CORDELIA, the latest work from the stable of ace filmmaker and culture advocate, Tunde Kelani, has been selected to feature at the 30th New York African Film Festival, holding in May.
A letter from the organisers of the festival conveyed the good news thus: “We are pleased to invite your film Cordelia, to the 2023 New York African Film Festival.”
Director of the Festival, Mahen Bonneti, disclosed further, “Your film will screen at Film at Lincoln Center on Monday, May 15 at 7:30pm, along with the short film Employee of the Month by Goga Clay.“
Set in Nigeria during the early 90s under military rule, Cordelia was adapted from a work of fiction by renowned dramatist and poet, Femi Osofsan.
“It is a product of collaboration with people from different cultures and backgrounds, united by a creative force without boundaries,” stated Kelani, the 75-year-old founder/director of the epoch-making Mainframe Productions.
Synopsis: Cordelia is a period drama adapted from Femi Osofisan’s novella, set in Nigeria during the early 90s under military rule.
The story follows a university professor who unwittingly becomes embroiled in a military coup. One morning, he arrives at his office worried about his wife’s strange behaviour and is soon visited by two curious students, one of whom is Cordelia Nwaeze Peters, daughter of a popular Colonel Nwaeze Peters of the Nigerian Army, recently implicated in a military coup. As a result of the coup, there is general unrest, with students on a rampage and Cordelia’s life in danger.
The professor decides to save Cordelia’s life and becomes further enmeshed in the national crisis. General Peters, encouraged by the professor’s altruistic action towards his daughter, is able to foil the coup.
After settling into a new position as head of government, General Peters offers the professor a cabinet position as compensation for saving his daughter’s life. Cordelia is a gripping tale of sacrifice, bravery, and the lengths a person will go to protect those they care about in times of crisis.
CAST: The film stars in the lead some A-list actors:
CORDELIA – Omowunmi Dada
Dr Adekunle – William Benson
Remi – Yvonne Jegede
Col. Nwankwo Peters – Keppy Ekpeyong
Major Kawale – Kelechi Udegbe
Rasaki – Femi Adebayo
Ahmed – Taiwo Ibikunle
Officer – Ropo Ewenla
CREW: On the crew list are:
Screenwriter – Bunmi Ajiboye
Music Composition – Michael Ogunlade
Director of Photography – Adekunle Adejuyigbe Head of Production – Bola Belo
Post-Production Supervisor – Steve Sodiya
Associate Producers — Jide Bello; Seun Alli
Exec. Producers – Tayo Oladimeji; Kunle Adebiyi Director: Tunde Kelani
The outing at New York Festival marks another milestone in the illustrious career of Kelani, easily Nigeria’s foremost filmmaker, who recently earned an honourary doctorate degree from the Lead City University, Ibadan, for his immense work in the field of the cinema and contribution to propagation and preservation of Yoruba cultural heritage.
In his directorial note on the film, Kelani, whose signature is on other popular works as Saworoide, Thunderbolt, Maami, Dazzling Mirage among others, traces the processes that led to his picking on one of Osofisan’s most successful prose works; and as well the involvement of his international collaborators at the University of Delaware.
Titled, “Cordelia – A Goddess of Cultural Diversity and Collaboration,” Kelani, who, in the Nigerian film firmament, has the unique credit of always adapting literary works to film, says:
“The process of bringing the film Cordelia to life was a collaborative effort that spanned different continents and cultures. As a filmmaker, I have always sought to promote cultural diversity in my films and celebrate the rich heritage of Africa’s many cultures and languages.
This is why I was excited to collaborate with Professor James Anderson, the Director of Orchestral Activities at the University of Delaware and founder of the UD Cultural Fusion Initiative.
“Nigeria is a country with over 250 languages, different cultures and traditions.
As an African filmmaker, it is crucial to celebrate and inspire the diverse cultures of Africa and preserve our heritage for future generations. James’ innovative Cultural Fusion Initiative allowed us to collaborate across borders and cultures to create a unique film that celebrates our diverse backgrounds.
“During the production of the film Cordelia, I exchanged series of letters with Professor James Anderson. In one of my letters, I jokingly suggested a different title for the film, “A Baby with A Dozen Mothers?”
To my surprise, James responded positively, saying “Sounds good, she only has one papa; I hope you are proud of this as I am.” Our collaboration on the Cultural Fusion Initiative was as dramatic as the story of Cordelia itself
“The collaboration involved two levels. The first level was in Nigeria, where Cordelia was written by Prof. Femi Osofisan and adapted for the screen by me, with the help of talented cast, crew, and a Nigerian composer, Michael Ogunlade. The second level took place at the University of Delaware in the US, where a premiere of Cordelia was held. American student orchestras played the music score while the film was shown to a live audience.
The project involved about seventy-five musicians, including student orchestrators and arrangers, a four-time Grammy-winning recording engineer, and faculty members from the School of Music. The recorded and edited music was sent to us in Nigeria for the final sound mix of Cordelia, which will be presented at the New York African Film Festival in mid-May 2023.
“The project was complex and challenging, but the outcome was worth the effort. The collaboration brought a unique perspective to the music score of the film, resulting in a compelling and captivating narrative for the audience. Cordelia is not just my film; it is our film. It is a product of collaboration with people from different cultures and backgrounds, united by a creative force without boundaries. This project suggests peace and harmony in the world we live in, and I am proud to have been part of it.”
Reflecting on the collaboration, in an article titled, Cordelia and The Power of a Question, Dr. Kelani’s collaborator on the project, Professor James Allen Anderson, writes: “What does it take to set a collaborative, multinational artistic venture into motion? Answer: a passionate question, an inspired idea, and a willing partner.
The Founder/Director of the UD Cultural Fusion Initiative, and Director of Orchestral Activities, University of Delaware School of Music, continues:
“I began this journey by asking the following: “What innovative projects might result from paring an American classical music institution with an established foreign art form?”
Instead of aspiring to some form of crossover venture, I sought opportunities to combine our respective cultural strengths with the goal to create a new style of artistic expression.
The model that emerged from this initial query was the groundbreaking work of Nigerian artist Fela Kuti, who skillfully synthesized elements of jazz with rock, Apala, Highlife, and juju to form a unique, recognizable, and popular genre of music, Afrobeat. Could a United States classical music entity pair with a distinctly Nigerian tradition in a similar fashion? The answer was a resounding “Yes.” And fusion was the key.
“Inspired by this enlightened Nigerian model, I sought support from the University of Delaware to create the UD Cultural Fusion Initiative (CFI), a student-centered program born out of a passion for diverse world traditions and based on an intense curiosity charged with the mission of investigating how our cultural gifts might join with others.
“This initiative led to my first visit to Nigeria in the summer of 2018. On this trip I was welcomed by artists, politicians, elders, and business leaders alike, all eager to promote their rich and vibrant culture.
Their hospitality was extraordinary. As we travelled from location-to-location planting seeds for possible future projects, I received the great honor of an invitation to visit renowned film director maestro Tunde Kelani.
As we spoke about this vision of a collaborative future, I wondered if he might be interested in being a part of the experiment. In describing some of the many offerings available through the University of Delaware School of Music, I shared details about our unique Cinema Symphony Series program, in which one of our four orchestras provides a live performance of music accompanying a film.
I suggested that we might show one of Kelani’s movies on our campus as part of the initial phase of the CFI project. All that was needed was a copy of a film with the music removed.
“The honor that Kelani gave to us was generous, enormous, and completely unexpected. He said, “I will go a step further and provide you with a copy of my next film, Cordelia. You can show the world premiere on your campus with your students performing a live version of the film score.
” With stunned humility, we accepted this remarkable gift and in return offered to professionally record the score for his use when editing the film. And this, my friends, is the moment where we now stand; at the international release of a Nigerian film, directed by a Nigerian master, with a Nigerian composer, cast, and crew, supported by an American student orchestra, including 5 student orchestrators and arrangers, a four-time Grammy-winning recording engineer (Andreas Meyer), with help from multiple faculty members within the School of Music, and the administrative support of a major United States academic institution. Cordelia is a masterfully told story about Nigerian identity,
uncompromised integrity, and the power of the human spirit. We couldn’t be prouder of this project and are so grateful for Kelani’s faith and trust in our participation.
In conclusion, the passionate question (“What if…”), the inspired idea (CFI), and our willing partner (Tunde Kelani) have all led to the formation of a wonderfully collaborative team and a cherished new friendship.
The fruits of our collective labors have resulted in the realization of a project that will bring joy to millions of people across the globe. Equally important, it has joined together groups of like-minded artists from seemingly disparate cultures, raising a new question…What’s next?”