Interview: Dare Olaitan Talks About Ile Owo & Nigerian Filmmaking

"all films are made for different reasons, depending on the filmmaker and the story they’re trying to tell."

Last week, Nigerian filmmaker Dare Olaitan’s fourth feature-length film ‘Ile Owo’ premiered globally on Netflix. Initially released in June 2022, the film is a horror/psychological thriller flick that follows a young Nigerian woman and the capitalist system that sucks her into a messy situation. ‘Ile Owo’ stars Immaculata Oko-Kasum, Bisola Aiyeola, Efa Iwara and Sophie Alakija, among others.

Olaitan’s career as a filmmaker kickstarted in 2016 with the crime-heist comedy ‘Ojukokoro’ and placed him as one to watch. He followed up the success of ‘Ojukokoro’ with 2018’s ‘Knockout Blessing’, which showcased his range and versatility as a filmmaker. Olaitan’s relationship with fellow Nigerian filmmaker Kayode Kasum would blossom over the years, starting from their 2021 film ‘Dwindle’. In this conversation with the NATIVE, Olaitan speaks about his career, Kasum and his latest film ‘Ile Owo.’

NATIVE: Your journey with filmmaking started while you were completing your undergraduate degree in Economics. What films shaped your childhood?

OLAITAN: To be honest, I started watching films pretty late. I didn’t start watching films until I got to university. [But] I watched the popular stuff. 

Dwindle was the first film you co-directed (with Kayode Kasum). What would you say is most interesting about making a film with another director rather than directing alone?

Honestly, I and Kayode produced the film, so it was more of a production decision than a directing decision. We were trying to divide the risk and also to see if we would be able to work together in future. So it was more of a producer thing.

In terms of directing, though, how did you two manage to share the work?

Me and Kayode are very good friends. When you’re working with your friend, I guess it’s very good. First of all, coming from just respect, I respected his processes and he respected my processes. And if we didn’t understand anything, we tried to have [other] people’s decisions about the processes and just be able to come to a solution that works for both of us.

You also co-produced Kayode Kasum’s film Obara M. What would you say is your favourite thing about working with Kayode?

My favourite thing about working with Kayode is his work ethic. We come from backgrounds in which we like to work. And so it’s good to work with somebody that has the same values as you. So yeah, I appreciate that very much.

Your latest movie Ile Owo is a psychological thriller about societal distinctions and the effects of capitalism. Describe the creative process for the film.

Honestly, the creative process for the film was pretty much interesting in the fact that, like you asked earlier, me and Kayode started with Dwindle to see if we could create something together under tight conditions and see if we could make it work. We did it and it was a financial success. So we said since it had worked, we were going to make two daring films that [are different from regular genres]. So I said I’d make a horror film and Kayode said he’d make a musical and that’s how we went forward.

Where did the inspiration for Ile Owo come from?

So Kayode said he had a musical he wanted to make for years so we said alright, we are going to make that. And I said I wanted to make a horror movie and I had a [story] that was ready but I didn’t feel confident because I hadn’t worked on something for a while. So we said in that case, it’d be nice to still make a horror film but we waited for the right time. [I asked that] if I’m making a horror film, what will the story be about so Kayode said he would like to see me make a romantic film. I was like, “Wow. Imagine a romantic horror film,” and that was the nugget idea that then became what we have.

What was most challenging yet rewarding for you in making Ile Owo?

Honestly, I made this film during a trying personal time. I think we made this film right at the end of coronavirus and my father was pretty sick at the time with corona. He was in the hospital and I didn’t have that chance to push myself to the max. So I had to write it [Ile Owo] and at the same time produce it while I was juggling taking care of my family. So I tried to do something I knew that I could afford to make.



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A post shared by Dare E. Olaitan (@darthcoal)

Ile Owo, like your previous films, draws inspiration from situations relatable to Nigerian people. What is most important to you as a filmmaker: to entertain or to educate?

I feel like all films are different and all films are made for different reasons, depending on the filmmaker and the story they’re trying to tell. For me, because of the way I see the world, I can’t help but not impact my own perspective of the world. 

What is the best way as a director to communicate your vision to your cast and crew?

I do write my scripts [and I’m rooted in the story] so I know exactly what I’m trying to do. So I know how to guide people towards that vision and sometimes people can assist because film is a collaborative effort. So I have the vision and let people know this is what I’m trying to do. And maybe they can be like, “Oh, add to this.” But I come with a very defined idea of the film.

What is the most important ingredient to becoming a great filmmaker?

I don’t know about the most important ingredient because I believe that it [filmmaking] is different for everybody but I do believe that you need to read a lot. That’s all because you need to take in a lot of information to accurately reflect the world. Just read broadly about life.

Ile Owo is out on Netflix. With the rising number of Nigerian productions being hosted by global streaming platforms, what does this portend for the future of the Nigerian film industry?

I believe we can already see the influence of the [streaming platforms] on the Nigerian film industry, in line with making varying genres and taking more experiments. What was going to be a purely cinema endeavour would have been more difficult to make a horror film but because of the exceptions of streaming platforms, it makes it possible to take more daring decisions. 

Featured Image Credits/ The NATIVE