Filmmaker Editi Effiong discusses his career and the success of his film, ‘The Black Book.’ He expresses gratitude to Nollywood for giving him the opportunity and credits his team and investors for the film’s success. Effiong also talks about the challenges he faced as a first-time director, including dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. He mentions his previous works and his background in advertising and technology. Effiong defends the cinematography of ‘The Black Book’ and explains that they wanted to showcase the true texture of Lagos. He emphasizes that his goal is to share stories about Africa and make an impact, rather than winning awards. He believes films can influence society and address problems. Lastly, he mentions his involvement in digital advertising and tech and enjoys spending time with family and pursuing other hobbies like reading, writing, cooking, and trying new wines.
A filmmaker, Editi Effiong, discusses his career and other topics
What inspired the production of the film, ‘The Black Book’?
‘The Black Book’ serves as a love letter to my country.
The movie became the first Nigerian film to top the Netflix world ranking, reaching number four within two days of its release. How did you feel about this achievement?
I would like to express my gratitude to Nollywood for giving my team and me this opportunity. We believed our movie was great, but we never expected it to perform so well. I am thankful to everyone who worked with me on this project – the actors, the team, and the investors. They made it all possible. This success is not only for Nollywood, but for all the pioneers of the film industry and everyone in Africa. It demonstrates the growth of our industry, and I am thrilled to be a part of it.
The Black Book marks your directorial debut. What challenges did you face in this role and how did you overcome them?
Every day on set presented its own difficulties, but witnessing the commitment of my team to creating this film truly inspired me. On the first day of filming, I acknowledged that I may not have as much experience as some of them, but I asked for their trust and willingness to follow my lead, believing that together we could achieve something extraordinary with the movie.
We also had to deal with the challenges of COVID-19 as we were filming in early 2021. Regular testing for the virus was necessary for our crew. Unfortunately, there was an outbreak on set, resulting in a loss of 20% of our budget. This led to a 12-day halt in shooting and affected contracts during that time. We also had to test all the background actors who would be in close proximity to our main cast. It was certainly a difficult situation, but I am grateful that we were able to overcome it.
You are the founder of Anakle Films. Can you mention some of your other works as a filmmaker?
I created a short film called ‘Fishbone’ which is available for viewing on YouTube. I also directed additional scenes for my first film, ‘Up North,’ which I produced. It was a valuable learning experience for me as I continue to grow as a filmmaker. ‘The Black Book’ is my first full-length feature film as a director. Before venturing into filmmaking, I had a background in advertising and technology. I led advertising campaigns for brands such as Wikipedia, Access Bank, Sterling Bank, Globacom, and many others in Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa.
It has been mentioned that Nollywood needs to improve the quality of its stories, and you achieved that with ‘The Black Book.’ However, the film is set in multiple time periods (2020, 1990s, and 1980s), yet the camera quality reflects an epic or 1990s aesthetic throughout. Was there a specific reason for this?
I disagree with that observation. The cinematography of the film is one of its strong points and is almost flawless in my opinion. We shot with top-of-the-line equipment, and it shows in the final product. However, every film has its own visual language, and for us, it meant emphasizing simplicity and authenticity.
Lagos is often depicted as a glamorous, modern city, but we wanted to showcase the gritty side of Lagos. Lagos Island, for instance, has a timeless quality, and we portrayed it as such without embellishment. Tarkwa Bay, where Paul (played by Richard Mofe-Damijo) resides, looks exactly as we depicted it in the film. We wanted to step away from the glossy portrayal of Lagos often seen on TV and truly capture the city’s texture. Similarly, the hazy atmosphere of the Kaduna scenes accurately represents Kaduna – hazy, textured, and brown.
I assume you are anticipating award nominations for this work. What other aspirations do you have for the impact of the film?
I did not make this film with awards in mind. My main goal is to share stories about Africa with Africans and the world. I am pleased that ‘The Black Book’ has reached millions of people worldwide. ‘The Black Book’ is just the beginning of our five-year plan. We are making further investments to tell even more significant stories.
Nigeria is known to be deeply entrenched in corruption, and your movie addresses that. Do you believe that movies have the power to influence the policies of those in power, considering that films highlighting government issues have been made in the past but some leaders seem unaffected?
Art should reflect society, and when played right, art can influence society. Films are created to tell stories, whether fictional or based on real events. If ‘The Black Book’ helps to address issues in any society, whether it be Nigeria or elsewhere, I am genuinely grateful. Ultimately, it is up to the viewers to decide if they care or not. I cannot compel anyone to change their minds, but I must make this statement – ‘silence is the enemy.’ We must speak up for justice for everyone, even if we do not like them, but especially for those we dislike.
Aside from filmmaking, what other pursuits do you engage in?
I work in digital advertising and technology. How I spend most of my time depends on the main priority of the day. Currently, my priority is ‘The Black Book.’ Tomorrow, it might be assisting one of my financial services clients in designing a new fintech service.
Who are your biggest supporters?
I am fortunate to have wonderful friends and supportive family members. I do not take their encouragement for granted. In recent weeks, I have relied on my family and trusted friends to keep me grounded.
How do you unwind?
I spend time with my family, read, write, cook, and explore new wines.