- Posted by Team Superwoman
- On March 15, 2016
Stephanie Okereke Linus won the award for the best overall movie at #AMVCA2016 and this award comes with a brand new vehicle as you can see above. In a recent interview with The Nation she talks about her award, movie, fight against VVF, motherhood etc. Big ups to Stephanie we hope to have our own one on one interview with her soon but for now, here’s her section with The Nation.
FOUR movie, Dry, took quite a long time to release. Why did that happen and was it worth the wait?
Well, I think it’s worth the wait. But it’s not like we took years to shoot. We were done with the final productions – we had shooting, post-production. It’s not like it’s intentional. It just happened that it took this long to make.
Dry won Best Overall Movie at the AMVCAs, yet it did not win the Best Movie (West Africa). Does that strike you as odd?
Well, I don’t think I’m the one that is supposed to be answering that question. I think you should direct it to the organisers of the event.
Making movies in the country is quite expensive, given the standard Nollywood now apes. Were you able to access Project ACT Nollywood fund for your movie?
Yes, because they came in later, almost when I was in post-production. They were also part of the people that funded this.
So, apart from Project ACT Nollywood, were there other funders?
Of course, definitely, for the kind of movie that it is. I had MDGs Nigeria, Aberystwyth University Wales, Diamond Bank, Ford Foundation, Project ACT Nollywood, USAID Acquired Fistula Project, Snepco, Arik Air, Mikano, Masters Energy, Foundation for Ethnic Integration.
Everybody had their own identification because of the project. It’s more like a movement because we actually raised money to also help repair some of the women who are going through challenges arising from premature child birth. So, there are so many aspects of the film. This is more like a five-year to six-year project. This is not a flash in the pan. As far as we keep having the issue of the girl-child, this film will always be relevant. Even recently, the ministry of health is looking at how to use it to create greater awareness with this particular movie around the country.
Advocacy is good but with recent cases of girls being abducted and abused in different parts of the country, are you optimistic that things will get better?
I am optimistic because, as I said, this movie is more like an eye-opener, we are forcing people to have conversation they do not want to have.
We need to start talking about problems and seek ways in which we need to address them. And I’m happy that every day I turn on the TV, I see the issue of the girl-child being discussed. People are taking it more seriously.
Most agencies are also thinking of the right things to do because we have laws that are not being enforced. I was happy that last year, the bill against violence against persons was passed into law. I actually lent my voice and I spoke at the National Assembly telling them we needed to pass this bill.
I’m also aware that your NGO, Extended Hands Foundation, also treated some girls suffering from VVF. In doing all these and championing the cause of girls and women, what is the motivation?
To me, I feel this is more like a calling because this burden has been on me since my second year (university) when I first heard of Fistula. And coming from my background that I was able to go to school, have an education, I feel strange that so many people do not have that kind of choice. And I think that nobody really should be denied their right to do that.
So it became a burden to me and, as a filmmaker, I felt that I have the tool to mirror the things that are happening in my society and see how I can proffer solutions for such people to have a dialogue or conversation or look deeper and search for different meanings to the whole existence of why we’re all here on earth. We cannot be relying on ‘this is the culture, this is that thing we used to do’. You check, ‘what are the medical implications? You want to marry this girl off, yes, I’m not fighting with whatever reasons you have but we’re saying, ‘you’re marrying them, at the end of day, when they have this disease, you discard them as trash. You don’t do anything to protect them.’ And they become a nuisance to society. They don’t live a fulfilled life. ‘So, is that what you call love?’ I don’t think so. So, I felt that it is worrisome in this twenty-first century that we’re still having archaic cultures of things that are not moving us forward as a people.
Those are the kind of conversations that we need to have and see if we can change them. And that is my motivation.
Would you say the film was a success at the cinemas?
Yes, it was. And right now, we’re trying to bring it back. Dry got international distribution in the US. It’s also gotten distribution in different places. And money was not the motivation. The main thing is for us to gather enough money to make a high standard film that can stand anywhere in the world, that anybody watching this film can relate to.
The intention was to make sure that peoples’ lives were changed because with my trailer alone, we were also able to raise more money to treat the actual women and open the eyes of people to what Fistula is. The maternal issues we have in Nigeria, women die every year because they do not have access to good medical care. I don’t think women should die giving life.
It seems you’re set to pursue advocacy. What project are you working on next?
(Laughs) Everybody has been asking me that. I have not finished. I still have my African tour to do with Dry because it’s not only a Nigerian issue, it’s a world issue.
You were second-runner up, Most Beautiful Girl Nigeria 2002. And after that, you really blossomed in Nollywood. Would you say participating in that pageant jumpstarted your acting career?
I got my first acting gig at the age of 16 and a half. That was when I got out of secondary school. That’s when I had my two major roles in the industry and I got into the university. You know, really, because I did a couple of acting jobs before I went for the Most Beautiful Girl but it was just a new experience for me, something I wanted to try out.
And see how you can be confident enough to wear your bikini and walk in front of people. It was a good platform, maybe added to the fact that ‘she’s a beauty queen.’ Everything adds to everything. It was a wonderful experience for me at the time.
In recent times, you’ve not been very visible as an actor. Are you gradually saying bye-bye to acting?
No, that is what I’m saying. In Dry, I acted.
I’m talking of other people’s productions. Dry was your own baby
Of course, I’m open to other productions. Earlier, was it last month, someone sent me a script? It’s just that if the timing is good, I’d do it. And if the project is worth it, I’d do it. Acting is still my first love.
Your initiative, the Del-York Academy, has been a bit silent? What is the challenge?
No, there’s no challenge. My husband is working on that. It’s just that we’re restructuring and there are also some other things that we needed to do. And also, we’re expanding into other African countries. That’s what we’re doing now.
There’s also the challenge of expatriates taking production jobs in Nollywood all because movies want to be made to international standard. Even in Dry, some of your crew were foreigners. Is it that Nigerians lack the needed expertise when it comes to production?
It’s not that we lack. That’s where Del-York, our film academy, comes in because we’ve been able to train a lot of people, thousands of students, and they’ve gone out to do wonderful work. I think it’s more like people need to get themselves re-trained. There are lots and lots of opportunities and these are gaps we are trying to bridge. So, it’s a combination. When I did Dry, I used a combination because, also, filmmaking is more like you learning from one another.
I mean right now, Nigeria is doing co-production with other countries so that there is also transfer of knowledge and technology that you can also use locally. I only brought like three or four foreigners but our local people learnt a lot because we were like ‘on-time.’ Other peoples’ work ethics is also something you want to apply when you’re doing your film locally.
We’ve done fantastic work but there’s still need for us to train ourselves more, especially with new technology, new techniques, new things coming up, we need to just be more versatile with that.
Motherhood is a very significant stage for women. What’s your experience like?
That is the most beautiful experience ever. Sometimes, you have this out-of-body experience that when you look at the child, you tell yourself, ‘Is this my child? Did he actually come out of me?’ (Laughs).
You have moments like that and it just shows you that our life is spiritual and God is just amazing. There are certain things you just don’t understand and when you have a child and you see his eyes, it’s like you’re living your life all over again. It’s a very wonderful feeling, I’m telling you. It’s something you can’t even describe. It’s something that you need to experience. When you look at the innocence of the child and the need for you to protect your baby and make sure that everything is done right for him or her. It’s just an amazing feeling and I’m really grateful to God that he gave me the ability, that He made me experience it.
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