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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Nigerian born Sophie Okonedo thrills in South African movie, Skin

Sophie Okonedo, the Nigerian born international film star is currently making waves in South Africa with her latest feature length film, Skin.

Okonedo, 41, alongside the heart-wrenching movie, have been enjoying rave reviews from critics and pundits since the film hit South African cinemas over the weekend.

The biopic film vividly captures the traumatic and agonizing story of Sandra Laing, which was beautiful interpreted by Okonedo on various locations in South Africa.

According to Anthony Fabian, the director of Skin, Okonedo was chosen for the role ahead of other equally good stars because she truly fits into the character of Laing, with her colour and curly black hair.

“The Story of Sandra Laing is a true life incident that was so bizarre. The child of a white Afrikaner couple, Laing was born with a dark skin and curly hair, the result of a polygenic inheritance, or a throwback to distant black ancestry. Kicked out of her all white boarding school, she was reclassified coloured and then, after a widely publicised court battle, she was reclassified white again. While struggling to fit in with African society, Laing, the teenager eloped with a black man, thus leaving behind her white family and troubled identity.”

Laing eventually began what Fabian, painfully described as a “journey into colour.”

Speaking recently on Skin, in an interview with the Mail and Guardian newspapers of South Africa, Fabian, argued that what makes the story so powerful and unique was the bizarreness of the genetic element, adding that it highlights the irrationality of racism.

Surprisingly, Fabian first heard of the touching story in 2000, when Laing was being interviewed on BBC4.

Soon afterwards, Fabian met Laing and was deeply moved and concerned after hearing her story and interacting with her at close range.

Apart from Okonedo, whose father is a Nigerian and mother, a Jewish settler in London, the rest of the cast are South Africans. Even, the crew was mostly South Africans too.

Sensational Skin, which is Hollywood bound in the next couple of weeks, covers more than 30 years and, in telling Laing’s personal story, it also tells the greater story about apartheid.

With Okonedo, the Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominee on board, Skin has consistently received positive reviews within and outside South Africa and might even open the floodgates for more international awards for the sassy star, including the elusive Oscar.

Aside Skin, Okonedo, a single mother of one, had also starred in several other globally acclaimed hit films like: Hotel Rwanda, The Jackal, Dirty Pretty Things, Sweet Revenge, Tsunami and a host of others.
Nigerian outfit, Godfather, rules South Africa’s showbiz scene

Godfather Productions, which is owned by Nigerian born Mike Uchenna Ogoke, is unarguably the best and biggest entertainment company owned by a single individual, in the whole of Johannesburg, South Africa.

In a chat with us at Woodmead, Sandton, Johannesburg, Ogoke, who has lived in
South Africa for 14 years and is happily married to a pretty South African woman, for over a decade now, said he single handedly took entertainment to the next level in Mandela’s country.

As a reputable and well-sought-after entertainment guru, Ogoke has directed over 160 music videos for both Nigerian and South African leading musicians.

Although, his first music video for a Nigerian artiste living in South Africa, was in 2005, when he masterfully directed the work of Stella Igwe. However, his big break came a few years later when he directed the monster hit music video, “Do Me”, for P-Square, ever since, he has not looked back.

His intimidating credit list include: Faze, Tuface, D’banj, X-Project, Styl Plus, Bigiano, Nigga Raw, Weird Mc, Sasha, Inyanya and Tony Tetuila.
Other popular acts on his hit list are: KC Presh, Azadus, MI, Naeto C, J-Martins, John Ogar and a host of others.

Ogoke, equally directed the costliest video in the annals of South African music for HHP, the country’s leading Hip-Hop singer. The work gulped a whopping 100,000 Dollars.

Ogoke, who is highly respected in South Africa, also consults and works for Channel O, MTV and other blue chip companies over there.

Currently the in-house music video director for P-Square, aside “Do Me”, he equally directed other hit numbers like: Danger, Ifunanya, Roll It, No One Like You and several other of their videos. Ogoke and his crew equally did the lovely videos of D’banj’s, Booty Call, Wanna Be Close to You and Fall in Love.

As a thorough-bred-professional, Ogoke, whose work does not come cheap, shoots on both digital and celluloid formats, depending on the one an artiste can afford.

He came to Nigerian for the very first time last year with his full crew, to lense ten music videos at a stretch, for X-project, on the invitation of Sam Kargbo, the group’s label owner. He’s also setting up a multi million Naira music/movie studio in Nigeria; and hopes to declare it open in the next couple of months.

Ogoke, who likes investing heavily in hi-tech equipment, as a parting shot, disclosed to us that several Nigerian acts still owe his outfit, over 100,000 Dollars, for the quality jobs, he did for them. He however, refused to mention the names of the debtors.

Mr. Ibu, the most popular Nollywood film in South Africa

Our dear Nollywood has no doubt become a global phenomenon. Despite the several criticisms and bashings from some armchair critics, Nollywood keeps breaking new grounds outside our shores.

While in South Africa, all the places Showbiz Bits visited, movie buffs kept asking questions about Nollywood. The bulk of these movie buffs, were constantly demanding for the copies of Mr. Ibu, a comic Nollywood film starring John Okafor and some other popular names.

They happily squealed that the hilarious movie makes them laugh a lot, after which they tend to forget their sorrows and troubled moments. Whoa!

In fact, a South African couple painfully narrated to us, how some hoodlums broke into their home and carted away the Mr. Ibu DVD, they bought the very month it was released. “Ever since, it’s been difficult getting another original copy of the exhilarating flick," they said.

Moreover, the trio of John Okafor aka Mr. Ibu, alongside Osita Iheme and Chinedu Ikedieze, better known as Aki and Pawpaw, are unarguably the most popular and well-loved Nollywood stars in South Africa.

During our brief visit, several of their fans and admirers, mostly females, kept asking about them. One even confessed that she would not mind sharing a bed with the famous trio and possibly having babies for them separately. Can you beat that?

Adaora thrills on SABC

One of the most cheering news we unearthed while in South Africa, was that a yet-to-be-released Nollywood epic, Adaora, was the first Nigerian movie to be aired on SABC; the apex broadcast station in Zuma’s country.

Adaora, starring big names like: Stephanie Okereke, Zack Orji, Rachael Oniga alongside some popular South African stars was shot over there, by Godfather productions in 2002.

Upon completion, SABC immediately bought the movie’s right for three-years and serialised it on air for 36 months, to the admiration of movie loving South Africans.

The movie also won several awards in South Africa, while on air and equally enjoyed rave reviews from major print and electronic media over there.

Commenting on why such a successful movie is yet to be released in Nigeria, Ogoke, who produced and directed it for Godfather productions, disclosed that plans are on to release it in Nigeria this 2010.

The movie was also aired in some neighboring Southern African countries, thus further helping to spread the message of Nollywood around African and the rest of the world.

A world premiere is expected to help usher in the release of the movie in Nigeria soon.

P-Square, Tuface, D’banj, Naeto C reign supreme

Aside being in love with the Nigerian movie scene, which is globally known as Nollywood, the entertainment loving people of South Africa are also in love with our music and music stars.

In Johannesburg, the locals do not joke with the songs of P-Square, Tuface, D’banj and Naeto C. In fact, for most of them, P-Square’s “Do Me” is a daily anthem, while Danger, the duo’s latest release, is fast catching up with the locals and wannabes.

Even their radio and TV stations are not left out in this love and frenzy for Nigerian music.

And we gathered that each time these stars come to South African to shoot their videos, a large number of the indigenes usually troop out to catch a glimpse of them while on set.

And as a proof that they are daily becoming too famous in South Africa, the labels managing these acts have equally set up corporate offices over there. Storm Records, Mo’Hits and North Side records, now have offices in Johannesburg.

Interestingly, Godfather productions, is the one helping these labels to network and monitor activities in South Africa.

The recent opening of Storm’s office over there was hugely attended by both Nigerian and their South African counterparts.

So, when next you visit this beautiful country, which is ready to host the FIFA World Cup between June and July, 2010, and see any of their indigenes singing some popular Naija hit numbers, do not be dazed.
They are fast catching the bug and buzz of Naija entertainment scene
Yours sincerely, was recently in Johannesburg, South Africa, to get first hand information on the booming Nigerian entertainment industry, especially the music sector. Enjoy the exclusive and juicy reports of the three-day visit.