It was supposed to be an author reading session for one of his books, but in the end Nigerian novelist Onyeka Nwelue chose to screen one of his movies instead.
Guests to the event hosted at the Kigali Centre for Photography on Friday night had hoped to listen to Nwelue as he read from one of his books, The Beginning of Everything Colorful, but instead had to settle for something different.
Nwelue chose to screen his movie titled Agwaetiti Obiuto. The feature film is a screen adaptation of one of his novels, Island of Happiness.
Shot in the Nigerian Igbo language, the film is a satirical feature that follows the lives of four friends –Willie, Bugzy Dvinci, Akah, and Arbenco.
The four are drawn from their different life circumstances by a promise from the Niger Delta Development Commission to pay stipends to the youth in their community of Oguta in Imo State, Nigeria.
The film’s narrative revolves around the quartet’s relationship with Oguta community and its people, and how they unite to fight oppressors and imperialists.
Nwelue is both Director and Executive Producer of Agwaetiti Obiuto.
After the screening, Nwelue took questions and later interacted with the audience. He talked about the complexities of adapting a novel for film, revealing that Agwaetiti Obiuto was his fictional feature film.
Clad in colorful African prints and his trademark dreadlocks, the author, cultural entrepreneur and filmmaker cut a different image from that of the typical author, and indeed came off looking more artistic than scholarly.
Just like his unique dress and fashion sense, Nwelue also shared his unorthodox work ethic as a filmmaker, revealing that he never draws a budget for his film projects.
“If I draw a budget I will scare off potential sponsors,” he revealed.
On many occasions, the author’s comments bordered on arrogance, but were real. He also disclosed that he never auditions for actors, relying mostly on social media to get the right actors.
“You can make a film with your friends if you don’t have a budget. And to get money, you have to perfect the art of begging, not from Hollywood, but you can ask for money from friends and relatives.”
Presently, Nwelue is shooting a documentary about Nigerian playwright, poet and essayist Wole Soyinka, one of the authors that had a profound influence on him.
“I want to have all my books adapted into films by myself. Maybe the screenplays will not be written by me, but I want to have every story I’ve written in film.”
Nwelue is currently an assistant professor and Visiting Fellow of African Literature and Studies at the English Language Department of Manipur University. He is also a Research Fellow