Bernadette ‘Obi’ Wills Obong and Dorothy Essien are two top-class acts in the Nollywood movie industry. Bernadette has been around for about 10 years and Dorothy has  also been around for quite a while and together, they are the brains behind Berothy Production – one of the biggest movies production houses in South-South Nigeria. As their latest movie AKOBUO hits the cinema this Sunday [24th March 2013] at Ibom Tropicana, Uyo, Wetinhappen happen was lucky to catch up with the top-notches and this is what they had to say…

MAYBE WE KNOW YOUBernadette: Bernadette Wills-Obong is a woman, a daughter, a wife, a mother, an entrepreneur, an actress and a child of God!

AND DOROTHY?

Dorothy: Dorothy Essien is equally a woman. She’s a wife, mother, multi-linguist and she’s an actress.

YOUR EXPERIENCE IN NOLLYWOOD

Dorothy: It’s been good; it’s been amazing, well, it is a process that is still going on.  The 1st movie I ever featured in was a soap it’s been airing on AKBC TV called Na wa.

Bernadette: My experience in the industry has been wonderful. As it is with every other career and every other line of business, there have been ups and downs.

By the grace of God, I have in this business for while and this is my 10th year. I actually shot my first movie in 2004 after graduating from the University; you know how the Nigerian educational system was at that time, where you leave school and then stay at home for like two years before going for service and so somehow, I stumbled into the performing arts industry.

I didn’t really see myself making a career out of it as I’m doing right now but you know that we all have plans but God is the one that leads you to where he actually wants you to be.

So, I found myself here. I’ve met a lot of people who have been a blessing to me; people who have inspired and encouraged me.

Even when I started, I wasn’t that good; it has been a process and it has been a wonderful and a rewarding experience.

LETS TALK ABOUT AKUBUO

Bernadette: Akobuo is a child of destiny. You know, when God does something, he actually perfects it. We were actually planning to do another movie when an opportunity came for a quick action and God gave me a partner in Dorothy who shares my dreams and visions.

I had always dreamt of producing movies that are indigenous but with standard that will be at par with other indigenous and as well as English movies because people look at Akwa Ibom like Bethlehem and they say ‘can anything good come out of Bethlehem like it was said in the Bible?’.

I am sorry to say, having lived in Uyo almost all my life, the people here are very nice and warm but they there is something that I’ve been asking God to work on in the hearts of the people, “Ibibio ekpono ndibbe ukod ekan ifukghko!”

They don’t celebrate what they have; they will rather go out there and identify with outsiders but for Christ sakes, in Akwa Ibom, there are an abundance of talents that are waiting to be discovered and I can tell you proudly that Akobuo is a production by Akwaibomites, for Akwaibomites and it will be exported to the world!

The cast and crew, the scenes, everything emanated from here! We wrote it together, plotted the scenes together.

This is like children trying to cut their first teeth and I can you that it is 8o% better than what you can see in other indigenous movies that are even on cable networks!

We have good movies! We have talents! So, Akobuo for me is like telling the world that… Yes! This is proudly AkwaCross! This is us telling the world that we can do it on our own, we don’t have to import anyone from anywhere to come and do it for us, we tell our stories and we direct it the way we want it using our dialects and I’m telling you, Akobuo is a must-watch!

It might not be high up there, but I know that if this is our beginning then, the sky is just a stepping stone!

DISSECT THE MOVIE AKOBUO

Dorothy: AKOBUO is a story of a queen who was forced by tradition to either murder her fate given twins, or lose her throne, her love, and be banished from the very land she had known all her life. What was her crime? How did she survive? Most of which are to bring to fore and inform the larger society that;

1. Some cultural practices should be reviewed to avoid stigmatization and restriction, and tempering with human lives.

2. Children are a gift from God irrespective of the nature of their birth (single, twins, triplet) and so should be appreciated.

3. No one has the right to take another man’s life, despite cultural, traditional or ethnic standings.

4. One’s destiny is ordained by God, no one should temper with it.

5. Most especially, violence against women should be avoided at all cost.

Now we are fighting violence against women and a lot of people will tell you it’s the men, the men beat us, the men do this, the men do that and thus, scaring a lot of young people.

In Akobuo, we came out with a different concept but then, we women are also instruments to our own violation. Women sometimes abuse women!

The story of Akobuo is telling us about the truths that are sometimes not told but the moment you talk about violence against women, then very first thing that comes to our mind is the men but then in Akobuo, we’re telling you that women also betray women and women also betray men.

So, it’s a story of betrayal and I can tell you, it is very emotional. While producing this movie, we wanted to come out with something more than the status quo, a picture more realistic.

CHALLENGES OF THE PRODUCTION OF AKOBUO

Bernadette: The main challenge we have in the performing arts industry challenges had been enormous but then I give thanks to God. When we started making plans for Akobuo, we had high hopes because we were able to get some people to see our vision but like my Papa [Abel Damina] would say, “No man can help you except God empowers him”, they tried their best but I choose to say that God did not empower them simply because he wanted us to look inside and discover our hidden potentials and confront our challenges.

When the die was cast, we didn’t know what to do, we had problems sourcing for finance which is the primary challenge every production faces.

Our stories are sometimes true-life and irrespective of the challenges, we make sure we don’t lose the essence of the movie so viewers are aware of what is going on and learn from it.

We thank God who made it possible for us to access a loan. God bless the man that had faith in us. When you have money, you get the right set of equipment for your production.

Another thing was location. People here are so scared of giving out their houses and properties for movie production. We have talents that are begging to be given an opportunity.

People should come out, pick a producer or a production company and support them. Yes, we investing in hospitality, everywhere we turn, there is a hotel but they are other areas we could invest in! We could have a private television station! It will help a lot of young people who are in the arts.

You know, we could have a private telecommunications company! We could even have other production houses coming in! Look, I admire our big sister Emem Isong. I’m sure if you ask her, she will tell you that nobody supported her from here when she started. People should give us a little chance; have faith in us! Come and support what we do.

AKOBUO PREMIERE

Dorothy: AKOBUO premier will hold on Sunday 24th March 2013 at Ibom Tropicana, Uyo. The event will start with a Red Carpet by 4pm and by 6pm we’ll go in to the proper viewing of the movie. Yes, we actually expect to see the movie Akobuo.

We are premiering because we want criticisms. We want people to come in and honestly tell us “That was great but next time, do this, do that”. We want to grow! We want people to come in and appreciate what we have.

We are not very comfortable with the way our own things are being done. A lot of people will tell you, “I don’t watch all these indigenous movies, I don’t like Ibibio movies”, why do we produce Ibibio movies? Of course, I have a good command of English not only English, French, German and Spanish, why do I bother to do a movie in my dialect? It is because we want to project our culture, our values, our traditions and our language.

We are calling for this public viewing so that you could come in and support us. Everything is Akwa Ibom; location, story-line, mode of dressing, everything is proudly AkwaCross. Let’s project our own! Let’s celebrate what we have!

Bernadette: Dorothy has said everything. We want to highlight what we have. We believe that something good will come out of Akwa Ibom because we believe that after Akobuo, something better will come.

We will continue to work until God takes us to a place where people can say this ‘BEST’ thing is coming out from Akwa Ibom.

Our Governor has tried but it is we in the arts that will let people know what is going on! The government needs us! If Akwa Ibom has to become a destination, there should be a place where people can relax and listen to good music, watch good movies and eat good delicacies all from Akwa Ibom!

We appreciate those in the hotels and tourism sector, you can see that there are enough hotels around, thank God for Ibom Tropicana, the roads are wonderful but then, people need to be entertained!

They need shows, they need gatherings! This is where the entire entertainment industry comes in!

So, we’re premiering Akobuo so the government and people of Akwa Ibom State can come and see that they too can invest in the entertainment industry.

It doesn’t have to be Berothy Production, there are other production houses, please don’t wait for people to suffer; get loans, get disgraced about, running to Lagos to find a Yoruba or an Igbo person to believe in them and when they now grow, you rush to bring them home, they will look down on you! It is happening already!

Akobuo is a production that is done in Akwa Ibom for Akwa Ibom with Akwa Ibom talents who are beginning their career from here!

When I started acting, every director that came in was telling me “You are a good actress! Why are you wasting here in Akwa Ibom? You will never grow! You need to leave Uyo!” But here I am! The name Bernadette Obi is a household name! If I can do it, millions of young and talented youths can do it too!

I can remember one time I went to Lagos for shopping and immediately I stepped out of the car, I was mobbed by a huge crowd! They were shouting ‘Afia Anwan Ibaka’, see ‘Asari oo’ Hey! Look at ‘Ukarakpa’ oo (These are some of the movies I’ve starred in) and this was happening to me in Lagos, the mega-city? And where did it start from? Here! Uyo! I didn’t need to travel!

Please buy Akwa Ibom movies! If you don’t celebrate us, who will? I am particularly thrilled by the Akwa Ibom community in the US. I’ve had several words of commendation from them.

Last year, I got an invitation from them to attend the Akwa Ibom week. I must tell you, it was a humbling experience that people in the US appreciate what we do and the people here don’t!

If you don’t come in and tell us what to do differently, how will we improve? We’ll appreciate if people come out and support us to take a step further. Support us in whatever way you can!

Now, let me shock you! I’ve been following the Oscars for the past 5 years and do you know that most of the movies that win awards are movies done in indigenous languages? They don’t speak English, they speak the mother tongue!

We are trusting God that people will see the good in what we are doing and come out to support us.

BEROTHY PRODUCTION IN 5 YEARS FROM NOW

Bernadette: We have a lot of plans lined up. We are trusting God that Berothy Productions in partnership with the Holy Spirit, as the Lord leads we follow. We have 3 films on ground, one has already been developed to cinema standard and we’re bringing in a lot of people to work with us.

I’m sorry to mention that Akwa Ibom is so endowed that we have lots of talented cinematographers, directors, editors from here who wouldn’t rather live outside Akwa Ibom; who would rather not come to Akwa Ibom and work; who would rather not work with Akwa Ibom people because we are accented.

For crying out loud, the Hausa man is accented, so is the Yorubas and my land of birth, the Igbo brothers are accented! We should be proud of our accents and not make another tribe make us feel less important!

It is rather appalling that most of them have never gotten to an airport yet, there are ‘blowing grammar’ more than the White man! They have forgotten their languages.

Whenever I travel out of this country, I always hold my Green Passport up high! I’m proud to be a Nigerian! I’ve never seen a Frenchman trying to speak Ibibio or throw away his French accent neither have I seen a German speaking English like an American, he speaks his English like a German with no apologies to anyone but here in Africa, its inferiority complex! We believe anything that comes from outside is better than us, so we have to copy them and in an effort to copy them, we lose our values, our roots, our languages!

The English language is the white man’s language! The fact that we can even communicate is enough! Nobody said they we should wake up and speak the grammar more than the owners because the White man will never come here to learn Ibibio and I can’t lose my Ibibio to White man’s language! God knew that I needed Ibibio that’s why he gave it to me!

We’re working on ‘5 Minutes Madness’ and other stuffs…we believe God we will be bigger in the next 5 years.

WORD FOR UPCOMING ARTISTES

Dorothy: Trust in God! But just before I go into that, again about the next production from Berothy [5 Minutes Madness], I take that as my baby.

I’m so passionate about it. It is a story I actually wrote before coming into the industry. I trust God that this story will go a very long way to get families back together.

Families that are threatened to break apart will actually have a re-think. For the upcoming artiste, being a star is not all about acting a movie; it’s not all about being a star.

It’s all about passing information to a larger society. As an artiste, you’re an Evangelist because it is our own way of passing on God’s word. So trust in God and ask for His grace for it is only in him that you can conquer.

Bernadette: Be sure you have the calling…Map out your short and long term goals, focus on your job and have the determination to succeed and you will!

Dorothy Essien, Aniekan Ekah of Wetinhappen.com and Bernadette ‘Obi’ Wills-Obong

TO FELLOW MEMBERS IN THE INDUSTRY

Bernadette: Growth only happens when people come together for a common goal and everyone functions in their own area of specialization and then we have an open mind to face the vision, pursue it and actualize it.

That way, We’ll have people who can say ‘my calling is in finance’, ‘my calling is in acting’, ‘my calling is editing’, everybody focuses on their field and by the time we do what we ought to do, you will see that the dream will be actualized but when we all decide to be on our own, everybody becomes an island… sometimes back, there was an advert that was running on NTA which said “No man is an island, join the cooperative society!”…that’s exactly when I’m saying!

This industry will not grow or attract investors if we don’t come together. Come together! Sheath your swords! You cannot do it alone if they leave it for you.

You have to understand that as a person, you need the other one to survive! Yes! We are human beings! No one is infallible.

We all have our weaknesses but we must learn to tolerate if the dream must be actualized! We must learn look beyond the fault of others because like my Pastor would say, “When one of your finger is pointed to another person’s fault, the rest are pointed to your own fault!”…and if you really look, the ones that are pointed to your faults are many meaning your own faults are much more than the one you’re pointing at! Why don’t you sheath your swords?

Try to look at the strengths of people and not their weakness! If you have an idea, let’s come together and work on it! Let’s love ourselves! This performing art industry is like the sky and we’re like the different species of birds that God has created!

LAST WORDS TO YOUR FANS

Bernadette: You people…first of all I want to thank God because whatever I am today, God started it! I thank you for loving me and following me this far not minding my inaccessibility and I want to promise you that very soon, all that will stop.

I’m still acting and I’m still active! I believe God for many more movies that will bring in many more awards; I’m actually bugling up for an international award now, and International endorsements for Berothy Productions.

On my own part, I’ll keep on producing movies that will thrill you! Keep buying indigenous movies! Keep supporting us!

Dorothy:  I love you and we promise to produce good movies for you! Watch out for me! Believe in me!

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