ma'ami // tunde kelani


veteran director tunde kelani (above, with a sexy red camera) is shooting a new film, ma'ami, about a young football star, kashimawo dare, who returns to nigeria from the u.s. on the eve of the world cup and leads the super eagles to a (fictitious) victory. set in abeokuta and lagos, written in english and yoruba, the film mines the memories of kashy's childhood growing up with an absent father and fierce, determined single mother.

i visited set today to see mr. kelani--or tk, as most call him--at work, and got drafted as an extra in a couple of scenes. (could be my big nollywood break...?) the set visit was really a chance for me to see how filmmaking works in nigeria, since all my experience has been in the nyc student/independent scene. in fact, i hadn't been on a film set for a couple of years before today, but once a film student, always a film student. i asked a lot of questions, kept my eyes and ears open, and pored over the script in my down time.

the biggest difference i saw between tk's work and the filmmaking i've done--in fact the glaring difference, no pun intended--was in the lighting. (now i will get a little technical here, so please bear with me.) he used daylight kinos with mostly no diffusion, no flags, and no duvetyne. no matter if it was the lead character, a supporting character, an extra, or an ashtray, inside or outside, everything was lit bright as day.

i was completely surprised by this because i'd heard he was a lighting guru. what i observed, however, was flat in effect (and affect). not to say that the shots weren't still beautiful, but losing the shadows took the depth out of the scenes and made them almost theatrical. i'd heard that he was a direct descendant of the yoruba traveling theater tradition and all that, but the lighting choices didn't seem to work for film (or, rather, digital video).

my professors always taught me that the essence of a filmmaker is to shape light, and that the emotional content of a scene is communicated by shadows. in short, a filmmaker "plays in the light and lives in the shadows." there certainly weren't any shadows today. i'm not sure what that means, but i'm interested in seeing what the final product is. sad that i missed their two-week shoot in abeokuta, though, the set stills i saw looked really amazing.

i've been away from film for far too long. besides a crackling cough, brought on by this damned lagos pollution, i carried a dull ache in my chest for most of the day that i can now identify as longing. i miss directing. if you strike the right balance on set with cast and crew, it is the ultimate high. there are other things to say, but i'll save them for later.

read part II of this blog here. find out more about the film here and here. read bic leu's recent 234Next article on Ma'ami here. --AL.

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  1. Word! Thats sounds tight. I will keep an eye out for his films now that you mention it. Do you know my homie O.M. Ajayi? She makes films in NYC too and she is Naiji as well. Holler black.

  2. @robert: does she have a blog? i think i'm subscribed. tried to make it to a screening in the summer or thereabouts, but it didn't happen. strange we haven't met before, tho. thanks for the heads up!


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