It was a calling he couldn’t resist for long. It was only a matter of time before Nollywood filmmaker and director Desmond Ovbiagele left his lucrative job in investment banking to pursue his passion in filmmaking. His debut film was ‘Render to Caesar’ which was released in 2014. For his first effort, he gathered a star-studded cast which included Bimbo Manuel, Omoni Oboli, Wale Ojo to mention a few. However, for his second film, ‘Milkmaid’, Ovbiagele picked a delicate topic and with his imagination, visually brought to life the impact of insurgency in the northern part of the country. He travelled to Taraba state to capture the experiences of the victims. In this encounter with The Interview, he shares insights on the making of ‘Milkmaid’.
What exactly did you have in mind to achieve regarding the insurgency in the northeast?
There is much attention about the abducted Chibok girls.
It has been much emphasised on, shouted about, and have several champions both locally and internationally, even all the way to the White house.
Furthermore, I think every bit of it deserves an attention.
But I felt it wasn’t necessarily presenting the entirety of the issues faced in that region. There are other victims of insurgency.
What is most commonly reported are the students who are denied their right to go to school because of civic ideas against Western education which is not fair.
But what the masses don’t know is that that a lot of victims are also affected because they are uneducated. These are the ones you see hawking round the street, selling their wares.
They are also experiencing the same thing the Chibok girls are experiencing but nobody is fighting or advocating for them.
People are just focused on the Chibok girls and what the military are doing to rescue them.
They are eager to know how many who have been released and so on.
But there are loads of people languishing in the streets and gutters, nobody is talking about them. My film ‘Milkmaid’, is throwing light on the other affected girls.
A lot of people thought I was crazy but when I got the support of my parents, I decided to do it. My dad was very troubled with the idea at first but my mum for some reason, she bought into it
Do you think as a filmmaker you have done enough to bring the plight of these girls into the limelight?
I know I don’t have all the powers of the government at my disposal but at least let me use the talent I have to contribute towards it.
If everybody does that, provided the situation is sorted out, irrespective of who you are and the profession you belong to, we can all make a change.
Do you also think that is important for filmmakers of this era to produce movies that convey informative messages?
We have a huge responsibility as filmmakers to do that, considering the country we are in today because we have opportunities.
We need to give a voice to these young girls. The Chibok girls are lucky they have a voice through a lot of people but many others suffering as a result of the insurgency, do not have a voice.
Taraba has been paraded as one of the violent states as a result of Boko Haram attacks and other conflicts. Going there to shoot your movie, what did you perceive from the residents? Do they live in constant fear?
Taraba has not been as affected as other states in the north by the insurgency but they also suffer from Fulani herdsmen conflicts. However, their fear is not palpable. It is there but somehow they have learnt how to survive.
But did you harbour any fear before embarking on the journey?
One of the reasons I went to Taraba was because of its landscape. It was a kind of an adventure. I really wanted to tell a story there. Though it was a risk but what do you do other than to say your prayer for God’s guidance.
In your estimation, do you think the north can be restored again?
I strongly believe that it can but it has to start somewhere, based on certain actions, getting people thinking the same way, having the same objective. With that, I think it can be restored and be even better.