Eric Aghimien is a young but thorough Nollywood producer and director. He is the producer of the award winning action movie, ‘A Mile From Home’ and the soon to be in cinemas, ‘Slow Country’. He talks about his life and his new movie. You are the producer of ‘A Mile From Home’, can you tell us about your new movie?
Slow country is about a woman who made some mistakes in her early life and is trying to deal with it. She has a son who happened to her world and in order to take care of her son, she took a dive into the dark world of prostitution and drug trafficking. At some point, she wanted out but it became impossible to do so.
What was it like coming up with the idea of the story?
It wasn’t like anything serious because I wrote the first 20 pages in 2011. It was supposed to be my first movie but realistically it wasn’t possible to make the film with the kind of money I had then, so I had to write ‘A Mile From Home’ and made it within the budget I had in 2011. This time around after ‘A Mile From Home’s success, I was able to pull enough funds for this one, so I had to just bring it out one day and completed it within 8 days.
Slow Country appears to be a metaphor, slow country, Nigeria. What is behind the concept?
Slow Country is metaphorical. It is not about Nigeria, so let me clear that. People think it’s about Nigeria because of the things we went through recently. But no, it is not about Nigeria, it is just the right name I can come up with to describe the emotions this woman was going through. First of all, a lot happen in our mind, most of the battles we fight in life happen in our mind, trying to make decisions, trying to do stuffs. There is a whole different world within us that we have to contend with every day, battles we have to fight with ourselves, I consider that the greatest battle human beings fight. So, just for a woman who is sitting down in the dark room, thinking what her life would have been like and what her life is right now, comparing both. So, it was something that is almost indescribable, I had to look for a word to describe how she felt, so ‘Slow Country’ came to my mind. So that was just how the title came up.
What criteria did you use for characters?
I am very particular about characterisation in my stories and my scripts, so when I write characters, I write compelling characters, characters that are memorable. So what I do is when I write a story, everything I do is about that character, it must favour the character. You see in the film, I used a couple of the characters in the previous film; I had to bring them back because they are still the characters I used in Slow Country. When you write characters, there are some people that their looks just suits your character, the way they look, the way they talk, the way they act just suits your character.
But another thing is I take time to discuss my character with the person, except for people who just have it naturally and I have seen a couple of the films, like Ivie and Majid, I know they can easily pull this, but there are some characters that I had to discuss with the actors, this is what I want, this is my vision, this is how the character is going to act, this the kind of cloth he will wear, this is how he is going to walk, his expression, we discuss everything. Like Tuvi played by Sambasa Nzeribe, it was an outstanding performance but we had a long time to discuss the character. He comes to my house every night then, we sleep over the character, and we wake up on the character. And thankfully, it came out the way I envisioned it to be.
Why action movie again?
Action movie, because I like action movies. But beyond action, it’s storytelling, action is just something on the side. Some people like to call me an action movie director, I am not an action movie director, I am just a storyteller and I really don’t agree when people call me an action movie director. I chose action because, first of all, it was like problem solving, because before now, when people talk about action movie in Nigeria, they laugh because they think it’s going to be ridiculous, so I wanted to solve that problem personally. So I started putting things together, I started acquiring the kind of knowledge I need to be able to solve the problem.
Was there a reason why you focused on drug trafficking and prostitution?
The truth is drug is not very common, I mean like cocaine is not commonly seen around in Nigeria, probably because of the poverty level. People are struggling to find what to eat, is it cocaine they will now eat? But the truth is, it’s there, there are a lot of people who are addicted to drugs, it’s there on the street, but because people don’t find it often, they find it difficult to relate to it. Prostitution, of course is there.
A lot of our youths go through this same situation my character goes through. So there was no particular reason, but sometimes when I drive by some areas, I see some ladies standing by the roadside. Some of them were compelled to be there; maybe a relative forced them into the situation, some of them, just in order to survive.
Apart from that, there are also women on the street, hawking with their child under the sun, something, on a normal day, I can’t even do it and I can’t even allow someone close to me to do it because I will be scared, I feel like they are not secured hawking around the traffic, anything could happen to them. That motivated the story, even the characters.
I think prostitution was what came to my head when I wanted to write that character, it could have been traffic hawking. I think prostitution and drug trafficking are more emotionally devastating for a lot of people, imagine someone who thought she wanted to be a lawyer or anything and she is now forced into prostitution because of situations, its dehumanising.
What differentiates this movie from other movies we have seen on prostitution and drug trafficking?
I think it’s basically the story and the compelling characters. It is work of art film in terms of structure, and character, in terms of even the visual effect, everything, sound; you cannot say the sound is distracting because I paid attention to everything. I had to even research into microphones, how to use the microphones correctly. I don’t use lapel microphones like other film makers do, I only use bones, because bone is made for films, people don’t understand it and so complain that it’s not good. I didn’t use one lapel in the production of the movie.