The 80th birthday anniversary of the literary giant and first Africa’s Nobel Prize winner, Prof.Wole Soyinka is four months away. He was born on July 13, 1934. But the celebration appears to have begun with the release of sneak preview of Ake, an account of the childhood life of Soyinka, which is being adapted into a film with the same title.
The previews are included as proportional foretastes so that the flavour of the whole film can be appreciated in advance.
Filming had been concentrated on the HM’s home and household. Soyinka’s father was the Headmaster of the Christian Mission School in Ake, Abeokuta at the period of the writer’s childhood, sometime between 1934 (when he was born) and 1945 when he was admitted into high school and the story wound to a close. Later, Mr. S. A. Soyinka became a schools’ supervisor in the entire Egba and Ijebu districts.
For production convenience, continuous work has been concentrated on the household in which Soyinka grew up, as narrated in the autobiography. The parents (‘Wild Christian’, the mother and ‘Essay’, the father) are at the heart of daily bustles of activities: the domestic life, the relationship with the school, which share the same expansive compound with the home.
In the scenes featured in the preview, Wole gets into many troubles. First because he is fond of and is eventually caught stealing hand-scoops of lactogen baby milk belonging to his younger sister, Folashade. The ‘Wild Christian’, who is increasingly concerned about Wole’s deliberate seclusion from the rest of the family and his indulgence in private “study” sets forth the plan to bring Wole “back into the household” by depriving him of the privilege of hanging out alone in his father’s bedroom.
“The family life about which Soyinka writes will be very familiar to a whole lot of us”, DapoAdeniyi who is heading the production says.
“The pathway to the adult Soyinka is also very visible,” he declared.
Ake in production has weathered many challenges, principally because of the costs of actualizing the movie.
First of all, as Adeniyi commented, “we are not about to bring out yet another hotch-potch of a screen work and so the production values have to be high. But now that people can begin to see aspects of the work, it is about time we let them judge.
“Moreover, we are bringing innovations that are not very usual in contemporary Nigerian movie productions. SFX and CGIs (computer generated images).Because of the periodicity of the production, we delve into set extension and special effects in order to bring some gravitas into the work.
“Wole travels to Ibadan to write the entrance examination into Government College, from Lafenwa Station, Abeokuta on a train. The coal train is no longer in existence. Actually, their remnants are in a “graveyard” within the compound of the Nigerian Railway Corporation in Lagos. So what do we do? We rebuild the train using CGI. This has gulped a lot of time, beginning with test shootings, story-boarding and so on. All of those represent a very expensive route to making a film. Even so, many tall promises of support for the production at the outset have brought less than desired. Only a few made good their promise and they run far short of what was budgeted. The production company has had to raise facilities to the limit of its abilities. Because the work is still in progress, we have not given up optimism that more support is on the way.”
Asked to mention those who have so far supported the project, the producer says, it is much better to wait until the film is fully released when the permission of the supporters would have been obtained.
A major film equipment leasing company has generously supported the production with most of the production hardware. The Nigerian Railway Corporation headquarters also gave permission to use all of its facilities from Lagos down to Jebba. And there are a handful of others who gave their support to the project.
“The truth of the matter is that Ake is big and too important. It must get the best treatment no matter what. We have had to shoot and reshoot. Some scenes are still going to be reshot. Some due to audio problems. The environs in which the majority of the film is being shot seems quiet but there can be eruptive noise especially from the praying muezzin and motorbikes hooting their horns. Of course they bear very heavily on the production.
“The parsonage compound is a mixture of disparate environments located in Abeokuta, Ibadan and Lagos merged as one in film space. One of the delightsome aspects of the production is the children cast. We were braced up for challenges here because we thought there could be problems of lack of adequate readiness but it turned out to be one of the strongest areas of the production. Some of the children were so familiar with their lines that they sometimes prompted some adults! Production camp times were very happy hours and they can’t wait to resume work. Except for one minor case, I can’t recall anyone falling ill.
“There are three Woles with the gradation of time. Ake is as exciting as it is challenging to make into a film,” Adeniyi informed.
Work on the film is far from over. Many actors and actresses are waiting to get on the set. Some are also participating in an early edition of the Behind the Scenes, which incorporates interviews and is also set to be released soon. They include famous names like Madam TaiwoLycett, Yinka Davies, Hafiz Oyetoro, Production consultant, TunjiBamishigbin and DOP LukmanRahman.
The sneak previews can be viewed directly on the project website www.soyinkasakefilm.com and on the project channel on youtubeSoyinkasAke Sneak Preview.