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Biodun Stephen: Navigating the tides of reality through film

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By Gbenga Bada

“I always love to tell stories that resonate and look real, while subtly adding comedy to douse emotional purge,” were the words of film writer, director and producer, Abiodun Stephen-Oladigbo in a brief chat with The Nation recently.

From real life drama to faith-based titles, and comedy, Stephen-Oladigbo has proven her mettle as one of the leading female filmmakers currently ruling Nollywood screens and projecting authentic portrayal of African narratives and the ability to connect with global viewers.

Her reason for going this path is simple. It is her calling.

“I have always wanted to tell human angle stories. When I decided I was going to be a storyteller via film, it was important to tell stories that were from the human angle because there are so many out there. I believe whilst film is meant to entertain, it is also meant to educate and spotlight issues that are not given enough attention. For me, filmmaking is purposeful. It’s like a ministry for me. I don’t think we made a mistake when we made the first film and people kept thanking us for it,” she opined.

Like Tyler Perry, Stephen-Oladigbo also believes family is just so important to everything that we do, hence, she has ascribed the idea of two of her films to two personal life experiences. Her hugely successful title, ‘Sista’ was inspired by her upbringing by her single mother while ‘Glimpse’ is a true life and part of her own story with her husband.

Her journey in Nollywood had seen her path cross those of successful female filmmakers like Mary Njoku and Emem Isong. Her experience working with Isong and Njoku have challenged her to do better and this is evident as she has continued to outdo herself with every production that include ‘Joba’ to ‘Perfect Picture,’ ‘Finding Baami,’ ‘Breaded Life,’ ‘Big Love,’ ‘Sista,’ and ‘Momiwa’ amongst several other breathtaking titles under her name.

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Unknown to many, Stephen-Oladigbo has come a long way in the Nigerian film industry. She once tried to be in front of the camera as an actress while pursuing her degree in Philosophy as an undergraduate of the University of Ife.

“I started as an actor and transitioned to scriptwriting because I have always loved telling stories whether as an actor or producer. However, at the beginning, it wasn’t easy getting roles. Though I was much younger, I nonetheless experienced tribal bias back then. I was also in the University of Ife, so actively pursuing this craft had to do with being in Lagos all the time. Leaving school wasn’t the best option for me. When the roles were not forthcoming, I decided to finish my schooling before coming to Lagos. Afterwards, I worked with a radio station, where I was a copywriter before I decided to go back to film school. It was there that I realised my place was really behind the camera as opposed to in front of it.”

The boisterous, bold and beautiful Stephen-Oladigbo admits to always wanting to try everything as a big dreamer, which ends up affecting her focus but her strength lies in her tenacity and drive which makes her see any idea she’s locked on to a logical end.

Luckily for Stephen-Oladigbo, the mother of two, who is one of the most highly-sought-after film directors in Nigeria, has a lovely husband that keeps her going. She readily admits that combining a successful career with managing her happy home can be tough.

“It has been one of the toughest things ever but I have a supportive husband, who believes in me and is proud of me. He is my muse, when I hit a brick wall when writing, I call him, narrate the story and somehow, the story becomes wholesome, just because he listens to me. He is my support system, so when I am away, he is in charge. However, once I am home, I try to make myself available as much as possible,” she enthused.

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