When Nollywood is mentioned anywhere in the world, there are a few names that come to mind. These people are creators, who make a huge contribution to the multi-billion dollar industry. They are movers and shakers of the entertainment industry. Chioma Ude is one of them.
A first look at Chioma will make you think “this is an ex-beauty queen.” The internet is flooded with pictures of her lively and smiling but don’t be carried away by the looks, she works behind the scene to ensure that movies made from the continent receive the global attention they deserve.
So, Ibiene out of curiosity chats with Chioma Ude. The conversation reveals more than the camera captures.
Ibiene: You’re acknowledged as one of the most influential women in the entertainment scene in Nigeria. How did you get here?
Chioma: I got here out of consistency, a lot of hard work and passion. I started off with having a logistics company that aided the creative industry to a certain level. In the course of the journey, I worked with “MR works”and project managed “Iron Film Festival” that had traveled all the way from California to Nigeria and that birthed my festival.
But beyond just running a festival, the human touch really matters, be it helping people in different categories to help them attain their dreams. For me, that counts most and what gets you to wherever you are is how you impact on other people’s lives.
Ibiene: From marketing in school to Healthcare for 10 years and now conquering the creative industry, did you always know you would be in this industry?
Chioma: I would say yes and no!
As a child, I was mesmerized by Hollywood by the TV station.
As a young adult, I dreamt huge dreams and my dreams were not particularly focused. I remember my uncle asking me what I wanted to become in life and I would click my fingers together. I just wanted to go far. It was a silent answer and I didn’t say anything. So, I just click my fingers.
I loved music and I loved film.
Getting to America, all I did was watch Nollywood films because I was so mesmerised by it too.
And in doing that, I wanted to be part of it. Not from the on-screen side but from the business and from the aspect of improving and just wanting to be part of growth.
So yes! I’ve always sub-consciously wanted to be in this industry.
But in life, everybody has a journey. A journey destined by God, shaped by God. So, He took me through every step. For everything I’ve done, there is the human touch, be it marketing, there is always human side hence it’s being called humanities field of study. How good you are as a marketer is connected to how can you relate to and with people.
So, for me it was not just a subconsciously, It was also there consciously. I didn’t choose it.
Ibiene: As a cinema enthusiast with a favourite pastime of watching movies, what goes through your mind when watching Hollywood vs Nollywood creative works?
Chioma: In Nigeria, I believe everything starts from and with the writers.
We write very differently. We should improve on our writing. We’re very linear in our writing so this story is mostly one-sided. In America, as you keep watching a movie, you delve into ten different lives that take you back to one.
In Nigeria, if you watch a movie that is starring one life, you’re lucky, you delve into two or three other plots.
So, it becomes very predictable but this is an industry that grew organically, all by itself.
We are just getting to the point where we are getting structured. We have formal schools coming up.
So, in a short time I believe when I’ll be watching my Hollywood versus Nollywood creative works, the gaps will get closer and they will all be just as enjoyable.
Ibiene: Last year’s festival focused on women in the industry. Why women?
Chioma: The festival focus last year was on women in the industry and there are many reasons for that.
I believe women (laughs) are so much more organised than men.
I believe the female voice should be heard more. People say it is a female-dominated industry. No it isn’t at all. So, there are certain women that are prominent. That doesn’t take the cap for the rest of the different facets of the industry. We need more women.
Women are generally more creative. We were born that way. We have kids. We put the house together and we work. So, we know we have to come up with more creative ways of living our lives. We know we have to be more creative. But it’s time that women get heard. It’s time women get seen as an equals. I’m all for that.
There are different ways to seeing women as equal but for me the most important is for women to get heard and we are doing a fantastic job of it already.
Ibiene: Can you name at least three made in Africa movies that are your favourite?
Chioma: Three? (laughs). There are so many but I’ll tell you the movies that really move me.
(Thinks) Ummmm. This is hard for me. One was by Kunle Afolayan and the other by Izu Ojukwu.
Izu’s movie touched me more. Maybe, because there was an aspect to it that that mesmerized me a bit more. The movie “76” did very well for me. I loved it.
Kunle’s “Mokalik.” I like movies that have an in-depth story. I love comedies trust me but I believe in telling the real African stories.
The third would be “Living in Bondage part 2.” That is an amazing story. I really enjoyed it. I loved it so much I watched it twice. That’s a biggie for me.
I have a fourth movie “King Of Boys!”
Ibiene: How would you say the attitude of Nigerians is towards home (Nigerian) made movies?
Chioma: Nigerians love Nigeria!
People love Nigerian movies. But people want more from it. So we’ve gone past the stage where we go “oh they tried”. People expect so much better. The storylines have progressively deviated from what original Nollywood movies were. They are getting more modern.
You can’t do a story like Hollywood. So, the more we stick to our stories, the more Nigerians are loving it and eating it all up. You remember all of the movies I previously mentioned, people love them because it’s who we are, and it’s what we do.
There was a movie done by Mildred Okwo. It generally depicts how people go for a meeting in Abuja (Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory), a one day meeting, and end up staying for seven days.
So you see people latch unto those movies and enjoy it.
“Bling Lagosians” is a good movie. I like it. It’s fresh and it’s comedy too.
Ibiene: What is has experience been like working with creatives from other cultures?
Chioma: Nigerians are more commercial. Although we still have some that are not commercial in their film making. But I find more creatives from other cultures to be more in-depth or more not-so commercial.
What does that say?
That means we like or create movies where we see commercial gains instantly while the others create movies from the heart. So, those movies from the later when they do work, they hit the jackpot, yet, most times it’s not commercial.
But it’s okay. Everybody is going to meet everybody in the middle at some point I think.
Ibiene: What would you say is the future for movies made in Africa?
Chioma: Everything Africa is now!
It’s not even about the future. It’s now! The interest in Africa is huge. Are we ready or prepared already to take advantage of that?
That should be the question?????
Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to discuss my passion and vision for African film as we work towards taking it to greater heights.
Do you have any comments or questions for Chioma? Please share with us in the comment section