Danny Glover

From Hol­ly­wood to Nol­ly­wood!


Danny Glover is a quin­tes­sen­tial lead­ing man in Hol­ly­wood. For three decades and then some, he has ex­celled in film, the­atre and tele­vi­sion. He has em­bod­ied vi­brant lives and char­ac­ters, told sto­ries that will re­main ev­er­green. His most re­cent work will cer­tainly be one of them when he joined forces with the best of Nol­ly­wood, play­ing a lead role in the im­por­tant, his­tor­i­cal film ‘93 Days’. Cur­rently show­ing in cin­e­mas, the film is a game changer for new Nol­ly­wood and was re­cently screened at the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val to rave re­views. The movie tells the story of what hap­pened when the Ebola cri­sis hit La­gos and how against all odds, we were able to over­come it and get rid of the virus for good. Great mea­sures were taken to achieve this feat and Nige­ria was praised by the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion for a job well done in deal­ing with such a grave sit­u­a­tion. Glover’s per­for­mance as a lead char­ac­ter in the film was cer­tainly one to ad­mire as dis­cov­ered by Style Cor­re­spon­dent AY­O­DEJI ROT­INWA. In this piece Rot­inwa re­ports on his ca­reer, his role on screen, and his pol­i­tics off it, af­ford­ing us all a peek into the life of this ac­com­plished ac­tor.

Art im­i­tat­ing life is one of those clichéd byprod­ucts of any cre­ative en­deavor. Some­times, how­ever, one can’t quite tell them apart. This seems to be the case in ’93 Days’, ar­guably one of Nige­ria’s best pro­duc­tions in a decade.

A docu­d­rama, it fol­lows the war that was fought and won against the Ebola virus and those who her­alded the fight, some los­ing their lives in the process.

One of those who led this fight and lived to have his tale told is Dr. Ben­jamin Ohi­aeri, Med­i­cal Direc­tor of First Con­sul­tants Med­i­cal Cen­tre. It was in this fa­cil­ity, the virus first took res­i­dence, borne by Liberian diplo­mat, Pa­trick Sawyerr.

Tasked with bring­ing Dr. Ohi­aeri’s real life tra­vails to the big screen was long serv­ing Hol­ly­wood ac­tor, Danny Glover. You wouldn’t be re­miss to mis­take one man for the other. In phys­i­cal con­struc­tion, their re­sem­blance is un­canny. In bring­ing the doc­tor’s ex­pe­ri­ence to life, Glover had to share some of his own. “We met on the first day of shoot­ing. In re­al­ity, we are sim­i­lar in some ways,” Glover said. Both gentle­men have led dis­tin­guished ca­reers in their cho­sen fields and are rec­og­nized for it. A match made in lights, cam­era, ac­tion (and good role play­ing.) Glover has been do­ing the lat­ter since 1979, in the­atre, on screen and in tele­vi­sion. For his ef­forts, he has won nu­mer­ous film awards, as well as been nom­i­nated for lead­ing and sup­port­ing roles at the Prime­time Em­mys and Screen Ac­tor Guild Awards.

His per­for­mance in 93 Days is wor­thy of sim­i­lar gar­lands. In the film, he is a man worn by a long ca­reer of sav­ing lives. He longs to ex­change the white coat in the hospi­tal ward, for a suit in the lec­ture hall. He is then pre­sented with a choice. A very sick man lies in his hospi­tal. Nei­ther he nor his doc­tors have been able to as­cer­tain what is wrong with him but they fear it is some­thing very grave and in­fec­tious. Glover car­ries this weight ex­cel­lently. He de­picts Ohi­aeri as a man suf­fer­ing from a great bur­den. You can al­most phys­i­cally feel how pressed against he is. He mea­sures his breath. His fore­head knits it­self into worry lines. When the cam­era pans to his wrin­kled hands, in one scene, they limply and even­tu­ally with strength, play the pi­ano. Del­i­cate, yet as­sured. Cu­ri­ously, Glover was not ini­tially meant to play the Med­i­cal Direc­tor but after go­ing deeper into the script, he and the direc­tor, Steve Gukas, de­cided this was the one. But, how did a Hol­ly­wood vet­eran come to be in­volved in this story 5,000 miles away from home and his in­dus­try, in the first place?

“Steve Gukas and I are very good friends. We worked on a project to­gether a few years ago and have stayed in touch since. He ap­proached me with the story. When I got the script, I felt it was a very im­por­tant and pow­er­ful story that needed to be told and I was priv­i­leged to be a part of it.” Glover while new to Nol­ly­wood isn’t new to Nige­ria. He is a Chief and a ti­tled man, the Enyioma of Nk­w­erre. Tra­di­tional ruler of Nk­w­erre town, Eze Dr. Chi­jioke Jeki Ok­wara, con­ferred the hon­our on him, in 2009. The town reck­ons Glover’s roots can be traced to it; that his an­ces­tors were some of those stolen from them in the trans-At­lantic slave trade era. If this is in­deed true, then Glover is a son of the soil, as we say, it is no sur­prise then, his achieve­ment in this film; de­liv­er­ing while the tide was against him and ev­ery­one else in­volved with the film. “It was a real ex­pe­ri­ence for me, prob­a­bly one of the most unique of all my years of an ac­tor. It was in­cred­i­ble see­ing first­hand what it takes to get things done, to shoot a film, here in La­gos. It was also in­cred­i­ble to see the team do­ing ev­ery­thing they could against all odds, to make things work. From mov­ing around within the city to shoot dif­fer­ent scenes, to get­ting per­mis­sion from the govern­ment.” he said. Any Nige­rian who has tried to get a project off the ground would tes­tify to this re­quired re­silience. Glover also showed some ex­tra re­silience of his own al­beit for a dif­fer­ent mat­ter pro­nounc­ing cor­rectly Nige­rian names. “’Adade­voh’ was par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult to pro­nounce. I must have tried a thou­sand times be­fore fi­nally get­ting close to pro­nounc­ing it right. Strug­gling with th­ese names, gave me the chance to laugh at my­self, and with

When I got the script, I felt it was a very im­por­tant and pow­er­ful story that needed to be told and I was priv­i­leged to be a part of it.”

oth­ers while shoot­ing.”

In the film it­self how­ever, there’s lit­tle to laugh at. There’s pain and death por­trayed in ex­cru­ci­at­ing de­tail. The film is also homage to the life and ef­forts of Dr. Stella Adade­voh, played ex­cel­lently by Bimbo Ak­in­tola. It is with Ak­in­tola, Glover mostly shares his scenes. It is both of them who have to de­cide whether to let Sawyerr (played by Keppy Ekpey­ong) go. It is Adade­voh (Ak­in­tola) who wor­ries about Ohi­aeri, (Glover) his health, while be­ing in­fected her­self (un­known to her at the time), in the midst of ev­ery­thing. Ak­in­tola and Glover share great chem­istry on screen, that comes from two pro­fes­sion­als who greatly re­spect each other, as they were sup­posed to de­pict.

When one con­sid­ers Glover’s per­for­mance and his in­volve­ment in this film over­all, you may be led to ask why the char­ac­ter’s shoes couldn’t have been filled by a Nige­rian ac­tor. You would then likely de­cide - as this writer did - that it is dif­fi­cult to see any­one else in the role. For Glover, his pol­i­tics off screen tie in to why it was a pro­fes­sional and even emo­tional fit. For decades, Glover has been in­volved in ac­tivist work on the con­ti­nent from speak­ing out against apartheid in South Africa, in the 70s and 80s, to call­ing out civil wars and sit-tight Pres­i­dents. He has used his fame and voice, in in­flu­enc­ing USA pol­icy con­cern­ing African in­ter­ests across so­cial, eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal con­di­tions. Were it not for the forthright­ness of Adade­voh and Ohi­aeri, deal­ing with slug­gish­ness from the Min­istry of Health and di­plo­matic pres­sure from the Em­bassy of Liberia, Ebola may have been politi­cized to the point of an epi­demic. It is some­thing that would have come un­der his radar in his ac­tivist work likely. Thank­fully, the role he had to play was only a make-be­lieve one for the cam­era, and not for the world, telling the Nige­rian govern­ment to act against a virus that has killed thou­sands.

Yes, 93 Days - the amount of time be­tween when the virus en­tered the coun­try and when it left - is an im­por­tant film. Its pro­duc­ers Steve Gukas, Bolanle Austen-Peters, Do­tun Olakunri and Pe­mon Rami have done a great ser­vice to Nige­ria. They have im­mor­tal­ized a try­ing and even­tu­ally, tri­umphant time in our his­tory. For those through whom Glover, one of them - this time was brought to life, by their skill to move and en­thrall us, we should also be thank­ful.

You should go see this film.

THISDAY Style Vol. 21, No. 7837 Sun­day, Oc­to­ber 9, 2016


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