Prepare to be “Taken to the Edge”! Award Winning Movie Director, Obi Emelonye Shares Exclusive Details on his Latest Flick “Last Flight to Abuja” Set to Land in Lagos Cinemas

Obi Emelonye is one movie director that has his mind set on raising the bar in movie production in Nigeria and is succeeding at it. He is a movie director, producer and writer with movies like Echoes of War, London Successor, Mirror Boy and recently released Last Flight to Abuja to his credit. His movie, Mirror Boy won a total of 27 awards including Screen Nation Awards and is officially the most awarded Nigerian film. Last Flight to Abuja which was recently premiered in London, is already receiving good reviews and has been rated four star by Odeon Cinemas, UK.
As the days draw close to the Lagos premiere of Last Flight to Abuja, he speaks with Adeola Adeyemo in this exclusive interview about the movie and other interesting aspects of his life.

Five days to the London premiere of your latest movie Last Flight to Abuja, a major tragedy similar to what was portrayed in the movie befell Nigeria. How did you pull through with the event despite the situation?
It was a difficult one. The first reaction was to cancel the premiere out of respect to the people that lost their lives. Coincidentally, I was returning to London from Nigeria that day. I called my people and told them the premiere was off, but they said no. So we met, we consulted the Nigerian High Commission, we spoke to stakeholders, stars of the film, some of the victims’ families and their opinion was that this film was meant to highlight some of the problems that caused the lives of these people. If they were alive, they would have wanted the premiere to go ahead. So grudgingly, and with the greatest amount of respect, we decided to go ahead with the premiere.

Can you describe the general feel of the atmosphere at the London premiere?
It was a beautiful event but we had to tone it down. We removed all the razzmattaz and all the shakara that we were supposed to do before. Our brochure was in black and white out of respect, we listed the names of all the people on the people on the Dana flight on the brochure, we removed the end credit of the film and substituted it with the names on the manifest again, we observed a one-minute silence. In the end, it became a very somber event that celebrated Nollywood’s attempt at a more technical film and also the lives of the people that were needlessly wasted in those crashes.

Shooting a movie on an airplane with all the technicalities involved is something that is not common in Nollywood. Tell us about the challenges you faced while shooting?
The only thing I would say is that for a Nollywood film, it cost a lot of money. But for Hollywood which is where we are trying to compete with, it is peanuts. But to give you an in indication of what we spent, we shot on the plane for 14 days, we cleared 70-80 people everyday for 14 days to come air side. We are not talking about passing through security and staying in the waiting area, but next to the plane. What it cost me in diplomacy and in naira to get a working plane that would taxi was very expensive. To assemble the kind of cast from Hollywood and the best of Nollywood cost money. The camera that we used cost N650,000 to rent per day. There is only one of it in Nigeria owned by Koga Studios. Put all of that together, it begins to give you an idea of what we tried to do.

Where was the movie shot?
We shot predominantly in Lagos. We captured the vibrancy, the traffic, the colours of Lagos. When you watch the film, with the soundtrack of Wazobia and Cool Fm, you get the feel of being in a very buzzy, busy city.

Why then did you decide to have the world premiere of the movie in London?
I live in London and I feel that Nigeria is already conquered, Nollywood is already known in Nigeria. What we are trying to do is to make it more international. The more international acclaim and momentum we have, the better it will work in Africa.

You had an interesting combination of Nollywood and Hollywood stars in the movie. What informed your choice of actors and how did you put this cast together?
Because of the film we were trying to do and in line with the boldness and ambition of the film, I felt we had to push the boundaries a little bit and go for an ensemble star cast. So we went for Hakeem Kae Kazim who is representing us in Hollywood. When I sent him the script, he was in love with it. Then the beautiful queen of Nollywood, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde has been on the top of her game for a long time. I was part of Jim Iyke’s development around 2000 so it was a reunion working with him. There is also Ali Nuhu which is the best thing to come out of Kannywood film industry. Jide Kosoko is known mainly for Yoruba films but he’s a very experienced actor who brought some level of maturity and panache to the role of the business executive that he played. Uru Eke and Anthony Monjaro are very strong upcoming actors in Nollywood. And I also introduced Celine Loader, the Special Adviser to the Central Bank of Nigeria who played the pilot.

The movie had a sponsorship endorsement from Diamond Bank which is one of the few times we’ve seen large financial institutions endorsing Nollywood movies. Tell me about this deal.
I am not going to mention the amount they gave me but what I value most in this partnership with them is their endorsement. The accreditation that comes from a huge corporate giant in Nigeria saying we are proudly supporting your project. I take a lot of pride in what they’ve done.

There’s some rumour going round that you intend to cast Hollywood Star actress, Halle Berry in your next movie, Safari. How true it that?
It was a mistake mentioning names and that has almost jeopardized our relationship with the agents we had been discussing with. The aim is to make a Nigerian film with a Nigerian soul but with a contribution from a Hollywood A-lister who would give us the kind of international appeal we need. So we are talking to a few A-listers from Hollywood, one of them is the one that you’ve mentioned. It would happen and Safari would be shot and open doors for us internationally.

I read somewhere that your last movie, Mirror Boy made over N18million from screening in Nigerian Cinemas. What is your anticipation from Last Flight to Abuja?
I don’t measure the success of my film in naira and kobo. It is not everything that is valuable that is measurable. I’m taking a long term strategic view of my career and making films that connect with people, that sticks in their mind and eventually the money will catch up.

What are the challenges you face as a movie director in Nigeria?
When we were relying solely on DVD, it was the inadequacy of the distribution channels and the lack of trust and confidence among practitioners of the distribution network. The advent of cinemas in Nigeria presented new opportunities. I owe some credit to some of those guys that have pushed the boundaries to where we have our films showing in the cinemas.

Tell me more about you. What is your educational background and how did you come about being a movie director?
I studied Theater Arts at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. I played football as a student but when I graduated, I played for Rangers and Julius Berger. Then I went to London to play football but when that wasn’t working as fast as I wanted it to, I fell back on my degree. I picked up stage productions but I discovered that it was a lot of hard work. Then I studied law, I practiced as a solicitor up till 2007. By this time, I was making films alongside. I continued to have two parallel careers but at some point, on my 40th birthday, I made the decision to do what I love and enjoy what I do so I decided to jettison the wig and gown and at that point, I decided to concentrate on film making.

Did you have any formal training in movie directing?
When I was practicing law, I took courses in editing, in screen directing, and post production. They are not formal degrees.

Your movies are bound to have mixed reactions from viewers, some would love it and some would criticize it. How you handle critics?
I bear in mind that I cannot please everybody so I accept the criticism when they are constructive. I take it on board and move on to the next project.

A very vital part of why I was interested in meeting you is that I read somewhere that you donated a kidney to your younger brother who needed a kidney transplant. Tell me about that. How did you come about donating a kidney to your brother?
My younger brother was diagnosed with a kidney condition in 2008 and we felt it would go away but it didn’t. Things came to a crunch in 2010 when he went on dialysis and we had to act. Myself and my five brothers were ready to be donors. We all had tests and the matches were close but it came down to who had the time and independence to go and spend time in India for it happen. Then it came down to me.

When you decided to donate your kidney to your brother, did you face any form of resistance from your friends and family (wife and children)?
From the point I realized that he needed help, I told my wife that I was going to do it. Naturally, every woman would say why you? You are risking yourself and risking us for somebody else. But I said it could have been me. What if it was me and my brother’s wife stopped him from helping me, how would you feel? My children were then too young to appreciate what I was going on. At the time, my eldest son was just 7.
Many friends of mine told me that I was crazy, that my life belonged to my wife and my children and not my brother and I told them they were only saying that because the shoe was on the other foot.

Obi Emelonye & Wife + Kids

How is your brother now? Has the donation affected your health in any way?
I donated my left kidney to my brother and he is better now. I have one kidney but it has made me lighter, I can fly now. I can still jog, I still play football. I got so much blessings from my mother who was moved to tears. She told me that my life had been in progression for what I did. I never smoke, never drank, and she told me I was preparing my life all these years for this sacrifice that would keep my brother alive.

What is the best lesson you’ve drawn from this experience?
That life is a gift. Live today as if it’s your last. One minute it’s there, and the next it might not be there. And also, do not hold material things too close to your heart. Share your heart, share your life. My brother is healthy today. His wife has her husband, his children have their father all because of one simple deed that only cost me two and a half months in India and made me lighter.

Your movie would have its Lagos premiere in a few days and Nigeria would have a chance to see the movie. What should people be expecting when they come to watch the movie at the cinemas?
Lagosians would see the vibrant, colourful, edgy, dynamic Lagos on the big screen. For everyone in Nigeria, they would see a bold Nollywood attempt at a technical subject matter. A well researched, well acted, well scripted, well presented and wonderfully packaged film that looks at the aviation industry like we’ve never seen before. The ins and outs, behind the scenes of what happens on the plane, it’s an eye opener. It’s not a sadistic film because it’s related to a disaster but you’d come out of the cinema feeling elated. You’d feel like you’ve been taken to the edge but haven’t been pushed off the edge.

Last Flight to Abuja would premiere in Lagos at the Genesis Deluxe Cinema on Friday, 3rd August 2012.

Watch the Trailer

48 Comments on Prepare to be “Taken to the Edge”! Award Winning Movie Director, Obi Emelonye Shares Exclusive Details on his Latest Flick “Last Flight to Abuja” Set to Land in Lagos Cinemas
  • QueenofEverything August 1, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    loving that shot of Omotola :)

  • Janded August 1, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    Cool. Lovely family

  • TopeTohBaddd August 1, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    Nice interview, he gives smart answers.
    BUt chill oh, N650k camera per day!!!! That’s dedication. Now i understand why these nollywood directors shoot on their camera phones

  • annie August 1, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    mehn are dose his kids hohoohohhoho they are sooo cute wow the girl kai.I like the way he blended the actors Ali nuhu frm kannywood,jide kosoko frm yollywood, haekim kaezim and also my omotola :).This is one film maker i know doesnt put tribalism in his work but cares abt the acting powess,i seriously love d cast.That was how his last mirror boy was genevieve and osita(paw paw) who woulda thought that?

  • Denrele August 1, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Cute children indeed, love dis family

  • Bimbo August 1, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    Ah, Obi, may God bless you richly, U mean you donated a kidney for another man?

  • deji samuel August 1, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    awwww what an interview, thats simply awesome i must say. as for his lovely kids, they are just awesome bundle of joy

  • florence August 1, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    hmmmmmmmmm, cant wait to see dis.

  • kolawole ashiru August 1, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    this movie is a must watch, everybody seem to be talking about it

  • rasak shittu Adebola August 1, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    LAST FLIGHT TO ABUJA HAS PUT LAGOSIANS ON A LOCKDOWN, IM INDEED HAPPY FOR THE PRODUCER, CANT WAIT TO SEE THIS

  • Anon August 1, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    I cantwait to see this movie at the cinemas

  • BAnjo August 1, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    This is the height of professionalism, see intelligence, he knows what he is doing

  • Remi August 1, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    This movie will go places, i like d galaxy of stars in it

  • Vicky via Samsung N33 August 1, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    Pls when is it coming to the cinemas

  • GAYbriel August 1, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    This shows sign of commitment

  • IK August 1, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    This Omotola na fine woman sha, she still stand well well after four

  • Fistulated August 1, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    Yes, i am ready to be taken to the edge, cant wait for this movie

  • seun oluseye August 1, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    nice interview Obi, as for ur kids, they are so so so lovely

  • patrick imouda August 1, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    lovely kidsssss, my kids must look exactly like them

  • toyosi fadebo August 1, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    dont u just love beautiful kids when you see them?

  • segun anota samuel August 1, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    this movie gets mention daily on my timeline, it must be a good one o, Mr Obi

  • Princess of Zion August 1, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    Wow, what a great man! His wife and children are absolutely gorgeous and he’s doing well in the industry. All the best!

  • Chattyzee August 1, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    Lovely family. He sounds intelligent and I’m sure I’m gonna love this movie.
    http://dprodigalchild.wordpress.com/

  • clairebaby August 1, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    I must see this movie oo! Omotola is getting more and more beautiful by the day! I see some hotties too eg the pilot in the last picture. And Obi Emelonye sounds like a darling! Donating one of his kidneys to his brother! The highest form of love.

  • abimbola Dare August 1, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    Mr Obi Emelonye is a humble, hardworking and amazing man. Welldone to you sir for this great movie, may God continue to lift you up!

  • Naveah August 1, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    Excellent interview and a selfless person…what a combination. I love it!

  • Lolan August 1, 2012 at 11:49 pm

    If this movie is so good, why didn’t Nigerians in the UK go and watch it. Support Nollywood

  • Christine August 2, 2012 at 1:16 am

    really?? i’m sorry but it’s going to take a lot more than this to garner “international” appeal. i know i sound like a hater right now but when is nigeria going to step it up. entertainment is one of those areas where we can really make a difference but i’m tired of these terrible actors, i’m tired of the lame effects. seriously! nigeria stop looking for quick money, invest in great equipment and acting and make a top notch movie.

  • @ajiriavae August 2, 2012 at 2:09 am

    This is going to be the first Nigerian film that I will go to the cinema and pay to watch. You can count on my N1000. Coming to a cinema near you………
    http://ajiristyle.blogspot.com/

  • naijababe August 2, 2012 at 2:18 am

    I respect this man. I admire his professionalism and dedication, about time we start putting out quality not quantity.. His wife is beautiful and children are very, very, cute.

  • dayo August 2, 2012 at 2:58 am

    its great that nollywood has got on the plane and not the bus. But its sad that Obi Emelonye is concerned about breaking into hollywood instead of making nollywood better…Africans Americans have been trying to get their fair share of hollywood since the advent of the movie camera…so what makes nollywood think that they, and they alone, have a chance…? It is a sad day in nollywood history-no doubt!!!

  • holy nelson August 2, 2012 at 7:18 am

    Mr obi I realy thank God on your behalf.you have acted a worthy of emulation, you have demonstrated a type of love that God require from us and you brought reforms to it, what a great gem you are.Sir keep it up.

  • christy August 2, 2012 at 7:50 am

    It a huge joke if he/they, are tinking of breaking into hollywood.I haven’t watch the movie(of which I have no intention either)it won’t be any much diff from all the previous movies.I wish dem sucex,as it generate income,and employment to our teaming populace,but aside that,I seriously can’t tink otherwise.I was once a freak,but sinc start watching hollywood movies,the glaring diff is clear,I wish I could support my own,but it make *yawn*..super lovely family he got anyway,I could feel luv all over the family

  • Usaveone August 2, 2012 at 8:42 am

    Nice one…must watch!

    Check: http://usaveone.blogspot.com

  • Izzi August 2, 2012 at 9:15 am

    All me i saw are his fine kids and beautiful wife, God bless you for donating your kidney to your brother.

  • Oma August 2, 2012 at 10:17 am

    I believe with movies like this we will progressively make a better Nollywood.
    http://lifethroughomaseyes.blogspot.com

  • Kem August 2, 2012 at 10:31 am

    am gonna see this movie cos of the producer! the guy is great and 2things i learnt is from his interview “LIFE IS A GIFT” & “It could have been me”

  • Kem August 2, 2012 at 10:33 am

    Pls where can i get the ticket for the premiere????? any idea?

  • Bobby August 2, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Cant wait for this movie to be in da cinema. Nice trailer.

  • Adedoyin August 2, 2012 at 11:25 am

    So moved by his interview….Donating your kidney for your brother? dts a huge one and awww how i love the part where he said ” do not hold material things too close to your heart. Share your heart, share your life”.

  • Enigma August 2, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    I hope this movie will be better. I saw Mirror Boy and it was hogwash! Actors were fine but the script itself had scenes lacking. This is where I think Nollywood is still lagging far behind. A good movie comes from a good script. People remember lines from films long after the movies were made. As for breaking into Hollywood, if it will improve Nollywood, I’d say go for it with everything you’ve got. I hate to say it, when you call a movie a ‘flick’, it doesn’t exactly inspire me to go watch it.

  • Lulu August 2, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    Beautiful family…the kids are so cute indeed!!!

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