Dad didn't encourage his children to act -Kunle Afolayan
Kunle Afolayan, one of the sons of late Ade 'Love' Afolayan, renowned film maker and director, tellsARUKAINO UMUKORO about his father's passion for film-making
How was it like growing up with your father?
We didn't have that nuclear family setting where everybody sits together for dinner. For one, I never had such opportunity with my father, because he was always busy. It was either they were filming or travelling on tour across Africa with those films. He also attended film festivals all over the world. So he was never around, but he still held his family in high esteem and appreciated them. Nobody saw those lapses, as long as our demands such as school fees and basic needs were met. But, I witnessed some of his filming. So I picked up some things from there.
How many feature films did your dad make?
He made eight.
What made him stand out in the Nigeria film industry during his time?
He was one of those who saw the opportunities in film-making through Dr.Ola Balogun. Balogun was the person who actually brought commercial film-making to Nigeria when he shot Ajani Ogun in 1976 and featured my father, as well as Duro Ladipo, as a lead actor. After that, my father saw the opportunity and potential in moving from travelling theatre to film. Two years after that, in 1978, he shot his first film titled Ija Ominira, which was directed by Ola Balogun.
Can you mention some famous names today that featured in your father's films?
There are so many of them; Jide Kosoko, Bello, Jimoh Aliu, Peju Ogunmola, Aluwe, Yinka Quadri.
Being such a busy man, how did he create time for his children?
Realistically, there was no way he could have really created time for 25 children. Also, because they were doing practically everything, from film-making to distribution, then, just like I do now too. But it is better now, because I have just four children and one wife, unlike in his time, which was like attending to a whole community. You see him when you see him; this was due to the nature and pressure from his work.
How was the relationship with him generally?
It was good. That's why I will still talk about him with all excitement. He put food on the table, you couldn't question him on that. That was how we coped with him till he died. Seeing him was enough excitement because of who he was and what he had achieved. Everybody respected him. As a child, you felt the same thing for your father. It was the most important thing for some of us.
Was he a disciplinarian?
Yes, he was. Before you go to see my father, you had to do the sign of the cross because he was a tough man.
How did he discipline erring children?
My father would not raise his hands to beat you except you went to the extreme. But when he looked at you, you got the message. The only time my father ever beat me was when I took his clippers, because he cut his hair by himself. I took his clippers away and was planning to sell it. When I later confessed that I took it, he was so upset and beat me.
What are the values you learned from him?
My father was a man of integrity. He called a spade a spade. He was a man of his words, and that is who I am today. I don't care what anybody feels, I say it as it is. To an extent, I'm also a visionary, just like he was. If I believe in something and the way it should be done, that is what I pursue. Also, he paid a lot of attention to details whenever he made his films. I also do the same thing. I picked all those qualities from him. Although time and technology has changed a whole lot, I have merged what I have learnt from him with what is obtainable today; that is what has helped my career so far.
Did he encourage you to go into film-making?
He never encouraged me or anyone of us to go into filmmaking or acting. But he was always telling us to create a name for ourselves. When people reported us to him, he would say, "That name is not your name, it is mine. I earned it. I was nobody when I came to Lagos, but today I am somebody. And when I die, I will die with my name. So you need to create a name for yourself if you want to become somebody”. He told us to build our own wealth and reputation if we wanted to survive and become somebody. Since then, that has stuck with me. That has always been with me and guided me. Also, I also use some of his films as case studies and they have really helped me.
Why didn't he want you to go into film-making?
He said there was no money there, that they were just doing it for the passion. He said, "You will be popular and famous, but you won't have money. So go and become a doctor or lawyer so that will be rich.” That was why I studied Business Administration. I ended up working in a bank for a few years. While in the bank, I did a bit of acting here and there. In 2004, I decided to go into film-making.
Would you say he was a rich man?
Yes he was. He was successful and lived comfortably.
Did you feature in any of his films?
Yes, in a waka pass role. There was this television series he did, where I was asked to call someone in one of the scenes. I ensured I featured in it. But it was not something he encouraged.
Did any of the children feature?
Yes. My sister, Moji, featured in his last film, Eyin Oku (Events after death), in 1992.
Which of his films was most successful?
Commercially, the film that really did it for him was Taxi Driver 1 . But for me, his films which had the highest production value and quality were Ija Orogun, Kadara and Ija Ominira. Those were epics. Later when he shotIya ni wura and Taxi Driver 2, he was already tending towards commercial movie-making. These were modern films and they had their own impact. But for me, those earlier films he made were better.
Why was he called 'Ade Love'?
This was because most of his films were love-based stories. He also did a lot of adaptations from Indian songs and stories to Yoruba. My father was addicted to Indian films. He changed some of the Indian songs into Yoruba and people actually started calling him by that name.
How many wives did your father marry and how many children did he have?
He had 10 wives and over 20 children. We are three children from my mother. My older brother, Dr. Afolayan, is a lecturer at the University of Ibadan; my younger brother is Olumide, but people call him Aremu. He is also into films. Moji Afolayan-Olayiwola is also into films.
Since he never encouraged you to go into film-making, do you think he will still be proud that you followed his footsteps?
If truly the dead sees or looks back, then he has no choice than to be proud. One of the reasons why his name is still relevant today is because some of us, his children, are still in this industry. In future, if our children also go into film-making, when they talk about them, they will talk about me and also talk about my father as well. His name will be there forever. I think that is a good reason for him to pardon us, even if we somehow went against his will. We, his children, all learnt from my father. I'm sure he will be happy wherever he is today.
Did you father's name open doors for you?
Yes. The reason why Tunde Kelani gave me a chance then was because he had worked on my father's set. When I went to him, I introduced myself as Ade Love's son and he gave me audience. Probably that chance would never have come if I was not born into that family. Maybe I'm just destined to do what I am doing. His name has opened doors for me in different ways.
What are some of your fondest memories of him?
Before he died, when we moved to Kwara State, he was closer to us. Then, he used to call us together to tell us stories and things about his past. He made sure we cut the grass in the compound and he would advise us. One of his decisions I will appreciate forever was that he took some of us his children, including me, to Kwara State, his birth place, at some point. He said he wanted us to school there so we could learn how life was. When I look at where I come from, I know that life is not always a bed of roses. Some people are born with silver spoons, but even those born with wooden spoons, once they know what they are doing, they will get to that same level as those with silver spoons. Those are some things I learnt from my father. He always said, 'hardwork pays'. Even if you were born in the gutter, if you are destined to become the President of Nigeria, you will be.
How was his relationship with your mother?
It was the relationship with all the women he married and others. He was a husband, father and friend of many.
What were his likes and dislikes?
He was a man who told you the truth even if a gun was pointed at his head. He hated lies. He was hardworking and valued education. Despite his popularity, he wished he was like Prof. Wole Soyinka because he felt that he didn't have enough education, although he had a diploma in Secretarial Studies and Performing Arts from UI. But sometimes he felt inferior when he was put on the same table with the likes of Soyinka. It wasn't as if he couldn't speak the same English. I remember my father used to correct the English of my brother who was a graduate then. My father was an avid reader.
What kind of books did he read?
He read all sorts. Even when he was broke, he still bought newspapers in the morning. Sometimes, he compromised our feeding money for newspapers (laughs). That was the kind of person he was.
Did you imbibe that from him?
I'm not an avid reader like him. I only read things that relate to my work, unlike him, who read everything. Then, the Internet has changed a whole lot of things, an average Nigerian doesn't read anymore. I do a lot of research, but of course I study and acquire knowledge.
Which of your movies do you think your father would have made?
It would be Irapada because it is a family-oriented drama, those are the kind of stories my father told. He also told more of love stories. The Yorubas especially want to watch a film where they can learn morals; that is what Irapada is really about. It would have been my father's favourite.
What was his favourite food?
He liked pounded yam. At some point, he was eating apkon (a kind of soup) practically every day.
What were his other interests, aside from filmmaking?
That was just it. Also, he travelled a lot. He read and watched movies. He didn't have friends but colleagues. He didn't drink. He was not a socialite.
You are also widely travelled and your films have graced international festivals. Which of these festivals also featured your father's films?
One of them is the Rotterdam Film Festival. That was a good memory for me. I went there in 2010 and met one film-maker, Mustapha Alhassan, a Nigerian who lived in Niger and his films represented Niger. He didn't speak English, only French and Yoruba, and had tribal marks on his face. When my film was shown, just like his, and they introduced me to him, he looked at me and said, "So you are Ade's son?'' I replied, 'yes.' He started speaking Yoruba to me. He said, "Your father and I used to sit there at this festival,'' I shed tears that day. I can never forget it. Rotterdam's is one of the biggest (film) festivals in the world and for me to have been privileged to be on the same platform where my father had been was a big deal and great honour. That was a memorable moment for me. I also remember BFI London Film Festival. My father was there and his films were also featured. Irapada, Figurine and Phone Swap were also featured.
How did you feel when he passed on?
I was away on tour with his film when he died. I was in Akure to send one of his films to an agent who wanted to screen it during the Christmas period. I left him in Lagos on December 29, he died on December 30, 1996, and I read it in The Tribune on January 1. That was how I got to know that my father was dead.
What were his last words to you?
He just said, ''Are you still going to Akure?'' and I replied, "Yes, I am going now''. It was around 6pm. He said, 'okay.' He was on his sick bed. He had stroke, that was his second attack and we had to bring him from Kwara. I was left alone with him in the hospital and I fed him pap; that was my closest moment with him. Because of the stroke, half of his body was paralysed. We had a few conversations, and then I left. I never saw him again.
What are some of the values that you learnt from your father that you are sharing with your children?
Most importantly, it is morals and being well-cultured including manners. In this age and time, things have changed. A lot of parents don't pay attention to manners anymore. For me, my children must learn some of those basics. When you wake up in the morning, you greet your father and mother the Yoruba way, including your elders, even if they are two or three years older, you must greet them with respect. I just want my children to be well-cultured. The thing I never got from my father was that attention to be able to express myself. So, I give my children such opportunity. They can always come to me and express themselves. I will support any of them if they want to go into film-making. I will guide them.
Did your father have any religious bias?
My father was a Christian. At some point, he was a free thinker, just like me. But towards the end of his life on earth, he became born again. But he was more of a free thinker. He believed more in destiny, and would always say your destiny is in your hands. You see this in his films. That's why I also talk a lot about destiny in my films, because I also believe in it.
In your view, what should be your father's legacy in the Nigerian film industry?
A lot of times when they mention people who have raised the bar of the Nigerian film industry, my father's name will probably come third or fourth. Most times, they don't even remember his name. My father made films before Hubert Ogunde and Baba Sala, and after Ola Balogun. He made the highest number of celluloid films after Eddie Ugboma. He was the most good looking among his peers. He will always be remembered for the fact that he carved a niche for himself when he was alive. He was the most travelled Yoruba film-maker whose films represented Nigeria at major film festivals worldwide. He made the highest number of Yoruba celluloid films and he was internationally renowned for his work. Today, he has children who are doing the same. So that is a good enough legacy.
What do you miss most about your dad?
I think he's always there when I'm filming. He's a part of my life. I see him a lot in my dreams these days and every time I see him, it's a good sign. I have the feeling that he is around and has transferred some of those things that he couldn't achieve to me. He was a power dresser; he was the type that when he dresses and sits, you just wanted to look at him. His presence was that magical. I miss that about him, I miss the way he talked to us, the fact that we don't go to the National Theatre anymore to advertise his films. But for me, he's still around.
7 things you didn't know about my father
• He cut his hair by himself
• He was addicted to Indian films.
• He had 10 wives
• He was an avid reader
• He was not a socialite
• He didn't beat his children
• He was a power dresser
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