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Nollywood Actress Omoni Oboli Pushes Back on Allegations That Her New Movie is a ‘Chi-Raq’ Rip-Off

Nollywood Actress Omoni Oboli Pushes Back on Allegations That Her New Movie is a 'Chi-Raq' Rip-Off

Nollywood actress Omoni Oboli is set to release a new movie next month titled “Wives on Strike,” which is described as a comedy about a group of women who decide to take matters into their own hands via a sex strike against their husbands, in order to force them into standing up for a young girl whom they want to protect from her father’s wishes to marry off, despite her being a child.

The film stars Uche Jombo, Chioma Akpotha, Ufuoma Mcdermott, Kehinde Bankole, Kalu Ikeagwu, Julius Agwu, Kenneth Okonkwo and others. 

“Wives on Strike” is set for an on April 8 release in Nigeria. 

Ahead of its premiere, Omoni Oboli has found herself on the receiving end of criticism from those who say that she essentially “stole” the idea for her movie from Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq,” if only because, at the center of its narrative is also a sex strike by the women characters in the film, although for a different cause, set against the backdrop of Chicago’s gun violence. Of course we all know by now that Spike’s film is a modern spin on the Greek comedy “Lysistrata” – in short, women of Greece refused to have sex with their husbands, all in an effort to bring an end to the Peloponnesian War, via the signing of a peace treaty. So “Chi-Raq” certainly can’t claim to be an *original* – meaning any criticisms of Oboli’s film as a rip-off of Spike’s satire aren’t warranted. “Lysistrata” has inspired other works of art.

But the allegations have irked the actress and producer enough that she released a lengthy press statement in response. The folks at Bella Naija have the full statement. Here’s a piece of it (underneath you’ll find the film’s trailer):

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“It has been making the rounds by some that my soon-to-be-released movie, ‘WIVES ON STRIKE,’ which is about a group of women who decide to deprive their men of sex for the sake of a cause, was copied (or stolen) from the movie, ‘Chiraq’, which was produced and directed by the internationally acclaimed ace filmmaker, Spike Lee. Firstly, let me table some facts here: the movie concept came to me about 4 years ago when we wanted to do a movie about women going on strike, but we just couldn’t find a reason for the strike that would make sense to our audience. We felt there was no sense in making comedy, just for comedy sake. At least, that’s how I think, and I like to stick to what I know and leave others who are better at their own areas of expertise to do theirs. So when my husband and I wanted to do something concerning the Child-Not-Bride issue which was steaming up back in 2013, we decided that we had found a good enough reason for the strike. I wrote the script, and when we were ready we started principal photography in April 2014. Unbeknownst to us, the women in South Sudan were suggesting a sex strike to end the war in their country later that year after our shoot, and this I heard last year from a United Nations worker whom I met while speaking on the issue of the child bride and our movie’s theme. When I shot the movie, or back when I was writing the script, the idea of going on strike was just fantasy and wishful thinking, not knowing that it had really been conceived by other women in practice, or by other filmmakers and playwrights in theory. 

The first time I heard of ‘Chiraq’ was when my husband sent me the trailer last year, prior to its release. We both foresaw the headlines, “Omoni Oboli copies (or steals) from Spike Lee’s Chiraq for her movie,” or, “Nollywood is at it again! Copy! Copy! Copy! Omoni Oboli has joined the bandwagon of Nollywood producers who steal original works and make it their own”. Spike Lee’s ‘Chiraq’ is quite similar to the South Sudan women’s reasons, because it is about ending violence in the Chicago violent black community. It is in no way similar to mine! But that could be ‘clever me’ trying to steer so far from being the same that I’ve tactfully (or tactlessly, considering that I’m Nigerian) changed the plot, as some might assert. Let’s look at it scientifically, or systematically: There’s nothing new under the sun, therefore, stories and ideas are not exclusively given to one person only. The fact that one person presented it first does not always mean the other person copied. I shot my movie in 2014 as clearly shown on the clapper boards of my movie rushes. Spike Lee commenced principal photography (that means he started shooting) in June 2015, and released in select theatres on December 4 of the same year. Heaven forbid that Spike Lee would copy little old Omoni Oboli, “who is in our Nigeria here!” How can that happen?! If I had released it first on October 1st, instead of ‘The First Lady’ like I did, then Spike Lee was definitely being artistic and the similarities were just mere coincidences, but since I decided to release later, then I ‘definitely’ (beyond a shadow of a doubt) copied Mr Lee. Case closed! 

I have never met Spike Lee. The only other way I could have had the same movie theme, would be to trace correspondence between us, and I don’t have any such correspondence. We’ve never exchanged emails or met in any capacity. If I wanted to copy a movie theme, it would be safer to go for one who isn’t as popular as Spike Lee, unless you’re dumb! Not that I’ve not been called that by people in the privacy of their own homes, simply because many perceive us who are in the movie industry as dumb. That is such a strong theme, that if I had known beforehand, or knew that Spike Lee was doing the movie at the same time (which he wasn’t) I wouldnt have shot the movie or I would have mentioned that it was adapted from his movie. It’s a lot easier to copy from an obscure industry which is less know than yours and get away with it than the reverse. Which is safe to say that if Spike Lee was copying from me, no one would blink since Hollywood is a bigger industry. They would simply say, “Spike copied from who? Never heard of her,” and move on. But I know that he didn’t copy from me either, cos our stories are radically different, save for the sex deprivation theme. Also, he coined his from a classical Greek comedy, ‘Lysistrata’, by Aristophanes, whom I’d never heard of until just now while trying to write this article (doing some research) and most people haven’t either.

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Like I said it’s a lengthy statement, and this is about half of it. But she makes some good points that I think will positively resonate on this side of the Atlantic. To read the full release – in which she also shames “crabs in a bucket” mentality, and Nigerians recognizing and celebrating their own artistic efforts – go to Bella Naija’s website here.

But first, watch a trailer for “Wives on Strike” below:

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