Homegirl leads campaign against domestic violence
A multitalented social entrepreneur with innovative solutions to improve human and environmental well-being, Remi Momodu is the CEO of Unique Me productions and fashions. A registered nurse based in the USA, she embarked on the journey of caring for the vulnerable members of the community some 18 years ago and eventually pursued a new path in nursing, providing individual care and give back to the community. Her strong connection with different attributes of human nature, especially in women and children’s struggle, led to the establishment of Xyza Campaign, which aims at addressing domestic violence. In support of the initiative, she recently produced a movie, Xyza to propagate the mission and vision of the campaign. Remi, who was in Lagos recently for the premiere of the movie, spoke with CHUKS NWANNE on the campaign, the movie and life generally as an entrepreneur.
What informed your choice of nursing as a career?
Actually, that was not what I wanted to do; I did my first degree in Criminal Justice and wanted to go to Law School. Along the line, I was working with the less fortunate people, where I was introduced to nursing. So, I went back to school for a second degree in Nursing and later got a Masters Degree. Right now, I’m doing an MBA in Business Administrations.
How did you come about Xyza Campaign and why domestic violence?
The topic is of interest to me because I live in the United States; the place where I live, domestic violence is very rampant. In recent time, we’ve had major cases, where African men, particularly Nigerians, traveled back to Nigeria to bring their women to America; most times, they are usually in the healthcare business. In most cases, they are interested in registered nurses and medical experts. The reason they do so is that, when people from those professions come, it’s easy to get them to start working so they can make big money. Often times, these couples don’t know themselves very well and things go out of hand and you have incidents where you actually lose these women to domestic violence.
Do you have any of such cases in mind?
Before I came to Nigeria few weeks ago, we actually had a case five minutes from where I live. A Nigerian man from Delta State, who is married to an Igbo lady, shot her to death and shot himself; both of them died on the spot. So, you have five kids with no mother no father. It’s rampant, I mean, we continue to see these stories; it’s a public health issue. As a public health practitioner, I felt, beyond what we just sit and talk about, we need to make a change. So, my goal is to use the Xyza Campaign to raise awareness and educate people about domestic violence. We intend to partner with other people, who are into what we are doing so that we can use the resources we have to reach out to those who are affected.
How long has this campaign been on?
The movement started about a year and half ago; this is our second year. Like I said, I’ve been in the United States for about 20 years, so, I know about the stories of all that happen there and they also happen here; it’s a problem all over the world. It became an interest to me when I saw the trend; I see nurses like me suffering for the same thing. These are women that are really working hard.
Is domestic violent basically against women?
No, it does affect men as well, but in most societies, the statistics show that women are more affected than men. However, we only need one man or one woman to be affected; it’s not right for either of the sexes to be affected. Women are dying in silence and men are crying helplessly, but together, we can fight the fight.
What informed your decision to use the movie as a medium to propagate your message?
First of all, I’m an actress myself and I wanted to write a story that promotes what I believe in; I wanted a story that makes sense. I could have produced a comedy or just love, action movie, but I wanted something people will enjoy and still learn from it.
So, I figured that, since I’m in the industry, I could use movie as a tool to disseminate the message of the campaign.
What’s the inspiration behind the movie Xyza?
Xyza is inspired by real life events within the African Immigrant community. It’s a story of Xyza, a high-achieving medical student, whose dream of becoming a Medical Doctor was almost derailed once she came into contact with Mr. Desmond Bello. Desmond, a Nigerian living in the US, is persuaded into finding his own personal “ATM” so as to live a life free from work and filled with luxury. After an unfortunate chance meeting, Xyza is sucked into a dark world of mental, emotional and physical abuse at the hands of the man, who promised a life filled with happiness. She desperately seeks solutions to escape her entrapment. The movie takes you on an emotional rollercoaster of love, hate, fear and hope.
How did you come about the story?
I wrote the story, which is in line with what the movement is all about. If you go to our website (www.uniquemeproductions.com), there’s a section where people, no matter what part of the world you are, can volunteers to be part of that change; you can be part of our ambassadors. There, you will see the requirements for what the ambassadors are going to do. The goal is to help us with our mission and vision.
Who are the cast members?
It’s a well-rounded movie with different actors from different countries; we shot in Maryland, United States. We had actors from Sire Leone, Cameroon, Ghana and we have a lot of actors from Nigeria; Ikechukwu Onyeka came all the way from Nigeria to direct the movie, while Chinedu Okonkwo handled cinematography. However, most of the actors are not your popular faces, but Ejike Okoye, who is a known Nollywood face, played the lead role, while I played the lead female role.
How did you arrive at playing the lead role?
I think for me, when I wrote the story, I lived in that role; I knew what I wanted Xyza to be. As I was writing the story, I saw myself in that character and I lived it over and over again; it became part of me. So, it wasn’t about reading the script and say ‘let’s start shooting,’ no; I carried the story within me. However, we did our casting properly and selected the cast.
For how long have you been making films?
This is actually my first film as a producer, but I’ve worked on other movie productions in the United States as an actress. But as a filmmaker, this is my first feature film.
What’s the budget of the movie?
Actually, I cannot give you an exact figure because, I don’t want to exaggerate or shortchange myself. I want to be real and honestly, I cannot tell you the exact. We started from pre-production to production and post-production, so, I need some time to sit down with my accountant and see what the book is like.
How was your experience on set, especially challenges?
I think challenges like in any part of the production, is about resources; the resources that we have abroad is different from what you have here; you can have access to stuffs more easily than you have in America. Of course, distribution continues to be a problem, but it’s an industry problem. I think that over time, we will overcome it and find ways to sell our products better.
How difficult has it been for Nigerians actors like yourself in the United States to break into mainstream Hollywood?
Personally, I wouldn’t say I’m not interested in Hollywood, but that’s not my focus. I truly enjoy being a Nollywood actress; I enjoy what Nollywood is about. For me, I see Nollywood to be a growing industry and it continues to grow; we have a lot of potentials. I’m honestly not interested in making my movie to look like a Hollywood film; I enjoy the traditional aspect of Nollywood production, where we tell a story because they are real. I really don’t enjoy actions and fictions; we tell true stories with lessons.
It seems you are a woman of many parts?
Yes, I’m registered nurse by profession, a producer, actress and entrepreneur. I’m also an ambassador for change, change against domestic violence. I fight for both men and women, and particularly for children. As a nurse, I go to the hospital and I work from Mondays to Fridays and I have my weekends off. It’s not easy because I work 40 hours a week and I have my own business to take care of. Besides, I’m a mother of four children. I’m a woman that wears many hats; I wear them comfortably. I enjoy what I do; I have passion for acting and I love telling stories. Besides Xyza Campaign against domestic violence, I’m also a fashion designer.
The movie is currently showing on cinemas, what’s your expectation?
I want it to get to both those that are affected by domestic violence and those that are not. There’s a lot of disconnect in our society and we need to reorient ourselves. Some people may say, ‘oh, you are a feminist, it’s all about women,’ but that’s not what this campaign is all about; it’s truly about the society that we live in. We need to start appreciating ourselves; we need to start to appreciate our women.
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