ABUJA, Nigeria: In September of 2007, Mr. Victor Amadi, an Abuja-based media consultant released a press briefing about plans to make a movie based on the book From the Belly of the Gods (see kwenu.com). Authored by Dr. Ugorji Okechukwu Ugorji and published by the Princeton, New Jersey-based Sungai Books in 1993, the story is a work of mythology that presents an African myth of creation, with the modern Santa Clause (or Father Christmas) legend as a character and hook. The ugorji_headshotscreenplay for the film has just been completed by Ugorji and Tai Emeka Obasi, with a contemporary US immigrant plot added to the original story.

ABUJA, Nigeria: Tall Drums is pleased to announce that the seminal work in mythology,
from the Belly of the Gods, has been authorized by the author and publisher, to be made into a movie. Written by the new Jersey-based Dr. Ugorji O. Ugorji and published by Sungai Corp. and Sungai Nigeria Limited in 1993, the book will be transformed into an epic movie that has been designed to produce the first major collaboration between operatives in Hollywood, USA, and the Nigerian movie industry popularly referred to as Nollywood. One of Nigeria’s most versatile film and television producers, Bakare Adeoye of Bakky Adeoye Films and Liz Agbugba of Centrepoint Advertising Ltd, has reached tentative agreements with the author and publisher of the book to produce this epic movie for release in 2008.

According to the blurb about the book found on Talldrums.com, From the Belly of the Gods “brings harmony to the hitherto dichotomous notions of creation and evolution.” Using the European legend of Santa Claus or Saint Nick as a hook, the author weaves a story of an African origin of man and the evolution of at least two of the races – Africans (blacks) and Europeans (whites). Rather than the biblical account of seven days of creation, the book posits four days of creation, centered on a calendar of four market days.

Mr. Adeoye says, “This is a phenomenal seminal work about the mystery of creation from an African perspective that is well written and very convincing even in book form. It gives us an opportunity to produce a classic epic story in celluloid that would match up with any work produced anywhere else in the world.” The feature film will be shot on different locations in Nigeria for 21 days, featuring some of the best male and female actors in Nigeria at the height of their careers, and over 1,000 extras. The locations are Mbaise in Imo state, Arochukwu–Ohafia in Abia State, Isiukwuato–Okigwe {a site where water flows out from the rock}, Enugu water falls {Eyi and Achi), Maiduguri {Sahara Desert and Lake Chad), Mambila Plateau, Lagos, and Abuja. There is also discussion about shooting a scene in the US involving a well known professor who will make a cameo appearance.

And the producers are setting their eyes pretty high. Mrs. Agbugba was ecstatic in revealing that they want American movie director, writer, and actor Spike Lee to direct the film, in what would be the first collaboration between Spike Lee’s 40 Acres and a Mule company and the movie industry in Nigeria. “We have great directors in Nigeria who will also work on the film, but given the history-making project we have in mind, we believe it would be a great Spike Lee joint” Agbugba said. She said the Nigerian directors would include Andy Amenechi and Niji Akanni.

In wishing the producers well in this quest, the distinguished Professor of African history, Professor Toyin Falola praised the consciousness behind a creative collaboration across African ethnic lines and across the Atlantic Ocean. The Frances Higginbothom Nalle Centennial Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin added that “Dr. Ugorji is set to fuse Nollywood with Hollywood, creating a notable icon of cultural Diaspora of everlasting value.” Reacting to the news, US-based literary and arts critic Mr. Oseloka Obaze says the project is ambitious. “Maybe too ambitious, but it is gratifying as well as exciting to see our people looking to move to the nest stage in movie making.”

Professor Molefi Kete Asante, the father and author of Afrocentricity, who is an intellectual influence on the author says “From the Belly of the Gods is a very entertaining story that celebrates the way Africans have approached mystery. I think a movie version could be brilliantly conceived and executed by Nollywood.” The Temple University Professor who set up the first doctorate degree awarding program in African American Studies in the world went on to add that “gaining the participation of Spike Lee would give it a lot of expertise and genius.”

Meanwhile, Obiageli Adiasor, an Administrative Assistant to the publisher of Sungai Nigeria Limited, says that the company has ordered a reprint of 5,000 copies of the book for the Nigerian market in anticipation of the interest the film would generate. “We expect delivery by the end of October, following which a national campaign would be sustained until the movie is out in 2008,” she said from the Abuja office of Sungai. The company has established a niche as the publisher of note for audacious works, such as the best selling Philip Efiong’s Nigeria and Biafra: My story, Sam Amadi’s Nnamani’s Third Way, the late General Joe Garba’s Fractured history: Elite shifts and policy changes in Nigeria, Molefi Asante’s Scream of blood: Desetlerlism in Southern Africa, Olusegun Fayemi’s Balancing acts, Theophile Obenga’s African philosophy in world history, Umar Ardo’s Murrtala Muhammed, George Alily’s Naval Diplomacy: A critical component of national power, Chike Momah’s Titi: Biafran maid in Geneva, Ugorji’s Tall Drums: Portraits of Nigerians who are changing America, and so many other titles.
talldrum_ladyThe Nigerian Movie Industry
The Nigerian total film market potential relative to the size of the economy is in excess of N522 billion. Even as the potential in the country does not translate to any manifest economic index primarily because of lack of support from a good number of corporate institutions and big private investors. The Nigeria movie industry has also generated over $300 million in international sales between 1992 and 2006. There is an estimated audience of over 50 million, and we all know how popular Nigerian movies are among Nigerians in Diaspora and Africans of other nationalities as well. Nigeria is presently the third largest film making country in the world after the United States (Hollywood) and India (Bollywood).

It is therefore against this back drop that feature film and home video have become the most effective medium of entertainment, information dissemination and didactic learning in colleges and higher institutions in Nigeria and abroad. The film on From the Belly of the Gods promises to break new grounds in production and casting, as well as in distribution and patronage of movie audiences in Nigeria and abroad. It shall be entered for film festivals around the world; it will grace college and university libraries in Nigeria and the U.S.A. where the novel is currently being used as a prescribed text in African literary studies.