Joke Silva wants storytellers, filmmakers to unite Nigeria with their works

Silva made this appeal while delivering a keynote address at the grand finale of a week-long 2024 Emerge Story 3.0 Conference, on Friday at FilmHouse Cinemas, Lekki, Lagos.

Speaking on, “Building a Bridge Connecting the Generations of Female Storytellers”, Silva said that Nigeria needed patriotic screenwriters to cement bonding for the nation’s growth and development.

The veteran, who noted that she had been in practice since 1981, said that Nigeria had gone through a lot of history and that storytellers had a huge role to play in nation-building.

“Unless we are living on the moon, Nigeria is in challenging moments, but what is our role as storytellers?

“Our role is to do our very best in our storytelling to unite the country. We have been staying together for over 60 years. Let us write our stories to unify.

“Music is unifying everywhere, fashion is unifying very well. Films, especially now must unify. Our stories now should be stories that interrogate issues and proffer solutions.

“It is our role to give hope to the nation that is proving difficult to cope with,” she said.

She added that storytellers must tell stories that would address over-population and other issues.

Noting the need for collaboration among players in the industry, Silva said: “We are in a collaborating industry to put ourselves on the map.

“Let’s chronicle to give hope, to let our people laugh and to let our people have a sense of conquerors and to give our people that sense of nationhood.”

Highlighting several female storytellers and filmmakers who had impacted the industry with quality works, Silva listed Zulu Sofola, Lola Fani-Kayode, Amaka Igwe, Bunmi Oyinsan, Kemi Adetiba, Jade Osiberu, Mo Abudu, Toyin Abraham, and Funke Akindele among others.

“All of us stand on the incredible shoulder of the female storytellers,” she said.

The veteran, however, called on the government to exercise some restraints in the way films were being censored, saying much of the censorship is not beneficial to the industry.

In her welcome address, Ololade Okedare, the Founder/Convener of the Emerge Story Company, said she was fulfilled bringing story writers as an advocacy to push the industry forward.

Okedare said: “This was a vision borne over three years ago after my training by Netflix.

“That experience taught me that more storytellers especially emerging voices in Africa need to be heard, they need to be empowered, have exposure and recognition.

“So, we started Emerge Story Conference as a virtual programme, pulling in facilitators from across Africa and the U.S. just to empower and to upskill storytellers.

“This is to help create a better story for the continent putting Africa in a better light and showcasing our skills, our diversity, especially under represented stories of Africa.

“What we have done in the past three years is help writers to develop their stories and give opportunities to take these stories to the screen.”

According to her, the conference. decided in 2024 to showcase and spotlight writers, pulling together writers from across different generations and emerging ones.

Advocating a change in the way storytellers are perceived, Okelola said that screenwriting remains a profession and career, not a hobby that anyone could badge into.

According to her, screenwriters deserve to be recognised just like directors, producers and even make-up artists are being recognised in movies.

“Most times, we don’t get to hear who wrote the story and we think that this is a disservice to the blueprint of a writer. There is no story without a writer.

“What we are doing today is to honour these writers across different generations and bring their works to the spotlight,” she said.

She said that the conference was donating 25 free screenwriting software to emerging writers who could not afford them, to enable them to write better stories.

We will also be giving a grant worth over a million to help writers produce their short movies.

“We want the writers to get their value. We believe writers must be better paid for their work,” she said.

On censorship, Okelola said that many times, writers were forced to dance to the tune of investors and producers, especially the international ones, “who want only a side of our stories”.

She noted that “storytelling remains a powerful tool to begin to unite us as a continent while still displaying our diversities. It is up to us as storytellers to begin to tell a better story of Africa.

“We want the government to bring in policies that enforce this profession and validate we are contributing valuably to the country’s GDP. We should recognise screenwriting and filmmaking as a profession.”

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the event, involving workshops, masterclasses and panel sessions, had in attendance a lot of storytellers and filmmakers who were showcased and recognised.

Some of the recipients of the Emerge Impact 2024 Awards are: Lucille Ayorinde, Grace Edwin-Okon, Kemi Adesoye, Emem Isong, Gloria Bamiloye and Joke Silva among others.

The conference celebrated 30 female storywriters including Dami Elebe, Jessica Abaga, Jola Ayeye, Lios Truly, Ronke Gbede and Toluwani Obayan among others.

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