’76, film on Murtala Muhammed, premieres in London
Remember the Lord Rumens Tennis Championship of 1976. How spectators watched as soldiers approached the Wimbledon champion, Arthur Ashe; one of them shoved the cold steel of his machine gun into the back of Ashe’s sweat-soaked shirt to push him off the court? How Ashe walked off the court with his two arms raised in the air, leaving his gear behind?
That was February 1976.
Forty years after, a film inspired by event dark Friday, February 13, the day then Head of State, Gen. Murtala Muhammed, was assassinated, is set to take the world by storm.
Titled, ’76, the film made history during the week, when it was announced as the first Nigerian film to have its European premiere at the prestigious BFI London Film Festival in October.
The multi-million dollar landmark movie is already scheduled to make a global opening at the 41st Toronto International Film Festival later this month has now also been exclusively chosen to have its European premiere at the prestigious BFI London Film Festival.
This is the first Nollywood flick to be chosen by both Toronto and London film festivals back-to-back and is a new milestone in African cinema.
The film, cast and crew have received a major boost with a high profile endorsement from the Head of State who succeeded the assassinated Murtala Muhammed at the time; His Excellency General Olusegun Obasanjo, then later went on to become a two-term President. He described ’76 as “the best view of one of the worst times in our nations history. A must watch and an insight that was long overdue. Watching the attention to detail and hearing my own voice in February 1976, brought out both sweet and sour memories as Murtala Muhammed was not only my boss, he was my friend. I can not attest to what went on in the homes as we were focused on the field, but this film gives even I, an insight into that.”
Set during the era of military assassinations and political unrest in Nigeria, the movie also had the full approval and endorsement of the Nigerian Army and the Murtala Muhammed family, and was shot inside the confines of a military base, another first in Nigeria’s cinematic history.
It comes 40 years after the actual events, and follows four years of work by the multi award winning Director Izu Ojukwu and the production teams of Adonis Production and Princewill’s Trust, a brainchild of Prince Tonye Princewill and Adonijah Owiriwa who are the film’s executive producers.
Meticulously executed, the pre-production period took two years including, eight months of trying to secure all necessary permission from the Nigerian Army and seven months of shooting.
The script was scrutinised and an officer appointed to supervise and monitor each step of the filming process, from beginning to the end.
The movie survived three Chiefs of Army Staff. Fortunately, each one of them who took over sustained interest in the film. Determined to make it work, the production crew and cast patiently followed every instruction and met every demand from the military authorities.
A letter from the Headquarters, Nigeria Army, Department of Civil- Military Affairs signed by Major General R. I. Nicholas for the Chief of Army Staff disclosed why the military institution desires collaboration with the creative industry.
A large part of the action was shot at the Mokola Barracks in Ibadan, Oyo State. As the 200-member cast and crew stayed together for about seven months, bonding as a family was inevitable.
The film is a love story embedded in treason, intrigue, patriotism and faith is set in Ibadan, Oyo State, against the backdrop of transition and the struggle for political stability in 1976 and is inspired by real life events that led to the assassination of Gen. Murtala Muhammed.
Six years after the civil war, a young officer from the middle belt gets entangled in a romantic relationship with a beautiful O-Level student from the Southeastern part of Nigeria.
At the centre of this very gripping romantic thriller is the charismatic, ‘Captain Joseph Dewa’, played by Ramsey Nouah, who is indicted by the military for his alleged role in the coup.
Their romance is almost ruptured by endless military postings. Now heavily pregnant, her walls come crumbling when the news of her husband’s involvement in a botched coup attempt hits the headlines.
’76’ celebrates the quality of the true African woman by exploring the usually invisible pain of a soldier’s wife; it highlights the enduring Nigerian cultural values of courage, resilience, patience, loyalty, faith and family. It is visually pure, emotionally engaging and amorously therapeutic.
Produced by Adonaija Owiriwa and Izu Ojukwu, and directed by Ojukwu, the story in the film is told from two points of view: that of a young pregnant woman, and that of her husband, a soldier accused of being involved in the 1976 military coup and assassination of General Murtala Mohammed.
’76 followed a painstaking process uncommon in Nollywood. “It took seven years to make this movie. We were not in a hurry at all. We avoided all the errors possible because we set our mind on a global audience from the first day. For close to one year, we were pursuing approval from the authorities of the Nigerian Army. The movie was shot at Mokola Barracks in Ibadan and the story of how the actors were made to fit into the environment should be reserved for another day.