There’s a specific grounded sense of place that you feel when watching Editi Effiong’s The Black Book. The film reminds you of where you are because it’s important to the story; these places have witnessed pivotal histories and you must know them intimately as the film progresses. The person responsible for visually framing this story is Yinka Edward, a seasoned cinematographer with credits such as The Figurine, Lionheart and The Milkmaid – the latter being Nigeria’s entry for Best International Feature Film at the Oscars in 2021.
“For me it’s all about the story,” he OkayAfrica, when asked about the most crucial aspect in capturing the essence of a film. This principle is evident in the way he’s able to adapt to every story: The Figurine is eerie and cold, ’76 feels like a documentary, Crime and Justice Lagos is moody, and now, with The Black Book, he has created something he describes as having scale.
Edward believes it was “divine direction” that led him to become a filmmaker. His early start came from his youth group at church, where the group president taught him how to use a camera and he would go out with him to shoot weddings and birthday parties. When a childhood friend, who at the time was studying at the National Film Institute (NFI) in Jos, told him he wasn’t qualified to shoot his short film, it hit a nerve. “The comment brought me back to earth and challenged me to attend film school,” says Edward. “The rest is history.”
He spoke to OkayAfrica about the process behind some of the stand-out scenes in The Black Book, while also contextualizing his place in Nollywood history.
The interview below has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Within your body of work, you’ve done work for films that have prominent places in Nollywood history like Lionheart, 93 Days and The Milkmaid. How would you describe your relationship with these films, and with Nollywood at large?
With articles I have read and with observations of the Nigerian film industry, I think these films have played a part in moving our industry forward in some way. The Figurine, Lionheart, The Milkmaid, ’76, October 1, 93 Days, The Black Book have all played a significant role in the advancement of the industry, both locally and internationally. And I feel very privileged and blessed to be a part of this work. As for my relationship with the films, I think I am my biggest critic.