King Siblings: Kemi and Remi Adetiba
Since the times of films like Living in Bondage, observers of the Nollywood industry will attest to relatable storylines that mirrored societal events. From the generic horror and rom-com films to producing films rated in the international film scene, one need not look too far to know why Nollywood ranks as the second biggest film industry in the world.
The ranking goes beyond the number of films produced but reflects in the quality of production and groundbreaking achievements despite the many challenges that key players face.
Yet, some Nigerians opine that the production does not translate to great storylines and could be anticlimactic. Nigerian filmmakers have explored the drama genre in Nollywood countless times but few have elicited the same level of enthusiastic reactions the King of Boys (KOB) has.
The positive fan reviews are not misplaced: the film is characterised by compelling scenes and imagery and is akin to the political drama witnessed every day in the country.
From its premiere to the compelling scripts including powerful dialogue like, “I am Laburu. God’s worst punishment in a person.” KOB has shattered records and become the film with; the biggest opening week for a non-comedy Nollywood film; second highest opening week of a Nollywood film in 2018; second highest opening by a female director.
Kemi Adetiba came into Nollywood with a bag of talent, personal aesthetics and that knack to put together a cinematic experience that etches itself in your memory. The Wedding Party (TWP) which she directed, is a testament to her directional skills.
With KOB, her ability to tell stories with absolute clarity came to the fore.
While some people attest the effect of the patriarchal society we live in, she tilts her experiences towards being
mentored and inspired by women hence making the lead character of Eniola Salami (Sola Sobowale) female. She said, “I don’t think the way everybody else does. I grew up with a very strong mum that excelled in her career, she excelled in her personal life. I am used to having strong women mentors around me. I have been mentored by them, tutored by them so I can’t distinguish that a man is supposed to do something.”
Her passion for pushing the envelope with storytelling has resulted in being the brainbox behind not just one but two of the most successful films in Nollywood.
Giving her all to ensure that the audience has no choice but to be invested and engrossed. The storyline of KOB is unpredictable and leaves the audience drawn to their seats to ensure they see the final curtain and the words “The End.”
Comedy to drama
TWP was dramatic, and the characters were hilarious. In an era where Nigerian comedies sacrifice, TWP sustained both. The aesthetic behind the film contributed to making the film the highest grossing Nollywood film at the time.
Creating KOB according to Kemi came from a conversation with a friend, she said,
“Sola Sobowale existed before the script existed… a friend of mine mentioned, ‘won’t it be crazy if Sola Sobowale played as some do’ and I laughed ‘like that is ridiculous and I was like wait’ and then I started having ideas and started putting things together and that is how it happened. King of Boys was written around her.”
Gradually the idea was birthed and nursed into a film so successful that for the first time it created an abnormal scene in cinemas where people settled for a Hollywood blockbuster because tickets for KOB were sold out on a Wednesday evening.
One of the intriguing factors is the use of relatable characters and the best but unlikely actors for the job. Everybody can relate to the characters of people like Odogwu (played by Ill Bliss), Kitan (played by Ademola Adedoyin), and the younger Eniola Salami (played by Toni Tones).
“Toni Tones had come in to audition for Adesua’s character and it just didn’t fit. Adesua’s character was like slow poison so you couldn’t see her coming from a mile away.”
“But then when we were looking for someone to play Sola Sobowale’s younger self we found it difficult because the thing about the tenacity and the passion and the will to do anything possible to get to where she was going, we couldn’t find in anybody, nobody fit at all. And when we went back and I was like wait what about Toni Tones?”
Kemi’s films have garnered huge success. TWP shattered box office record when it was released and now KOB within weeks of its release is getting positive reactions and reviews so much so that it elicits applause from the audience when viewed in cinemas.
Although she appreciates the applause, she is proud that it is associated with the work done and not on her person. “I really enjoy the work but the fanfare around it makes me very uncomfortable. Doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate it. I like people giving me my credit when it’s due but then to bask in it, I get a lot of my Dad’s character. I like to be noticed but I don’t like to be the centre of attention.”
Making KOB came with doubts and trepidation as people warned that a non-comedy film of that length might not work. But this did not deter her as the film is not only successful but is getting reactions unequalled to none.
She said the feedback is so positive that she is genuinely touched. “They love it and passionately tell me how much they love it, almost gets me emotional. I am grateful to be here, it is my second film, it could have gone anyway.”
But Kemi was not the only Adetiba that made KOB a shining example of how to make a standout film; her younger brother Remi was more than a sidekick. As a producer, he had a major contribution to the film’s success even though KOB is his first at filmmaking.
The reason Kemi trusted Remi to produce the film was more than familial.
Before embarking on this ambitious project, KOB in which he was the producer, he was well known as a photographer and creative director. He also had a career in advertising for seven years during that time working in New York. He prides himself as part of the team that launched the first Amazon Kindle, led the digital efforts in the Marketing department for the New York Times before embarking on a role as a resident judge on the television show Africa’s Next Top Model.
According to him his decision to embark on this film was a worthwhile sacrifice, “ I had to largely step away from my own career for a year to work on King of Boys. I stepped back because King of Boys was my main focus and that’s a demanding piece of work.”
Remi, who has no formal training as a producer, hinges the success of his translation of the characters to his experience in photography. He said, “When I shoot, I try to sell a character, convey an emotion.”
“What contributed to the success of the film was being able to solve problems, getting hands-on and working together with the team to ensure that they attain the set goals. This was the key to scaling the hurdles faced during the film production,” he added.
In spite of the result being enjoyed in the cinemas, “Filmmaking is the hardest thing I have ever done,” he said amid laughter.
The challenges of creating a project of this magnitude might have spurred the siblings to unite and come up with a film that may fetch them laurels in the months ahead.
Remi said, “it was a big film, the scale and the ambition of it, the number of speaking roles  and 50 something locations. We had the special effects and all the elements –wardrobe and other moving parts.”
Fashion in film
To Remi, just like other elements in the film, fashion has a visual appeal in the film. They had to build each character’s wardrobe to suit what they intended to portray. He said, “I remember taking a bracelet off my arm because it would suit a character.”
Fashion projects a character and is a huge part of the storytelling and he sees a future in fashion being incorporated in films in Nigeria.
He envisages that there will be an improvement in portraying a character through what they are wearing because it evokes an imagery of the character in question.
He is proud of the success of the film but despite the success of the KOB, he will not hurriedly jump into another filmmaking project for now. Instead, his immediate plans are to return to his photography career, shooting in New
York, Cape Town, and Lagos.”
But then he added, “You never know if Kemi comes up with another crazy idea we may end up doing this again.”