Kemi Adetiba: I Don’t Look Down On Yoruba Movies


Award winning filmmaker, Kemi Adetiba has been able to make a name for herself in the world of filmmaking with two top grossing and highly appreciated films – The Wedding Party I and King Of Boys. The young female filmmaker in this interview speaks on her upcoming effort, King Of Boys: The Return of the king, which is a sequel to her last effort. She also spoke about her relationship with film stars and why she never looks down on indigenous languages or movies.

I don’t know no other place. I live part time abroad now and things like that but I grew up in Lagos. I live part-time in New York and probably the greatest cousin to New York is Lagos. Anytime I’m there, we’ve left Lagos stress and things like that but trust me in about three weeks, you are missing Lagos, you are missing potholes because the thing about Lagos is that it has so much flavour and all these things, yes, it can be better, of course, it can be better but there’s nothing like home. It’s just so colourful, I’m talking about the sights, talking about the sounds even our traffic has its own type of traffic, there are people that you will meet in Lagos, Lagos is also like the melting point of Nigeria, if I can say so, you can have someone from the North here, someone from the East here, and someone from South here. The funny thing is that when I meet people who say they are actually from Lagos, I’m like really because it’s so rare to see someone that says I’m actually from Lagos because everybody is here. It’s like Lagos belongs to everybody and no one. So, I think for me, in every project that I am doing, I always want to be as authentic as possible and even though I live abroad now, I will never know the abroad more than I know Lagos because it’s in my genes, it’s in my skin, it’s in the food that I eat, it’s in the food that I grow up eating, so much that even if you wake me up with a slap from sleep, and I have to answer about questions, let me answer about Lagos please. And when I am creating, I always want to be as authentic as possible, so if anyone watching has been to Lagos, he or she will be like I know what she’s talking about. If someone has not been to Lagos, I can visualize it, or I want to see what she’s talking about and that only happens if you are authentic, Lagos would always occupy a special place in my heart.

You spoke about authenticity, though the film has disclaimers…

Yes, very much so because it’s a fiction!

So, I know the disclaimer precedes the film but using the Randle name, aren’t you afraid of what could happen afterwards?

I was looking for a generic name when writing. Funny enough, I don’t know any Randle when I was writing. I was looking for a very Lagos, it could be the Johnsons. Definitely it wasn’t about JK Randle or any Randle, I think I wanted a name that is also Lagosian, so that was important for me. It was a pull out of heart for me. I am pretty sure there are Randles that are not member of that family. So, it has no affiliation with anybody namewise or otherwise or else, I won’t have put it in it.

You took some bold steps and daring decisions in the King Of Boys sequel series, and that’s because many shy away from scene like a shrine and a herbalist in such a big budget film. Why is that?

Again, be authentic. The guy that played the babalawo in the film has played it in several movies and it’s even scary shooting the scene. Like wait a moment, are there some incantation flying around and catching me? He’s very believable and like I said, it goes back to being very authentic. Is either something you know about or you have heard about or that people have indulged in, so why am I worried that people will think it’s a Yoruba film, I am not, I am trying to create. And then I am not part of the bandwagon of people who look down on Yoruba movies. My Yoruba has k-leg and struggling but there’s so much flavour and colour and if you notice, one of the things that was important to me was having local languages in KOB. There are some sentences, if you say it in English, it won’t come out well but if you say it in Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa, it sweets your belly in a different way.  So going back to that particular scene, these are things people have seen or indulge in, so it happens. If it happens, this particular character, what would he do at this particular time in the movie? And from the first one, you can already tell that he’s already deep into that situation and when you watch the movie, it’s open ended how it comes back and the way it finished and we are playing and flirting with the idea that he has something to do in that realm and why not put the envelope even more. All I wanted to do with KOB 2 is elevate whatever we have done with KOB 1, you’d see that it’s very haunting but looks very pretty to look at. So, I am saying I want to bring this element here, I want it as raw, I want it authentic because I want it cinematic and you can see that the art director really put his heart into it and it was amazing, and the costuming and then you have the two characters are just topping on the icing cake, it was just fantastic.

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You work with several established stars on your set, how do you cope on set or how do you manage them?

You know the weird thing about it, first of all, I never go for stars, I always go for actors that I feel drawn to playing a particular character and it just happens to be these people. I think where I am very lucky is that my amazing talents come to the set with a mutual respect for me and I treat them like talents, I treat them like people that are borrowing me their skills, I’m in awe of what they bring in front of the camera but I am also grateful that when they come in, the respect me enough as the director so that if I say jump, they would only ask how high do you want me to jump. I mean I have people who I used to watch as a child and I am geeking out and they come to me and say I have heard about you, I am nervous and I am like wow! They would go on to say I heard that you go hard until you get it done and you say nobody is leaving this set and they are like I see your work and I’m nervous to work with you and I am like you are nervous to work with me when I am the one who is nervous to work with you because when you have people who have many notches on their belt, you want to make sure you are living up to not just expectation because I mean, they have done this for many years and worked with so many directors and I want them to think I am a good director also. So, working with the stars, they actually came in with so much respect. Like aunty Sola, she calls me aunty on set and she would say what do you want me to do aunty and I will say stop it o aunty Sola. And when I am working, I call them by their character names so it’s not aunty this or uncle this but when we are drinking beers, that is totally different but on set, it’s Eniola or it’s this or that. But she’s all about the respect on set, she would ask me Kemi what do you want me to do, how many times do you want me to do it? And if she’s tired she would say Kemi, you want to kill me oo but let’s go because she’s trusting me that you are killing me while I am doing this but you are not going to make me do more than more than I need to do so I’m trusting that I’m giving you this talent so when I sit back to watch this on a big screen or cinema, sit back will see and say oh, this is why she made me do what she did to me, next time I want to work with her again because I trust that it will come out this good.

Why is there no Original Soundtrack (OST) for KOB despite having two big music stars on it?

So, the infrastructure is kind of different and you also have to understand that I am also learning while I am growing, music is not my forte. So in the first one, you would notice that we had one single which came out which was Original Gangster, which had Reminisce, Adekunle Gold and Sess. Now, with this one, I’m still learning how that side plays out so I don’t want to take too much of a cake that will give me indigestion at night. So with this one, I extended it a bit, so we have three or four songs coming out. So this time, we have a song with Illbliss, Zoro and a rapper from Los Angeles called Iso. We have another one with just Illbliss and we have something with Niyola, those are the artists and every other thing are like scores that we created for KOB that people would want to have. So, there is a body of work coming out, it’s not as elaborate as most people will think but it’s still a space that I am still learning how to play in, so I want to do it great, so I don’t want to overdo things.

Finally, what’s your thought process like when you are writing?

My thought process, everybody think I am crazy, I am probably a little bit crazy (laughs) somebody once asked me, were you damaged as a kid? I am a little crazy, I am very daring and I’m like a sponge. So for instance, if I sat down and hung out with you, and you are telling me about your experiences and everything, it’s registering. I am very curious about people and I ask a lot of questions from people, so when I am writing a character, it could be years down the line, then I would be like who is closest to this character and think down the line and go ooh, I will add it in. One of the scenes in the film where you see someone in a cell that looks like an apartment. So, I was in Vegas with some friends of mine two years ago and it was for someone’s birthday and everybody had come in and one of the people that came in for the birthday was a lawyer and he was gisting us about a client of his, who had to pay $100,000 a day for him to be in a cell with AC and I’m like are you kidding me and he said yes, for a $100,000. So, I had that moment where he just told me a room that had AC and I elaborated and I said imagine having a mini apartment with cell bars. It may not be far fetched that there are people that live here and that’s there reality. Yeah, I’m probably really weird and I embrace my weirdness and when it comes to creating because I am creating walls, and fantasies to hold people’s attention and that’s it.

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