Nollywood sets its own time. Less than two weeks after arriving in Lagos, Prof. Onookome Okome introduced me to legendary director Tunde Kelani at his Mainframe Productions studio in Oshodi. The very next day, I joined Kelani and his 25-person crew on the set of Ma’ami to observe the first day of shooting. The story revolves around Kashimawo (played by Wole Ojo), a successful footballer who, in the period leading to the 2010 World Cup, reminisces about his hardscrabble childhood in the southern Nigerian town of Abeokuta. Ma’ami will be Kelani’s 16th feature-length film in his two-decades-long career.
8:00am–10:00am: Cast and crew arrived on set at the Taalo Salo Salon in Ikeja, Lagos. All were involved in setting up the lighting and the RED ONE camera (which I’m told is the best high-end HD camcorder on the market), script revisions, and make-up.
10:00am: After a group prayer, shooting commenced for Scenes 24 and 25, in which Kashimawo prepares for his appearance on a television program. It took more than 20 takes for Kelani, a meticulous director, to be satisfied with the results.
1:00pm: Cast and crew arrived on set at Sparkles Banquet Hall, Ikeja for the final location of the day, where Kashimawo’s personal assistant surprises him with a birthday party. In true guerrilla film-making fashion, Kelani used his wife’s 40th birthday party as the backdrop.
3:00pm: Yinka Davies and Gani Kayode-Balogun, Jr. gave a rousing performance while filming their cameos as the party entertainment. Meanwhile, adoring fans surrounded highlife legend Fatai Rolling Dollar while he waited for his turn on the stage.
7:00pm: Shooting ended after the production was denied access to the bar area. Undeterred, Kelani rescheduled shooting and encouraged the cast and crew to join his wife’s on-going birthday party.
On Wednesday, the production will move to Abeokuta (approx. 120km outside of Lagos) and will remain there for the next 12–15 days. Abeokuta is also Kelani’s childhood home and the primary set will be his family’s compound.