Sunday, March 1, 2009

Interview: African Magic has done great harm to Nollywood—Clarion Chukwurah

By Carol Arhere
Clarion Chukwurah is one of the known faces in the Nigerian movie industry, Clarion as popularly called has been in the industry for about three decades now. In this interview, the Anambra State born talented actress shares her views about the industry, the reason why the industry is still where it is at the moment, and what can be done to salvage the situation. Apart from acting, Clarion also runs a Charity organization (Clarion Chukwurah’s Initiative), which she also talks about. Excerpt:

CAN you give us brief introduction about your self?

My name is Clarion Chukwurah, a professional actress and by God’s grace, October this year, I will be thirty years in the industry. I started acting when I was very young say, between the ages of fourteen and fifteen. I was an armature actress but twenty eight years after, I became a semi- professional actress and five years into it, I became a professional actress. I’m a graduate of Dramatic Arts from the University of Ife. I have travelling theatre experience also, professional theatre workshop experience and other professional experiences. I began my acting from the stage, I went to television and from television, I went into cinematic films and from cinematic films, I went back to television and from there to home video.

How did you get into acting?

Well, I began acting by hanging around the theatre at the University of Ibadan. It was there I was spotted by Prof. Bode Showande, who was then a doctor and senior lecturer at the university's department of theatre. I began acting with Odun teams and from the Odun teams I moved to the University of Ibadan performing company, a semi professional theatre company. So from there I went to the University of Ife to study theatre arts. While I was at the university, I did my first film. After my graduation I got into my first soap opera a television production, Mirror in the Sun and from then on, it has been one break after the other.

Can you recall the particular movie or soap opera that brought you into limelight?

Clarion ChukwuraThe first break was Ola Balogun’s film, Money Power, it was shot and released when I was still an undergraduate of dramatic arts at then the University of Ife now the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife. My second break was Mirror in the Sun, the first and the biggest soap opera series which made me a house-hold name.

How has it been?

It’s been a growing industry... the first ten years of my career was really high, but after ten years it has been a gradual downward process especially in the last five years due to the fact that un-professionalism has taken hold of the movie industry. Unprofessionalism in all spheres of the industry and secondly, African Magic has done a great harm to the industry. For instance, there is no where in the world where institutions like DSTV, M-net, Africa Magic take over intellectual properties like they do with Nollywood movies. The one thousand dollars they pay was to show the movie once, and not over and over, if they are to show that movie again, they are supposed to pay another one thousand dollars which is the lease showing agreement.

So what is the way forward?

The only hope the industry has right now is that the director-general of the Nigerian Films and Video Censors Board should liaise with Nigerian Broadcasting Commission and bring the demise of Nollywoood to a halt via African Magic. Secondly, they have to sit down and look at the contract under which African Magic is procuring Nigerian movies. The contract has to move from buying to leasing and the one thousand dollars they are paying has to be for one single showing. Nollywood as it is, would not last ten years with African Magic. Nollywood is dead, what is on the rise at the moment is the Nigerian Yoruba movie industry which sales are on the rise because African Magic doesn’t show their movies like they do with English movies.

So to salvage the situation, the censors board has to align with NBC to put a check on African Magic. Also, the dramatic content on television has to increase, while sponsorship on dramatic content on television has to increase because the Nollywoood we have today was borne from the dramatic content on television from the mid 1980s to early 90s. Now that Nollywoood is down, it needs a rebirth and that rebirth can come from television again. New television programmes like new soap opera, new television drama, series should be welcomed. Our television has to wake up again through the helps of banks, the oil companies and other corporate bodies.

Let’s digress a little. How do you fit into different roles with different character?

I’m a method actress, I have a method and my method is borne from interpretational psychology. I mean, in characterization, I give that character a background and life. I look at the character beyond the script because what you are today, is the accumulation of your past and your present. So, it’s a psychological thing, I build my character on my human psychology

High moment?

I have had number of high moments. I started having high moments right from the beginning from my first big play, Farewell to Babylon in 1979 and my next big moment was when I went on national theatre stage in 1980 and also in 1982 when I went on the national theatre stage again to act in Wole Soyinka, Camwood on the Leaves. There were also high moments for me when I took parts in Ola Balogun’s Money Power, The King must dance Naked and Mirror in the Sun.

Dull moment?

A lot too, when things are not working the way I want them. Also my dull moment comes when I’m working with people who don’t understand the concept of professionalism, the concept of story treatment which honestly has contributed to the fall of Nollywood.

How would you describe your kind of person in one word?

I will say I’m a peculiar person, unpredictable and full of drive to win.

If you have the opportunity to change anything about you, what will that be?

Not being a Nigerian, I will not choose to be a Nigerian because Nigerians celebrate mediocrity. They don’t believe in what they can offer but what they can borrow.

Apart from acting, what else do you do?

I have a company that I run, acting is my profession, that makes me whom I am. I also have a charity organization, Clarion Chukurah Initiative. The Clarion Chukwurah initiative has one single objective: to use Clarion Chukwurah celebrity status and good will to raise support for the less privileged in society. I have members in Nigeria, I have members in the United Kingdom and United States of America.

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