Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Gbenga Ajiboye Plays Soyinka's Father, "Essay" in "Aké" Epic Film

Gbenga Ajiboye Plays Soyinka's Father "Essay" in "Aké" Epic Film 
How did Dapo Adeniyi pull off this awesome biopic on the first black Nobel Prize winner in Literature, Prof. Wole Soyinka?
It is the most successful historical epic so far in the history of the Nigerian film industry and I actually looked for anachronisms, but I could not see any.
The film adaptation of Soyinka’s memoir, Aké: The Years of Childhood is a masterpiece that is good enough for the biggest film platforms in the world, from the Cannes to Academy Awards.

Aké is set in the years just before World War II; the author himself was born in 1934. Apart from a narrative aesthetic and lucidity of prose which is rare in Soyinka's regular literary works, it combines a beautiful child-view narrative technique with direct echoes from the war as heard or imagined down in Aké, Abeokuta. 
My long time friend Gbenga Ajiboye played the challenging role of Prof. Wole Soyinka's father, the unforgettable Samuel Ayodele Soyinka, an Anglican minister and the headmaster of St. Peters School in Abẹokuta, whom he fondly called S.A. or "Essay". And he also made the focus of his Isara: A Voyage around "Essay", whcih the Chicago Tribune described as "One of the finest achievements of this author's varied and brilliant career".

Ajiboye said he was not meant to play the great role of "Essay", but he could not refuse it when the lot fell on him on location.
"I was on the set as an Art Director, but the part of Essay was not filled, so the Director decided I should leave behind the camera and complete the part. I was really surprised, but like a true artist I took up the challenge. I have to thank the established actors who made the job easy for me. The fact that it is a documentary film on an icon I feel elated being in the film. But playing the role of his father was a big challenge. At every point I kept seeing Prof on my mind telling me that is not my father! And some other time he congratulated me. To say the truth, it is my biggest role till date. When you are playing a great character that some people are familiar with, you have to give all it requires in order not to disappoint."

Gbenga Ajiboye with Akin Alabi.
 Gbenga Ajiboye with Yinka Davies.
 Gbenga Ajiboye with friends of "Essay".
 Gbenga Ajiboye as a hunter.
Madam Amelia (Taiwo Ajai-Lycett), receives the tax assessment paper from the old woman from Ago-Owu (Joke Muyiwa) in Aké. 
The historical accuracy of the locations, vehicles and costumes really deserves a standing ovation for the director who told Funsho Arogundade of the The News how he achieved the great feat.
"Those were the real challenges but we were able to get some. The Bolekoja, for example, we had to go as far as Imeko, Ogun State, before we could find a very good one. The truck ran faster than my jeep when we took it to Odeda (a location we used as Isara). We were also lucky to get a truck that brought the soldier into Ake in 1945. We got that one in Lagos and had to bring it down. We managed to get Alake of Egbaland’s Rolls Royce and that of Mrs. Kuti, reputed to be the first Nigerian woman to drive a car. We also needed to get some cars on the road to establish that 1940s period. We wanted to bring some from the United Kingdom but later discovered that most are not necessary. In terms of architecture, we initially wanted to use computer-generated imaging, CGI, but later found out that it was easier to use what we call ‘set extension’. If you look at the trend in movie today, there is what we call “Chromal Key”, a complementary system used for special effects in movies. Ake, where Soyinka grew, has all kinds of gangling rocks. We had to import those rocks to this location using chromal key. Also, the coal train that actually took Wole to Abeokuta from Lafenwa Train Station would actually be in England and that part of post-production we are doing in UK. We will take the relevant cast there, green-screen it and key Abeokuta into it. So,you will see Abeokuta but not know that it is UK".

This is a film every Nigerian with good eyes for movies and history should see and be proud of as one of the best films to come out of Nigeria.

~ By Ekenyerengozi Michael Chima, Publisher/Editor of Nigerians Report Online  
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