Tunde Kelani is not your average Nollywood director. A film industry veteran with sixteen features to his name, Kelani’s work is informed by the richness of Nigeria’s traditions, literature and theatre, as well as his background as a photographer and BBC TV correspondent. Mainframe Movies, his film company, produces high-quality movies which are educational and culturally relevant to Nigerian society and address issues ranging from mental illness to political intrigues. Ever conscious of where he is coming from, Kelani supports other up-and-coming filmmakers works to make his work available to all Nigerians regardless of their socioeconomic status.
Although his profession is filmmaking, in an interview with the blog Africa is a Country Kelani reveals that “[celebrating] writers and their work” and exposing books “to what he sees as a public that reads less and less” is central to each of his works. His adaptation of Femi Osofisan’s novella Maami (which was once serialised in The Guardian under the penname ‘Okinba Launko’) played to much acclaim on the international film festival circuit, and he has also made films based on works by actor and playwright Hubert Ogunde (Yoruba E Ronu) and, most recently, Yinka Egbokhare, a lecturer in the Department of Communication and Language Arts at the University of Ibadan.
Titled Dazzling Mirage, Kelani’s latest film follows the life of a young girl diagnosed with sickle cell disease struggling to “have a normal life with career, love, and family.” On his choice of subject material, Kelani said
“The Nigerian government does not treat sickle cell as a priority because it is not a communicable disease. “If that is the case then I knew that we are all ignorant and that we needed more information and awareness about sickle cell disorder…[w]e turned the film itself into some kind of a movement. We have a slogan that says let’s be sickle smart. It means to know your genotype, to go for genetic counseling, to help us all make informed choices.”
WATCH: Kelani talk about the story behind Dazzling Mirage
Kelani is currently seeking funds to help complete the film – donations can be made here.
Read the rest of Kelani’s interview over on Africa is a Country to learn more about his life, inspirations, and how he thinks digital technologies will shape African filmmaking in the coming years. Be sure to check out his YouTube channel Opomulero Films for creative short films and behind-the-scenes clips.
Image sources: Shadow and Act