Green White Green: Abba Makama’s “mosaic of madness” is even more beautiful than it sounds
“No, it’s not yet out. We just released the trailer”
Amidst Independence Day celebrations earlier this month, media platforms were abuzz with the trailer for the movie “Green White Green and All the Beautiful Colours in My Mosaic of Madness.” At first glance, you are drawn to the title in relation to October 1 for obvious reasons be the obvious reasons. However there is more to it than meets the eye, as discovered in a conversation with the film’s director, Abba .T. Makama, founder of Osiris Film and Entertainment. Abba Makama is known for his short films and his Al Jazeera commissioned documentary on Nollywood. The Plateau State born director started shooting films with a home video camera.
“People could not figure out whether the film was done by an actual professional or by a film student, and that’s when I decided to jump on the creative bandwagon.”
After studying film intensively for three months at the prestigious New York University (N.Y.U.), and working up an impressive resume at various production houses, he moved back to Nigeria and decided to step it up by 1000 notches. Ventures Africa got in touch with the budding director, and had the pleasure of learning more about his latest project.
Ventures Africa (VA) – What is Green White Green about?
Abba .T. Makama (ATM) – Green White Green is about three young boys from the Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo ethnic groups with different social classes; the ‘1 percent’ – if you may -the middle class, and the working class, who are inspired by a novel [also fictional] written by a radical professor about the history of Nigeria. They decide to go and shoot a short film. The rich kid is the one who comes up with the idea in order to show his parents why he should be allowed to pursue his artistic inclinations, rather than be sent abroad to study. It is a coming of age movie.
VA – What inspired the movie on your part?
ATM – It was inspired mostly by my own life growing up in Jos. The original script was written in 2005 as a drama, and it had a different idea. But I was not satisfied with the script at the time. Last year, I applied for a Nollywood grant for a project, and I was fortunate to get it. So, I decided to do a feature film with the already existing script, but decided to lend a patriotic angle to it. Hence the title, which I also thought would appeal to the government; they had seen my previous short films, and during screening they wanted to know what I would do differently. I started from scratch, changed the script significantly to suit contemporary times, and changed the title. Nigeria is one of the most interesting places on the planet.
Also, a series of paintings I started to do while working on the script inspired an aspect of the movie. I had a creative block, and I literally could not stop painting. I must have painted about 20 different 4-foot canvasses. The lead character in the film is a painter, a feature I added to his original character.
VA – What criteria did you apply in casting for the film?
ATM – More than anything, I wanted the film to be ‘cool’. I wanted it to be a movie like George Lucas’ American Graffiti . That was one of the first films about high school kids, and it captured the rise of American youth culture in the ’50s.
VA – Does this mean Green White Green is targeted at a young audience?
ATM – Yes. In fact my company, Osiris, is geared towards young people.
VA – Did the fact that you’re an up-and-coming director yourself also influence your choices? We noticed that, save for a couple, your actors are not A-list or B-list actors. Was it a case of talent over fame?
ATM – The movie industry [Nollywood] is very divided. For example, Ifeanyi Dike has not been in any major Nollywood picture, but he has been in productions with international platforms such as MTV Base and Ebony Life. To me, I’ll pick him over those who have done over a hundred movies. No offence.
I was trying to look for people who are a reflection of myself, and I found that in Ifeanyi Dike. On the record, he’s one of those ‘crossover actors’. 10 years from now, he’ll probably be in a big Hollywood movie, just like the Boyega boy in Star Wars. Also, every other young person in the film. Like Samuel Robinson, who is in Desperate Housewives Africa, and Meg Otanwa who was also in October 1. The only really big Nollywood actor in the film is Bimbo Manuel, who is an excellent actor, and has continued to proved it over time. These actors transcend the ‘A and B’ lists, and other lists that you can categorize them with.
VA – What were the challenges you encountered while filming, on both personal and professional levels?
ATM – The usual. When we started filming, the fuel crisis had just begun. But we did a lot of planning and pre-production, because we had it in mind that we were not going to fall victim of the usual Nollywood wahala. We filmed mostly outside Lagos, towards Lakowe town, past Ajah. We camped there. We went there because of sound. It’s difficult to control the noise in the city. Sound is as important as the picture. Even if you have the best sound effects people on your team, if the sound is bad, the movie is bad.
Within Lagos, I made sure that all the other locations were places where I could control the noise. We had a very committed team, which also helped. They were very organized. In Green White Green, we had a scene where the boys were watching a Nollywood movie which had a series of unorganized and poorly done scenes. A member of my team who went on to work on another project after Green White Green said the team he had to work with was even worse than our movie simulation.
VA – What are you want out of Green White Green?
ATM – Green White Green is a game changer. It’s going to be a point of reference in Nigerian and African cinema. It’s one of those films that you’ll keep going back to watch. As I said, my target audience are the young ones. I want an SSCE or UTME student to go back and say, “I could relate with the movie. The capitalism, the struggles…”
VA – We gather you don’t really care much for audience in the older generation.
ATM – Well, I hate to sound cliche, but the youth of today are the future. Sadly, the older generation are a bit stuck up in their ways. If we really want Nigeria to be a superpower, we have to tap into the youth.
VA – What is your next project?
ATM – Osiris is a creative group that conceives ideas for digital and additional media, so we have a whole bunch of projects lined up. We have our TV show, City Bishop, a comedy which airs on Silverbird Television. It started in March this year, and the first season ended two months ago. We’re starting season two shortly.
VA – When is Green White Green premiering?
ATM – We are looking at launching it on Democracy Day (May 29) next year. There will be a lot of events regarding the film in between, festivals and all. We will keep you posted.
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