Dare Olaitain’s second film “Knock Out Blessing” is many things, part thriller and part political commentary. But the most striking element is its range of female characters uplifting the story with their drive, agency and strength. Merging on his first feature film “Ojukokoro” released in 2017, “Knock Out Blessing” has ushered in Olaitan and he joins an exciting crop of young directors enriching our film landscape.
An Alumni of the Colorado Film School, Guardian Life spoke with Olaitan on Knock Out Blessing, Nollywood, Netflix, and Quentin Tarantino.
Unlike your debut feature Ojukokoro, female characters drove the story of Knock Out Blessing. Was this a deliberate choice?
Yes. I had a couple of reasons. I made most of the characters’ female as I realised in Nollywood most roles for most female characters are not very varied. Mums, girlfriends and wives. I wanted to create women that did things on screen.
I thought the primary audience for Nollywood films were women so I tried to make something we would both like which had something to relate with our reality at the moment in Nigeria.
You must have heard the comparison between you and Quentin Tarantino in filmmaking style – is this something you take as a compliment or ignore?
It changes nothing in my life in actual reality so it doesn’t register. It is natural for people to compare. I am just glad to be compared with people like Nolan, Tarantino and Kurosawa. I think everyone forgets I have been making films for three years.
When did you realise that you wanted to be a filmmaker?
The last year of my undergraduate years, I was completing my Economics degree which required me to do a project on an emerging industry from our country of origin. I had always had an interest in film, so I wrote a paper on Nollywood. My paper focused on the projections of the next fifty years within the market.
My professor, the great Fred Hoyt who I am forever indebted to, read my paper and asked me, “If there is so much money to be made and you loved film so much, why not give it a go?” The rest is history.
What filmmaker has inspired you the most?
Robert Rodriguez and Guillermo Del Toro. These are men who came from an industry very much like Nollywood but stuck to their visions knowing they could appeal to a worldwide audience to graduate to big Hollywood pictures.
Do you think it’s important to go to a film school to become a successful filmmaker?
No, and I went to film school. The average person with an iPhone and an internet connection have more access to information and better equipment that Hitchcock.
If you want to be a filmmaker. Make films.
What is your favourite movie of all time and why?
American Beauty. It’s perfect. I am in love with great writing and the script is perfect. Sigh, Kevin Spacey had to go ruin it.
With the announcement that streaming giant Netflix will order more original African content, do you think the platform will be an important player in showcasing African stories to the world?
Everything is happening exactly as it should. Africa is the only untapped market left in the world. Globalisation needs profits.
60% of the Nigerian population are teenagers. Who will tell their stories? Expect a lot of change in the coming years.
For you, what makes a great movie?
For me, I think great fiction is meant to extract common truths from reality. This is why stories like Romeo And Juliet connect so well and have endured the ages.
We might not know lovers who killed themselves in order to be together but we understand the stupid passion of youthful love. We all know Romeo’s and Juliet’s.
I think a great movie is a movie that captures some essential truth of life, freezing it to be examined forever, teaching us things that we may not have yet realised about ourselves.