The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream was.
William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616)
English poet and playwright.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 4, Scene 1
The above quote sums up the story of Matthew Simpa’s recently published book: From Reversal Film Making to God’s Bedroom and Back: Untold Story of the Nollywood Revolution. As a young man growing up when the Nigerian film industry was peopled by a handful of practitioners, mostly Yoruba dramatists, Matthew ventured into the uncharted region of movie making, having a lofty dream. He joined Meshfilms Ltd in 1986 and was part of the revolutionary and novel film making method introduced by the company.
Some of the films produced by this company included “Iji Aye”, “Jagunlabi” and “Ajangbila”, films that competed favourably with those produced by the then giants of the industry. The success of these films, shot on reversal stocks- a type of film stocks that could be processed locally and projected without taking it abroad for post-production as the practice was in those days, led to the growth of the Nigerian film industry that is now known worldwide as Nollywood.
In his book, lucidly told in a language the layman can understand, Matthew gives an account of the struggles, the challenges and the triumphs of the early pioneering efforts by the company peopled by young men like Yemi Meshioye, Sunday Ossai, Tajudeen Sowole and himself. The book goes on to give an account of the company’s foray into video production with the megahit The Legal Wife and other movies in the 1990s. He didn’t also leave out his career journey after the demise of Meshfilms as he graphically tells his story from then on till 2015. In this period, he did a coproduction with Lemmy Hassan, a Hollywood based Nigerian who wrote screenplays for the Late Hon. Moses Olaiya Adejumo (Baba Sala) among others, directed the first feature length Christian film in Benin Republic and went on to pioneer evangelical film making in the Lagos area.
The book From Reversal Film Making to God’s Bedroom and Back: Untold Story of the Nollywood Revolution though Matthew’s memoir, can pass for a blockbuster novel. It contains enough drama to do a television miniseries and is told in a riveting, engaging way that make you not want to drop it. As a young man, Matthew Simpa feasted on Harold Robbins’ novels, chief among them the trilogy on the American motion picture industries: The Dream Merchants, The Carpetbaggers and the Inheritors. The experiences he relates in this book runs the gamut of this three stages of the motion picture industry in Nigeria now known as Nollywood. He was there at the beginning, in the middle and is still there today. He had a dream; he pursued it and he has garnered a whole lot of human experiences which he shares in this book.