Welcome to Spling Movies

Welcome to Spling Movies

Custom Search
INTERVIEW: Akin Omotoso on his film 'Man on Ground'

Akin Omotoso is a Nigerian-born actor, writer and director. While probably best known for his role as Khaya Motene in the SABC 1 soapie, Generations, Omotoso's passion has always been writing and directing. So much so that Omotoso used money from his acting to fund his first short films: The Kiss of Milk, The Nightwalkers and The Caretaker.

Akin's first feature film, God is African, prompted him to direct the short films Rifle Road, Gathering the Scattered Cousins and the documentary, Wole Soyinka: Child of the Forest. His second feature film, Man on Ground, is an important drama based on the xenophobic attacks in South Africa in 2008.

Man on Ground is based on true events... could you elaborate?

Man on Ground is based on the xenophobic riots that broke out in South Africa in May 2008. Ernesto Nhamuave was burnt alive and that image came to signify the horror of the riots. His picture inspired us to make the film. There had been tensions before but this was the first time there was a concentrated violent attack. The riots were condemned and there was a lot of outpouring of support for the displaced victims. There have been lots of artistic responses to the violence and our film is a continuation of that dialogue between artist and society.

Xenophobia is a central theme in Man on Ground - how did you research the topic?

We commissioned research into the attacks and a few months later we got a stack of papers, books, interviews, comments, analysis on the riots. Those documents were the foundation of the film script. It was important to get all sides of the story and the research was crucial. It gave us insight into what was happening on the ground, it provided us with our tagline "tell them we are from here". One of the victims was asked what he would tell his attackers if he could talk to them and he say,"tell them we are from here". Here, being planet earth.

Tell us about the culmination of the script... how long did it take you to write?

The script took three years to write. We went through the research, investigating different narrative options till we settled on the version that became the shooting script. One thing that was always clear was the idea of quest and thriller. Someone would be missing and the film would be a journey to discover what happened.

What was it like directing Hakeem Kae-Kazim?

Hakeem is an absolute pleasure to direct. We worked together on my first feature film God is African ten years ago so it was good to reunite for my second film. He is a great actor. Hakeem and Fabian Adeoye Lojede, he plays Femi in Man on Ground, collaborated heavily on the script of Man on Ground and they are producers so the relationship goes beyond director/actor... it's collaborative. And just to add on the cast was wonderful and their work was recognized at the Monaco International Charity Film Fest where the cast won Best Ensemble.

What were some of the toughest challenges you encountered during filming?

We made a choice to go with crowd funding for the film. This meant writing to friends and friends of friends for the funding. We did it this way to reflect the ethos of the film, which is ultimately people working together, so the funding of the film was in line with the themes of the film. However, one of our funders didn't respond with the amount that was promised which left us in a hole and meant that we would have to stop the shoot.

Those few days were tough, as we had started shooting and the idea of shutting down was heartbreaking. We kept going on blind faith, don't try this at home folks!, but fortunately for us an angle in the form of ChrisDon Productions came to our rescue and we were able to complete the shoot. That was the toughest time.

What would you like audiences to take away from Man on Ground?

I hope they enjoy the cinematic experience of the film. We wanted to make a visceral film and I think, judging from the responses thus far please God, we succeeded.

You've done your fair share of acting, writing and directing... where do you feel most comfortable?

Love them all but if I had to choose: directing. Love the idea of a team coming together and making a project.

What are your thoughts on the emergence of Jollywood?

I think it's great. There are tons of stories to tell and the more structures created to tell the stories, the better.

Do you have any film projects currently in development?

I'm busy working on my next script at the moment. Watch this space!

Man on Ground is a bold and exacting portrayal of rising xenophobia in South Africa. Omotoso casts the story of Femi, a young Nigerian man played by Fabian Adeoye Lojede living in the African refugee tenements of Johannesburg who disappears against the backdrop of animosity against immigrants flaring into violent rioting. In the pan of a single night, his brother (Ade) played by Hakeem Kae-Kazim, on a short visit from London, tries to elucidate the mystery.