Balogun: I’m driven by the need to create spectacle, stimulate conversation
There are a few individuals in the Nigerian movie industry, who personify the elements of creativity, innovation and organisation as the talented Saheed Balogun. He began his professional acting career in 1978 and has featured in several movies. Although more renowned for appearances in the Yoruba side of Nollywood, he has also acted in a number of Nollywood English movies.
A versatile actor, Balogun is loved across the movie spectrum for his witty and creative interpretation of roles. For someone, who did not study theatre arts, or attend any acting school, Balogun’s dexterity is not only surprising, but impressive.
He recalled how he got into acting in a recent conversation, when he said, “Right from the day I was born; my father used to do comedy and the same blood flows in my veins. I decided to make mine commercial by showing it to the world. I did not want to do it the way my father did his by sitting down and making the whole community laugh; I decided to make mine international as well.”
Buoyed by his charming looks, Balogun is always courted by producers and directors to feature in Yoruba movies. His staying power in the industry has been quite remarkable, given how long he has maintained his grip on the industry. It is such dominance, alongside his hilarious acting skills, that has earned him nicknames such as Walata, Omo Alhaja, and James Bond.
The actor has also shown another nifty side of him by diversifying into being a movie producer and director. Balogun, who is President of The Golden Movies Ambassadors, has produced and directed a number of landmark movies that have received critical acclaim on account of the innovativeness he brought into making them.
His first movie production, City Girl, was in 1989. What is surprising is that Balogun ventured into production just 11 years into his movie career; he also did it at an early stage of his career, when actors were contented with just acting. Balogun, who has produced over 20 movies, has been hailed as some sort of revolutionary in Nollywood because of the quality of his films.
Among the list of his many achievements, includes the production of a two-cast movie, Modupe Temi, and a three-cast movie, Gbogbo Ere. He also produced Third Party, the first-ever ankara movie. Indeed, these are laudable achievements considering the complexity, technicality and extensive logistics required to realise these productions.
Balogun’s exploits with his movies has shown that Nollywood can produce impressive films that can stand the test of time in terms of quality, technical depth, and good storylines, compared to movies with same budget coming from outside African.
Balogun spoke on the inspiration for his unique moviemaking, noting that he is driven by the need to create art, spectacle, protest, stimuli, conversation, and amusement.
“My view of film is that a great film is both entertainment and art. The art in movies speaks to the human experience and it should do this in an entertaining way. These days, I produce movies not because I want to be known, but to nurture, teach and educate people on how to live peacefully in their marriage, in their workplace and as it applies to their day-to-day activities. Those of us who produce adapt three approaches to it. We tell the past, deal with the present and shape the future.”
Researching a movie before shoot is a critical element Balogun does not take for granted, and he encourages his colleagues to take a cue.
According to him, “I like research and that has reflected in most of my movies. I am the first actor in Africa who has produced a two-cast movie and the first to do a film, where every actor wore Ankara in West Africa. I also did a movie, where I was the only black man, and also the first to do a three-cast movie. All these put together is a result of rigorous research.”
Indeed, for Balogun, the tripod of creativity innovation, and organisation are important factors needed to excel not just in moviemaking, but also in every profession and everyday life. Combined with resourcefulness, all three factors can make for great productions like Balogun’s movies have shown.