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Tuvi James reveals his plan for a pan-African film industry

After many years as an actor in the Nigerian movie industry, Ugo Tuvi James relocated to South Africa where he continues to work as an actor and producer. In this interview, he reveals his plans to foster working relations between Nollywood and other film industries on the continent.

Nollywood actor Ugo Tuvi James made his screen debut in the film “Wanted Alive”. Since then, he has appeared in over 50 films, making him one of Nollywood’s most recognisable faces. Now based in South Africa, Tuvi talks here about working across countries, his upcoming projects, and his agenda for a pan-African film industry.

What was your first role as an actor?

I played the role of a rich man’s son who had been corrupted by the wrong type of friends in “Wanted Alive”. That was the movie that launched me amongst others such as “Children of Terror” and “Handle Light”.

What prompted you to go into acting?

It was my God-given talent. As a child, in drama and stage productions, I always played roles such as Joseph the carpenter, David and Jesus. I also did a stage production called “Nana Olomu”.

So far, which has been your most memorable role?

My most memorable role would definitely have to be “Super Story: Blast from the Past”, in which I played the role of Mofe.

You have played the lead in many movies, and also some supporting roles. Did you find fulfilment in Nollywood?

Yes! Nollywood is a great industry for anyone with talent and creativity. It will usher it out, but it is up to you to run with it. It is very fulfilling.

Tuvi James. Photo: Tuvi James
Tuvi James. Photo: Tuvi James

You attended a film school in South Africa but at what point did you decide to settle fully there and what informed that decision?

My relocating to South Africa was because my family is in South Africa. I am now building Pan-African Nollywood in South Africa through my company, “Changing Lives Media”. Telling Pan-African stories from a South African perspective in a way aimed to unite us all as Africans.

You had made quite a name for yourself in Nollywood. How has relocating to South Africa affected your career?

We as Africans, we are great people with amazing cultures. Our history and present achievements as Africans must be told to the rest of the world. Celebrating our culture as Africans. So I am busy developing local content in the form of movies and soapies here in South Africa, telling our Pan-African stories. For me, I believe I am doing what God put in my heart to do.

You have done some movies in South Africa as well. How do the two industries differ?

The two industries are great with different kinds of potentials, and I believe it is time for the two great industries to come together and collaborate in projects. I love the industry here, but I miss my Nollywood people, which is why I am working on bringing the two industries together through my work.

What acting projects are you working on now?

I am working on a new project, we are currently sorting out the logistics, forming the cast and crew and bedding down the required finances so that the feature film will be a success. I am also back in studio working on new material.

Tuvi with his wife. Photo: Tuvi James
Tuvi with his wife. Photo: Tuvi James

You trained as a producer and director in South Africa. Have you done any work in these capacities?

Yes, I have been busy doing various projects locally here in South Africa in partnership with Vanande Production as well as with other local producers, projects like “Dollar Girls”, “Away from Home” and “Tongue”, and many others.

Nollywood has changed a bit recently, in terms of production and distribution. We have producers putting in big money, doing fewer movies and delaying release on DVD. Does this suggest growth or decline for the industries?

I am very excited how various stakeholders are coming into Nollywood and the level of stories being told from the cinema point of view. The Nollywood industry has grown dramatically, and with the AMVC awards, not even the sky is the limit!

There is talk now about old and new Nollywood. Is the distinction real?

The old and new is that revelation we have been looking for; the old gave birth to the new, but it is all still Nollywood, and will continue to change and become better. We thank God for the old.

What question would you have loved me to ask you and what would your response be?

How is life treating me here in South Africa? I have to say I am triumphing and blessed, very blessed!

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