The Rage Man

Aduaka… And the Rage was born

By Jahman Anikulapo
(First published in 2003)
AFTER much trumpeting last year about his imminent visit to the country, the rising moviemaking star didn't show up. He was to have come in to screen his award winning film, Rage on his homeland but logistics messed things up.
Even his parents who amid warming up for the coming of their illustrious son that had just shot to global film pedestal with his winning for the second time the best Young Film Director award at the 17th edition of the once-in-every-two- years FESPACO 2001, spoke to The Guardian, were disappointed at the turn of event.
Wale Ojo, the Nigerian actor in London (remember Soyinka's Beatification of an area boy) who starred in the film and had come in ahead to promote the film, was saddened by the absence of the much-expected moviemaker.
Well, from tomorrow, Newton Aduaka will be in the country courtesy of the British Council, which last year had sent out frantic apologies to explain Aduaka's failed arrival and the screening of the film, last year.
The filmmaker will be headlining a workshop on filmmaking at the MUSON Centre in Lagos.
His Rage which turned head at the 13th FESPACO last year in Burkina Faso and, later at various film festivals in Europe and America will be screened in the course of the workshop.
When Aduaka steps into the hall on Monday, he probably would shock many people; with his little frame and 'the-guy-next-door' carriage. He has no air; just one plain chap who is likely to be caught in half-buttoned shirt on jeans and a pair of sneakers; perhaps a black hat to shield his stubs of dreadlocks.
It was the same deceptive looks he wore last year in the lobby of L’Hotel Independence where he was celebrated as the only winner from Anglophone West Africa at the film festival. In the previous edition he had accomplished a similar feat winning the best First Director prize for his Out On The Edge, a flick about the razz life of the underclass and the minority group in downtown London.
When he walked into the open expanse of the swimming pool of the hotel where hundreds of film workers from around the world were lodged, some chatty Burkina babes cooed that he was some reggae musician. And in fact, there is an air of a hip-hop with all the go-go traits around him.
Yet this was the newly crowned Best First Feature Film Maker in Africa -- having grabbed a prize at a film feast where Francophone film-makers seemed to have appropriated all the trophies to themselves. He had broken the jinx around the suspect adjudication at the famous festivals, that always seemed ever schematised to shut out the filmmakers from the English-speaking African countries.
That feat put Aduaka, the thirtyish native of Chinua Achebe’s Ogidi town in Anambra State in the class of the ‘wanted filmmakers’ at the FESPACO. He was head-hunted by the media, coveted by fellow film workers, swarmed by the pretty Burkinabe dames who thronged the lobby of the L’Hotel Independence, especially in the romantic evening after the curtains had come down in the various screening centres.
On the podium of the closing ceremony of FESPACO where his feat was announced, he spoke for long. No one said he was boring even if he sounded so. He was the star and the full-size stadium was ready to give him their ears. He dedicated the award to his co-producer, his wife, the Italian Maria-Elenca La’bbate. He reasoned that the prize of 2 million CFA was an acknowledgement that “African filmmakers living abroad can make tangible contributions to development of the cinematic art on the home continent”.
Aduaka, the1990 graduate of London International Film School was not a stranger to such treatment as was apparent in the way he lived up to all the attention. On The Edge, his first major feature film, had earned him “Best Short Film’ laurel at the 1999 edition. And three weeks before the current FESPACO deal, Rage had fetched him “Best First Feature Film” at the Pan-African Film Festival in Los Angeles, USA.
Still swimming in the euphoria of the man-of-the-moment sort of feeling, Aduaka sang “I am a Lagos boy! My parents moved to Lagos and I attended Methodist Boys High School. My parents live in Gbagada Estate, Lagos. In fact, I want to make a film about Lagos.”

Rage is the story of three younger stars in Britain determined to grab success through music. In desperation to cut a music album, they strayed off-beat in their pursuit; getting wild and crazy. And so many events unfolded celebrating youthful exuberances as well as showing the iniquities of the so-called Western societies, especially in their relations with immigrants..
Aduaka himself was driven to a breaking point cooking the flick… “I went almost out”, he said, a distant look lurking behind his eyes “Everything went tough and I had to go wild to nip them”.
And talking about how a Nigerian shunned all the racial odds to venture into film in the tight Western scene, Aduaka said: “My partner and co-producer, Maria Nena I’Abbate and I decided to get off the boat three years ago. We’d lost faith in the journey, and even more, in those that captained the boat. We felt our vision was not a part of theirs or vice-versa.
“We decided to set up Granite Film works, our own small boat, go independent and make the films we really wanted to make, without having to answer to anyone. The short film On The Edge (OTE), our first production, we raised a little money, gathered together a crew of like-minded film makers, and shot it in five days. It went on to become very successful for us.”
The success and fulfilment eased into the couple’s dreams by OTE and the eventual sweet song it wrought fired the will of the couple to dare the Rage. “We decided quite naively that instead of shooting another short film, all we had to do was put in three times as much energy as we did on On The Edge (28 minutes), raise three times the amount of money it cost to put that in the can; shoot for three weeks and we'd have a feature film. Post-production we will worry about when we reach that bridge.
“That was the simplicity of thought that gave us confidence, inspired us and from which we glimpsed a bright light at the end of the tunnel. All we had to do was focus on that light and never lose sight of it…”.
And so Rage was born.


'We wanted him to be a Doctor, he ended up a pictureman'

NEWTON Aduaka parents’original plan for their son was to become an Electronic Engineer, But what Newton Aduaka eventually turned out to be is indeed an inspiration to most Nigerian parents: a young film-maker steadily climbing the ladder of global fame.
And the father of the 'Best First Feature Film Maker in Africa', Mr. Aduaka a geologist and an alumnus of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), acknowledged this fact when he enthused:
“Newton’s destiny has taught me a lesson which I would like to share with most young Nigerian parents…
“Never disturb your child when he made up his mind to study a particular course because you don’t know where the salvation lies.’
“My son’s case confirms the reality of the concept of destiny. That one Supreme Being is somewhere directing the affair of mankind. That man is really guided by God who always empowers him to pursue a particular objective and talent.”
Indeed, Mr. Aduaka, a former staff of Mobil Oil Producing Company had not been accurate in recommending a career for his children. There was a similar attempt on Newton’s elder brother, Kingsley, the first child in the seven-member family. “I wanted Kingsley to do Medicine. He had his primary and post-primary education here in Lagos; but while he was leaving for America, I insisted that he should go for Medicine, he said he was interested in Architecture. But perhaps to please me, he said then that, 'Daddy if you insist, I would first do Medicine and later cross to Architecture.
“At this point I said: 'No, please, continue with your area of interest. Now he is based in the US working as an architect.”
After Newton’s unsuccessful bid, Mr. Aduaka did not bother to select any course for his remaining three children. And he is indeed happy that the decision to allow his children to satisfy their desire academically has paid off.
“Newton has not only put the family name on the world chart, he has equally brought fame and honour to his fatherland,” he remarked.
“Kelvin, the last boy is with Newton in the UK -- also in the entertainment sector. Newton is his mentor. I’m indeed, grateful about what God has done for the family.”
On Newton’s childhood, Aduaka said “He was born on March 25, 1966 in a hospital in Ogidi but we really belong to Abagana parenthood also in Anambra”. Mr Aduaka was correcting an earlier impression in the media that the family was from Ogidi, thus sharing ancestral source with the patriarch of African Novel, Chinua Achebe.
“When Newton was growing up, he was an easy going, active and jovial person. We began to notice a strange trait right from his primary school days. Though, we (myself and his mother) did not count much on it, I could remember vividly that he participated in a play at his primary school, Onward Nursery/Primary School, Ikate, Surulere Lagos. The title of the play was Iroko. We just discovered that he was very active; a restless young chap who grew up to develop a knack for entertainment. He left Onward for Methodist High School at Broad Street, Lagos. He finished the school very well.
“At a point, he had to join his brother – Kingsley abroad to do his 'A level’ programme. But before then he left for the United Kingdom to do music, which I objected to. About this same period, himself and three of his colleagues made an attempt to wax a record.
“It was after the music thing that he did the ‘A Level'; and thereafter, he attended the London International Film School. It was a very expensive school. We just managed to get him through. But we all rejoiced at the end as he did very well and his performance gave him a boost.
“Newton’s romance with film making started after his graduation in 1990. It wasn’t easy. He needed a lot of money to lay the foundation. But as a strong boy he managed to carry on.
“Occasionally, when I visited him, he would always be busy writing scripts. On one occasion I read two of his stories, all quite impressive. I always support him with prayers.
“Since he started Newton has not been found wanting. He has been performing quite incredibly. But a major breakthrough was recorded about two years ago when he had his first short film entitled, On the Edge. Before then, he told me he had won an award in Cameroon with a work in which he participated as sound recordist. On the Edge however, was his first major accomplishment as a film writer, producer and director.
“The latest work is Rage. We were in Britain few months ago and he could hardly attend to us. In fact, we never saw him. We were told he was on location and throughout one month we stayed there, we could not see him. Actually, he started working on Rage since November 1998.
“He has been doing well! I am not surprised about his progress, success. He grew up with a strong belief in hardworking as the only hallmark of success and that has been working for him. What I used to tell them, particularly, when I decided that they would have to complete their education abroad… I would encourage them by saying: for the whiteman to respect you, you have to be thrice as hardworking as the English people.
“All of them followed my creed and I think God today for them.”
The happy father could not recall a spectacular sign during Newton’s early days that perhaps signalled his current status except that “when he was crawling -- about five months old precisely -- we were in Port Harcourt then, whenever, we put Dr. Victor Uwaifo’s record on the gramophone, Newton would crawl there and be jumping in front of the equipment. That showed his interest in music.
“And I’m sure he has flair for song composition. He had tried to wax record and I don’t think that trait has abandoned him; he would surely be waiting for the appropriate time to do that. Besides, he attended music school also.”
Even the dream of the 34-year old artiste to do his next film in Lagos has received the blessing of his father.
“I don’t have anything against it. It would be an instant success when accomplished. He had written something about Nigeria in the past. He mentioned the civil war aspect and I told him to be very careful. The military were in power then, Sincerely; I don’t think he knows much about the war. He was very young when the war broke out. After all, he was born on March 26, 1966.
“What perhaps he could remember was his escape from one of the ravaged areas during the war. Truly, he had a portion about the war. But the entire story is purely on entertainment, I have no worry about it at all. Except, I don’t want him to venture into fetish thing -- glorification of occultism and rituals. And I’m sure he won’t do it.”
While the elder Aduaka is full of glory to God that he had taken a right decision by sending his children abroad, he had a fear then that they might become victims of drug abuse, which held sway then.
“My headache when they were travelling out was on the fact that the drug issue was then the in-thing. Hence, we did always pray that God should guide their steps. Though I had the belief that with the type of home training they got from us, they would not fall victims, but such fear was still there.
“Glory be to God today. Kingsley for instance never drinks alcohol but Newton -- perhaps because of his profession -- does it occasionally. Even with that, he cannot finish a cup of alcohol. I can beat my chest on that, I’m happy that God has been good to us, the family entirely. None of them got into such situation and I still pray that they should never get into it.”
But how did the family receive the news of their son’s feat at FESPACO 2001 in Ougadougou?
“I got to know about FESPACO during our holiday in London recently. As I said, we could not see Newton, later we got to know that he was in Los Angeles at a festival with that film, Rage. But before he left for Ougadougou he phoned to inform us that the film won an award (at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles) and that he would be heading to Ougadougou.
“From the moment, I decided to follow the event closely. I try to listen to BCC African Service always. We prayed for him too. The festival ended on Saturday, March 3 and it was the following day, Sunday morning about 6.30 a.m when I first heard on BCC…
“Thereafter, I invited his mother, I woke her up to listen to the news. We were all happy. Everybody is happy about the news.”
The only regret, according to Mr Aduaka, “is that NITEL people have been wicked to us since Friday, March 2; the line has packed up, we can’t make call, people can’t reach us through phone to felicitate with us. I know a lot of friends would have tried to congratulate us,” he lamented.
Acknowledging the impact of good upbringing on his children, Mr. Aduaka has the following advices for the Nigerian parents.
“The decay that I see in the society nowadays pains me much. We (myself and my wife) are from strong Christian family. We cherish the progress of our siblings so much. It bothers me the way most Nigerians think money is everything in life. I would want to lay emphasis on an average Igboman who has made money the second god. Right; money can do a lot of things but it cannot do everything.
“I thank God the way I brought these children up. I warned them that they should not compare themselves with other children. I would always tell them to consider themselves as individuals who have missions to accomplish. By the time a child is comparing himself/herself with somebody else automatically, he would fall into trouble.
“Our children need our parental guidance always. Let us not force them to do something, when they come up with something, but let us advice them and point out merits and demerits of their action. This will help them a lot in life.
Likewise, a child should not also say “my friend’s father comes to pick him at school with a Mercedes Benz car, so my father should buy a Mercedes car too. No! It is craziness! Let every child be satisfied with what his parents can provide for him. By that, peace, tranquillity will reign in the society.”
In fact, Aduaka also acknowledged that the understanding and support of his wife has in no small way contributed to the overall success of the children.
“I had got married before I graduated in 1966. She was a teacher and eventually when we moved to Lagos after the civil war, she resumed teaching but at a private school. The idea was that she would have the leeway to take care of the children. She obliged.
“But the situation has changed now. The economic crunch has forced the two parents to run after money at the expense of their children. It is very said!”
With the dwindling interest of the Nigerian public in film and theatre productions, is there any future for young filmmakers like Newton who perhaps, may want to come and settle in Nigeria later?
“The problem is security and safety. I knew there was a time when film watching culture was really going on. The National Theatre would always be crowded – in afternoon anyway.
“If the security is taken care of, people would develop the culture of going to cinema houses to watch good films. The more a country grows, the more it needs relaxed areas. There is a limit to which the video thing can go. You don’t get real life situation in watching video. I support the culture of going to theatre. It douses the tension. And we really need such thing in Nigeria. We tend to quarrel too much because of lack of relaxation. We just have to create time for it. Going to theatre is good for the health.”
Were Newton to have pursued his filmmaking career in Nigeria, Mr. Aduaka is emphatic that “he might not be able to achieve the feat.
“This is because the facilities are not just here. No good film school. Though, there is a film corporation in Jos, I don’t think it has the state of art equipment. No good school. Newton would not have developed if he were to be in Nigeria. He attended the London film School which I think is one of the best in Europe.”
And to solve the problem, Aduaka wants the government to lay the foundation for good training ground for young, talented film director, producers including actors and actresses.
Also, there should be a change of attitude as regards maintenance culture. “National Theatre for instance is now a shame to Nigeria. We always allow our infrastructures to rust away. Government should resuscitate it and get young Nigerians to study film so that we can compete and beat countries like India.
“We have filmic environment; our topography is superb; good environment to shoot good films; government should just help to develop these infrastructures. It is not just a matter of naming a building without adequate and appropriate facilities.
“A body like ITPAN should also be encouraged. I have been following their activities, they are trying but they would still need encouragement from both the government and corporate bodies. It is only through that we can get there.

To Mrs. Aduaka, Newton is very active with much interest in music.
When he was growing up, he liked to make a lot of friends. He liked to entertain people. In the family, he is unique because he would always make sure that everybody is happy. He does not associate with sadness or loneliness. He is kind, sympathetic indeed cheerful. He likes looking different.
“At age 12, he had a guitar and then he had wanted to wax a record. In London whenever Oyinbo people saw him with his guitar at that age, they always admired. He is a source of inspiration to the family and we thank Go for his life.

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