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“It Reminds Me Of A Mimicry” | ‘Brigerian’ Actress Tayo Elesin Talks About disliking ‘Nollywood’, Playing the role of a young Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala & More

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Miss Tayo Elesin  (18)

A few days ago, British-Nigerian Star of “Law and Order UK” Tayo Elesin gave an exclusive interview to the Vanguard newspaper.

Back in April, 2013, BN caught up with star and got a lot of juicy details about her career and her heritage {click here}But now, in interview conducted by Benjamin Njoku, she spoke about how she disliked the term, ‘Nollywood’; how she plans to play the role of younger Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala whenever a biographical film is done about her and much more.

Click HERE to read the complete interview and check out excerpts below.

On why she doesn’t like the term, “Nollywood”
I don’t like the word, Nollywood. I really don’t like it. There are several reasons. One of which is, when I think of the word, Nollywood, quite frankly, it reminds me of a mimicry, if you will, of Hollywood. Now, Hollywood is the home of the American film industry. It’s actually a location in Los Angeles. I have found nowhere in Lagos or in Nigeria called Nollywood. Except if you are telling me it’s located in the Mushin or Ikorodu area of Lagos. But I’m yet to see such a place in Nigeria.

That’s why I don’t agree with the word, Nollywood. Incidentally, the word, Nollywood was not actually created by a Nigerian, but by a newspaper publication back in the States which started to identify Nigerian films as Nollywood. But when you read through that article, it wasn’t used respectfully like Nollywood. Rather, it was used to describe the film industry in Nigeria in a mocking way.

But Nigerians took it up and turned it the other way. But for me, Nigeria is a big country with a flourishing film industry. It doesn’t need to mimic the word, Hollywood. Also, there are films from countries like Finland nobody calls such films Fin-wood, or British-wood referring to films from Britain. It’s called British films. What I want to see is a Nigerian film to be called a Nigerian film. There is no need for the mimicry at all. We don’t need it.

On acting as a young Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
What really angered me about the Nigerian film industry is that Nigeria as a country is rich with stories. Why has nobody done a biographical movie about Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, for instance? Why is it that other people are taking our stories and telling them in the western world anyhow they deemed it fit? I don’t understand.

Why are our film makers not taking advantage of this global appreciation of our work of art? I’m a bit worried because a lot of our film makers have not explored this opportunity to make great movies about their country.

Miss Tayo Elesin  (45)What attracts me about Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is her level of education, her poise and what she has actually achieved as a woman in the financial world. It is not easy for a woman anywhere in the world to occupy such a powerful position let alone, in an African country. It’s even ten times harder and the fact that she has maintained it and has also retained it even up till today is absolutely admirable. I think, if you look into her life, one will be surprised to come up with an interesting story about her upbringing.

Recall that Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala attended Harvard University at a time, I’m sure it was not easy for a black person to be there. If Hollywood film makers could do a film about Abraham Lincoln and are also talking about doing a biographical film about Obama, why can’t Nigerian film makers do a biographical film about Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who is a major female figure in the African financial industry? I’m sure if I conduct an interview with her right now, there will be a story about her life that has not been unravelled. This is because I suspect she wouldn’t have gotten to where she is today overnight.

Her assessment of films from Nigeria
I think Nigerian movies are getting better and better every day. This is an industry that is about 20 years old and it has recorded remarkable progress in the time frame. I think, with more training for actors, producers, directors and structure put in place, the industry has the ability to make more progress in future. For instance, we need agents and managers who will deal with contracts so that artistes don’t have to be bogged down by these things.

A producer and a director should not be having a meeting with me about my fees. They should be talking to my agent and manager. Over here, they talk to artistes directly. That’s not how it’s meant to happen. An actor is a creative person. What I want to deal with is the story and not discussing my fees. That’s left for my agent to handle. Also, there is need for structural things like casting directors.

The casting directors are people who cast the right actors to the right roles. For example, if they are looking for a 50-year old Igbo man, a casting director will go all out in the search for an Igbo man within the age bracket of 50 and 60 years and bring them in for audition and choose the right one from the lot. But, it’s not so. A director should be a director, a producer should be a producer while a casting director should be a casting director.

Photo Credit: BellaNaija

67 Comments

  1. Toyin O

    June 24, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    She makes so much sense!!!

  2. superwoman

    June 24, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    i also don’t like the term ‘bigerian’

    • Grayce

      June 24, 2013 at 4:09 pm

      abi oh..KMT..make she go sleep inside microwave

    • wonderwoman

      June 24, 2013 at 4:35 pm

      lol me neither

    • Naveah

      June 24, 2013 at 6:12 pm

      I don’t think she referred to herself as that na Bellanaija creation.

    • Omo1

      June 25, 2013 at 10:02 am

      From the interview, she referred to herself as brigerian!

  3. Bobby Taylor

    June 24, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    she is making a 100 percent sense in what she just said.

  4. ebby

    June 24, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    abeg go and rest. wat are you feeling like *in a typical nollywood voice*

  5. comment awaiting moderation!

    June 24, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    *Yawn* what is Nigeria film? Make she go sitdown,and look for a role to play…we like how it is called…NOLLYWOOD!

  6. avuekwe

    June 24, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    I still prefer ‘ Nollywood’ to Ghollywood sha

  7. Truth Teller

    June 24, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    I agree with her on the ‘Nollywood’ name. Never liked it, never will. We can come up with our own, let’s try being original.We don’t seem to know how blessed we are.

  8. lorenz

    June 24, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    She seems like a very cynical person to me. She’s definitely a fault finder. Wish her the best though.

    • mrs. p

      June 24, 2013 at 10:11 pm

      GBAM…she definitely didn’t come across very charismatic in this interview or the referenced BellaNaija one

    • Omo1

      June 25, 2013 at 10:04 am

      I see that in her too..

  9. Myne Whitman

    June 24, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    Sticks and stones only hurt you when you allow them to. As a practioner, she should know there are some American films that aren’t termed Hollywood. So it is possible that all manner of stories can thrive in the Nigeria film scene, Nollywood or not. I like the angle about diversifying, and telling more “real” empowering stories. That’s why I like Last Flight to Abuja.

  10. Truth be told

    June 24, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    Imagine if the industry is as structured as she has spoken about, more jobs for people. She made so much sense!

  11. chinco

    June 24, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    @tayo, I know lots of Nigerians who got their degrees(undergrad/postgrad) from havard, should they do biographical films about them too? Although I totally get your point(before one of your fans crucifies me). Also I think its mostly because biographies don’t sell in the *NG* market and many Nigerians don’t like her since the fuel crisis saga.

  12. ms sexy

    June 24, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    i still relate more wt Nolly wood than Bigerian
    if other people write ur story in a negative way, u have the right to rewrite it positively
    and thats what birth Nollywood
    Nigerian films? and what is that??

  13. emem

    June 24, 2013 at 6:10 pm

    lol, na wa for una sha. Nigerians do not like criticism wether its constructive or otherwise. I really didnt see anything wrong with what she said. She made a lot of sense and was not trying to bring down Nigeria in any way

  14. Okwy Rose

    June 24, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    There is no place in America called Hollywood either. She needs her facts straight. Hollywood is a term for all things entertainment in America not an actual place.

    • Sandra

      June 24, 2013 at 6:42 pm

      You are the one that needs to get it straight. Hollywood is in Central Los Angeles. It’s not too far from the Lakers Staples stadium.

    • lola

      June 24, 2013 at 7:14 pm

      yup. Hollywood is an area inLos Angeles. is there an area called Nollywood in Nigeria.

    • Omo1

      June 25, 2013 at 10:09 am

      Is there anywhere called Bollywood in India or ghollywood(or whatever it is called) in Ghana? let it rest jare! by the way, what is “brigerian”? #rolling eyes!

    • Pizzle

      June 25, 2013 at 9:15 am

      lol…seriously???

    • stacie

      June 26, 2013 at 7:58 pm

      lol… Okwitos eh u haff fall my hand.

  15. Chyke

    June 24, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    D lady makes a lot of sense. Great movies like Lincoln, Life of Pi, Les Miserables, Jaws, Ali, Django Unchained, Titanic, etc are biopics, adaptations from novels and past events. The Iron Lady is even a Magaret Thatcher biopic. Nollywood is trying in showcasing Naija to the World but they are not representing our culture well. There are so many novels and past events (like d Biafra War, Aba Riot, Purple hibiscus, The joys of motherhood, etc) that needs to be adapted to a screenplay, biopics (like Jaja of Opobo, story of Gowon, Life of Ojukwu, Wole Soyinka n Late Chinua Achebe’s stories) dat needs to be made but nollywood is too lazy to make great films instead someone’s food is been poisoned in every movie they make. I understand d funding is not there but it doesn’t necessarily mean that d adaptations should be big blockbusters but just something watchable with good actors n less screaming. Upcoming hollywood movies like August: Osage County, Grace of Monaco n Diana are all biopics. Nollywood should wake up. 3rd largest in d World doesn’t mean 3rd best. South Africa, Senegal, Egypt, Angola n even Congo are d0ing way better. I love nollywood but they need to sit up. Sorry for my long post. BN pls post dis.

    • ojie king

      June 24, 2013 at 8:21 pm

      I concur.

    • Kikelomo

      June 25, 2013 at 9:46 am

      I double concur

    • rebellious child

      June 24, 2013 at 9:05 pm

      i actually wrote scripts on the first military coupe, from the point of the view of nzeogwu, i also used news paper clippings and did a script on it, which i called soldierman, and i sent it to nollywood directors, and no one replied me, i mean its sitting there collecting dust, till i save enough money to produce and hire a willing director. I minored in creative writing in college, and i love writing scripts, especially those of historic nature and always loved how unique the nigerian story is. I mean I am yet to see a good depiction of the civil war made by nigerians, no stories about trials and moments that has changed nigerian history as mko election, AMINA( the warrior princess), abacha reign, 1st, second coupe, and so on. Personally i think it would be great to see lynxx ( he has that physical and commanding stature of an educated soldier like him) play ojukwu in my opinion and nzeogwu played by alex ekubo ,…wale ojo as wole soyinka,… I challenge nigerian directors and producers to start producing historical films and not fantasy and everyday stories. Yes those sell, but they are not of great quality. Anyways i started taking classes at ny film school, slowly, and surely i will be done by next year, then i will be the one to reckon with. It is sad that our film industry also contributes the constant amnesia when it comes to our past, especially the negative ones. Even biopics on our musical legends, like fela, sir oliver de coupe, sunny ade and so man more. It seems like we like to ignore those important aspects of what makes our nigeria, the place it is today. Goodluck Nollywood. My dear tayo i will keep you in mind , just give me one more year…

    • Ada Nnewi

      June 25, 2013 at 8:19 am

      OMG! i just imagined all you wrote in your scripts and my head is spinning from how good such movies would be instead of the mediocrity that’s being shovelled out of the industry presently where all movies just recycle the same overused plots.

    • Ada Nnewi

      June 25, 2013 at 8:25 am

      OMG! I just imagined all you wrote in your scripts and my head is spinning from how good such movies would be, instead of the mediocrity that’s being presently shovelled out of the industry, where all movies just recycle the same overused plots.

    • Bleed blue

      June 25, 2013 at 10:31 am

      Awwww…you sound like a creative soul! I pray your handiwork gets to fruition. Can’t wait to see your scripts come to life. Now THAT will be a Nollywood I’d gladly identify with.
      All the best! 🙂

    • tomeloma

      June 25, 2013 at 1:31 pm

      I’d love to watch your movie when it’s produced…Goodluck

    • Naveah

      June 25, 2013 at 6:48 pm

      More Grease To Your Elbow, RC! I pray you can get it done and to the highest quality you envision. It is time for the industry to be challenged by fertile creative minds such as yours but as long as the crap the push on the audience sells; it will be an up hill battle!

    • Winny

      June 25, 2013 at 11:12 pm

      A piece of advice you have some money saved up to pay back the loan cos with such stories u mentioned you cannot make ur money back do ur market research before investing ur money cos Nigerians will not watch it. Trust me you might think they will until it hits the movie theatres and the numbers are low cos they would rather watch a crappy American movie than a Historical Nigerian biopic nollywood movie.

    • SheriBerri

      June 25, 2013 at 11:45 pm

      Can i have your email please?

    • eloho

      June 26, 2013 at 12:18 pm

      can i have your email please?

    • xoxo

      June 27, 2013 at 1:15 am

      @rebellious child, kindly email me. let’s talk. [email protected]

  16. nene

    June 24, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    they seriously need to change the name “Nollywood”.

  17. Chyke

    June 24, 2013 at 7:05 pm

    @nene no need of changing the name ‘nollywood’. To me the name isn’t bad. They should just start coming up with great concepts and stop d terrible actings, wack storylines n poor production quality they throw @our faces all d time. Indian movie industry is termed ‘bollywood’ and they are doing well. Why can’t same be said about nollywood?

  18. ao

    June 24, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    Since everyone is in the mood to change names, let’s start with the name “Nigeria” since it was a white person that came up with the name. For now, I’m fine with the name “Nollywood” until someone comes up with something better.

  19. X-factor

    June 24, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    good stuff

  20. hawaii

    June 24, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    @okwy rse u need t get ur facts right too! There is a place in america called hollwood! Imfact u will see the sign post high on a hill ok! As for Ngozi okonjo iweala, I don’t see how or why we should do any biogrphy about her,she hs not made any positive impact on the life of any nigeria youth! She hs not contributed to or helped any nigerian, so pls don’t compare her with obama and the rest

  21. Lola

    June 24, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    In as much as we shld come up with another name more ‘original’..is she wearing an african dress in any of her pictures or english man dress?*hiss*

  22. ojie king

    June 24, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    I concur with her totally. Nollywood or the Nigerian film industry has a lot of potential with the kinds of stories that we can tell. All we need is ‘quality’. There is a serious need for attention to be paid to quality over quantity.

  23. kaybaby

    June 24, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    @CHINCO, it must not be Okonji’s story, there are a lot of prominent Nigerians who should be appreciated. You can write a story about the first lady pilot Chinyere Onyenucheya( smiles, from my place Akwete in Abia State) i guess nobody knows her. What about Dr. Josephine Okei-Odumakin? I guess that’s what she is talking about and not just Okonji.

  24. Teni

    June 24, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    Fela is a Broadway but wasn’t written by a Nigerian. Biopics can be big business but who wants one about Ngozi, though? Maybe a story about independence could be interesting. Or that coup Orkar orchestrated.

  25. Chyke

    June 24, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    @hawaii I totally agree with you. Biopics needs to be made but not about Mrs Iweala who has not contributed in anyway to better d lives of struggling Nigerians. Someone pointed out d first lady pilot which is a good idea but for me, I think people dat deserves d biopics more are Jaja of Opobo, Ojukwu, Gowon, Christy Essien Igbokwe, Nnamdi Azikiwe and even Jay Jay Okocha and Kanu Nwankwo (cos seeing how they lead d super eagles over a decade ago will be cool). Dagrin has a biopic but it’s poorly done so there’s a big need for a remake. I will rather set a biopic on Goldie than Ngozi Okonjo Iweala who sees just herself.

  26. Oce

    June 24, 2013 at 11:48 pm

    What she said about the origin of the name “Nollywood” is true, and how the Nigerian film industry adopted it, the same can be said about the term “Nigga” which the black race also adopted, and began using conventionally, after mockery by the white men.

    …then there’s also Bollywood…

  27. Ngum

    June 24, 2013 at 11:52 pm

    Couldn’t agree more with her. this ‘wood’ business is coming up with some mad spin-offs. Sierra Leone’s is ‘Sollywood!’ Cameroonian filmmakers still can’t make up their mind whether it should be Camwood or Collywood 🙁

  28. Ayodele

    June 25, 2013 at 12:19 am

    finally someone is airing a view I’ve always nursed. Why Nollywood and not Nigerian films. The idea of Nollywood (Naija), Bollywood (India), Gollywood (Ghana) etc is a show of inferiority and colonial mentality.

  29. Titi

    June 25, 2013 at 6:41 am

    Is it some photoshop mishap that h given her freakishly long arms?!!!!

  30. Sami

    June 25, 2013 at 8:34 am

    This lady make sense well. Some actors after 3 movies become producers and directors even before perfecting their craft. @ Okwy Rose Hollywood is a place there’s Hollywood blvd in LA, Hollywood walk of fame is on Hollywood Blvd, pls get ur facts rite before u attack.

  31. [email protected]

    June 25, 2013 at 8:56 am

    So who’s the country person at Bellanaija that came up with that crap “Brigerian” ? Pls respect your education except you don’t have one.Only ghetto people form slang’s like that, yuck!

  32. Priscy

    June 25, 2013 at 8:58 am

    We have serious problems facing this country…corruption, boko haram, killings of innocent students, armed robbery etc….The name of our movie industry is definitely d least of it all.

  33. Amy

    June 25, 2013 at 9:12 am

    She sounds so unrelateable. So full of herself. She must b feeling like a world star cos she appeared in law and order. Abegi.

  34. Berry Dakara

    June 25, 2013 at 9:50 am

    I enjoyed reading this interview. I don’t know who she is (I’m not into Law and Order), but she comes across as a serious-minded person. From the article title, I thought her interview would be blasting the Nollywood industry, but far from it. Okay, she doesn’t appreciate the term (I kinda like it), but it looks like she wants better for our film industry. I totally agree with her, that instead of the usual (love, adultery, witchcraft) kind of films, Nollywood should steer in the direction of biographical content. I would like to see home-made movies dealing with Nigerian history, and public figures.

    Good read.

    berrydakara.blogspot.com

  35. marvel

    June 25, 2013 at 10:14 am

    @ Chyke, Ikonjo Iweala doesn’t see just herself. You clearly need to educate yourself on the mistakes Nigeria and other African countries got themselves into by obtaining IMF loans. Under her tenure with OBJ, Nigeria paid off debts. Jonathan came and the debts have quadrupled. I thin k your issue is political and not so much an Iweala one.

  36. Tobi

    June 25, 2013 at 10:15 am

    She has spoken! What gripped me the most was: “A producer and a director should not be having a meeting with me about my fees. They should be talking to my agent and manager. Over here, they talk to artistes directly. That’s not how it’s meant to happen. An actor is a creative person. What I want to deal with is the story and not discussing my fees. That’s left for my agent to handle.”

    …This huge gap may seem quite trivial, but in the long term, it makes its so easy for film makers, producers and even gallery owners to take advantage of Nigerian artists across all fields. The artist does not usually have the negotiating skills or business savvy that an agent or manager has and they need to be able to do that which they know how to do best, without worrying about things that make no sense to them. No one-sided industry is able to fully thrive…

  37. Omo1

    June 25, 2013 at 10:24 am

    And “brigerian” is not mimicry? See this mbgeke girl!

  38. NOTserious

    June 25, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    @ Omo1 wait oo.. is she mgbeke because she didn’t patch up her face with different shades of powder or because she is not wearing Brazillian,indian,peruvian or even fulani wig? just asking oooo

  39. Naveah

    June 25, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    @Omo1 – i can stand corrected. I didn’t click to the entire interview, I read what appears to be an excerpt here on BN and didn’t see where she referred to herself as Brigerian hence my response to Superwoman. Cool thanks for pointing it out.

    • Omo1

      June 25, 2013 at 3:59 pm

      My dear Naveah. Read her first interview. There is a link at the top right corner at the header and you will see where she referred to herself as a brigerian..so its self acclaimed. I read that first interview..so before you conclude, go read the whole interview and you will be corrected. Thanks

  40. dami

    June 25, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    I love the name Nollywood sha…but they need an upgrade in movie quality. However, talking about agent ish. Is it in Nigeria that loads of people aren’t truthful? When they negotiate different thing and give the actor a different one.

  41. Life is a tree

    June 26, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Hmm must it bemovies about the popular ones. Someone pls should make a movie about my mum too naa..*grins*

  42. Nollywood REinvented

    July 8, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    Oh wow, isn’t your argument overly original “there is no place in Nigeria called Nollywood” well there’s no place in India called Bollywood either biko.
    Next!!!

  43. Jude

    March 14, 2018 at 9:11 pm

    Nigeria did not do any mimicry because american movie industry is not called ameriwood or usawood niether is bollywood called indiwood.

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