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Odugbemi brings The Man Died to film as Soyinka marks 90th birthday

Odugbemi brings The Man Died to film as Soyinka marks 90th birthday

Master series producer and director Femi Odugbemi will be part of the Wole Soyinka @90 conversations in Nigeria from the angle of converting into film one of the most iconic works of the Nobel Laureate. He will premiere in July 2024 the firm adaptation of The Man Died.

Storytelling runs in the DNA of this Oke-Igbo, Ondo State indigene born into the family of D.O. Fagunwa of the Ogboju Ode Ninu Igbo Irunmale and Ireke Onibudo fame. Soyinka translated Ogboju Ode into The Forest of a Thousand Daemons in what looks like a role reversal.

What is the significance of your latest project?

Well, my latest work is the feature film adaptation of Nobel laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka’s prison memoir THE MAN DIED (www.themandiedmovie.com)
It premieres in July and will be available in cinemas and streaming services. As you probably know, it is a very intimate account of Soyinka’s 22 months in solitary confinement for his role in trying to bring a halt to the civil war. I hope this narrative of resistance and courage inspires this generation.

It is also an ambitious adaptation that brings to life an iconic literary work offering a deep, personal perspective on Nigeria’s conflicted political history and the intense challenges of nation-building. By transforming Soyinka’s poignant narrative into a visual medium, I hope to reach a broader audience, particularly young people, who might be less inclined to engage with the written text but can be profoundly impacted by the film.

And, of course, this is not just a memoir; it is a testament to the resilience and courage of the human spirit in the face of oppression. It vividly chronicles Soyinka’s experiences during the Nigerian Civil War, highlighting the brutal reality of political imprisonment and the relentless struggle for justice and freedom. Bringing this story to the screen underscores the enduring relevance and a powerful reminder of the importance of the ‘Office Of The Citizen’ in a democratic society. Through this film, I aim to inspire young people to embrace their role in demanding humanistic ideals from our nation’s political leadership. In a world where authoritarianism and corruption often threaten democratic values, I hope the film will resonate as a call to action for citizens to remain vigilant and proactive in pursuing justice and equity. I hope it sparks meaningful dialogue to inspire positive change in our country.”

Odugbemi has produced five TV dramas, five feature films, and 16 documentaries. He has shown his expertise as an adjunct at the School of Media & Communication, Pan-Atlantic University, and as a judge on various competitions in the industry in Nigeria and Africa.

Odugbemi was the head judge for the Africa Magic Viewer’s Choice Awards for five years: 2012 to 2014, 2019 and 2023; head judge of the Uganda Film Festival Awards for three years: 2014 to 2016, a juror in the Johannesburg International Film Festival and a juror and mentor of the Netflix/UNESCO African Folktales Reimagined project.

Odugbemi is a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Oscar Awards) and the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (Emmy Awards).

In March 2010, Odugemi co-founded the iRepresent International Documentary Film Festival with Jahman Anikulapo and Makin Soyinka. He is also the founder of Dvwork Studios and the executive producer and chief executive officer of Zuri24 Media. Odugbemi was the pioneer director of the Multichoice Talent Factory for West Africa from 2018 to 2022. He received the Film Excellence Award from the Society of the Performing Arts of Nigeria in November 2013 and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Nigerian Film Corporation in 2018.

What hopes and dreams informed each of your productions?

“My hopes and dreams for each of my productions are deeply rooted in the desire to create narratives that resonate with audiences on multiple levels. The journey of a TV drama series is unlike any other kind of production due to its unique demand for depth in the story premise, the intricate world-building, the complex characters, and the compelling conflicts that drive its twists and turns. Sustaining audience interest through long forms like daily soap operas and telenovelas, which often exceed 260 episodes, requires immense commitment and dedication to crafting narratives beyond mere entertainment. In each of my productions, I embed a big theme that sustains interest and engages viewers with charismatic characters and meaningful storylines.

Early on, with the creation of *TINSEL*, we aimed to foreshadow a world we wish to see, one filled with hope, integrity, and aspiration. This foundational approach has informed my subsequent projects, each designed to reflect and challenge societal norms and values. In the telenovela *Brethren*, we showcased an incorruptible police squad to inspire and renew faith in the possibility of ethical governance and justice. This was a deliberate effort to counteract the pervasive cynicism about law enforcement and to offer a vision of what could be achieved with integrity and dedication. In BATTLEGROUND, I delved into the theme of corrupted wealth and the legacy question, prompting viewers to consider the actual cost of ill-gotten gains and the moral dilemmas that come with them. It was a series in which I sought to spark conversations about the ethical implications of wealth accumulation and the impact of one’s actions on future generations. In the recent COVENANT, I explored the world of political leadership and the corrupting influence of power. By portraying the best intentions being eroded by the allure of power, I aimed to provoke thought about the nature of leadership and the importance of accountability and moral steadfastness.

In an environment where people are stressed out daily, it is crucial to provide an escape and thought-provoking content that offers food for thought about life, societal issues, and personal integrity. Weaving these themes into engaging and relatable narratives, I hope to inspire, educate, and challenge audiences to reflect on their lives and world.”

Key learnings include:

1. Adaptability to technological changes

2. Resourcefulness in budget constraints.

3. Consumer insight and market understanding.

4. Importance of team collaboration.

5. Commitment to high-quality content.

6. Impact of storytelling on society. I believe in storytelling’s power to influence societal values and provoke thought. Crafting stories that offer more than just entertainment has been a guiding principle in my work.

7. Leveraging experience for innovation.

8. Sustained success through continuous learning.

Passion for storytelling, the intrinsic joy of crafting compelling narratives and bringing characters to life, and the potential of these stories and characters to influence societal values and spark meaningful conversations motivate Femi Odugbemi to start and finish his many projects.

Femi Odugbemi Filmography