She said that there is so much to do in this country, and that why don't we pick from the good subjects we have and make good films out of them. And then it struck me that of all the subjects around, Queen Amina is one project that I can take anywhere. Now why do I want to do Queen Amina? There are so many intriguing things about the personality of the queen. Queen Amina was a woman who lived in the 17th century in a predominantly Islamic society. She became not just a queen but also a warrior and conquered states all the way from Zaria down to River Niger. That was not all. There were a lot of odds against her. She was a woman and from an Islamic background. She never got married. Wherever she went to, she would take a man for the night, sleep with him and by morning, she would execute him so that the man would not go and run off his mouth.

My interest in the subject

What I seek to reveal in this movie is Queen Amina's motivation. What kept her going from Zaria all the way through? What was she looking for? Why was she killing all those men? For a woman to be so powerful and influential at that age and time, not in this age when we talk about woman liberation, there must have been something about her. That is what I want to explore in the film. I am not just going to shoot Queen Amina but I intend to clinch Nigeria's first foreign Oscar Award through the project. I know the rules of the Oscar, rules 2 and 14. I am working strictly by those rules. I would shoot Queen Amina in Hausa language. I am in a position to do this because I can read and write Hausa language. I also understand and respect the culture. I will remain faithful and true to what the language represents. Most importantly, filmmakers in the north have embraced me on the project. I have discussed with someone like Sanu Uwazu, the president of MOPAN. He has given me his full assurance.

Budget and artistes

It's an expensive project. My budget is about N300 million, about S2.5 million, which is really nothing. It has to be done well. We are raising funds on our own but we shall contact some institutions for support. Even after producing the film, we intend to market and exhibit it in all major film festivals in order to create necessary awareness before the Oscar. That would take a lot of money as well. These institutions would see that it is something they should contribute to as part of their corporate social responsibility. But whether or not they do it, we are focused on this project. I once spoke to the Managing Director of the Nigeria Film Corporation, Mr. Afolabi Adesanya about it and he has assured that he would support us.

Winning the Oscar Award

We have done this before. Last year, the International Film and Broadcasting Academy, took part in the biggest film festival in Europe and Germany with a short film called Chill Pill, by one of my students. We did not come home empty handed; we won a prize. We set our target, made it and returned with victory. Queen Alima is another project that we have made up our minds to realise. We are abiding by all the rules and are dealing with strategic planning. Our target is the award for the Best Foreign Language Picture in the Oscars.

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