Three-time Academy Award winner, Mark Jonathan Harris is bringing his weight and valuable experience to the making of a groundbreaking documentary film about the June 12, 1993 election, the crisis that followed and the death of the winner, Bashorun M.K.O Abiola.
The film is tentatively titled, M.K.O – Waiting for Mr. President. Harris, whose Oscar-winning films include The Long Way Home and Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport, serves as executive producer on the film that is directed by Nigerian-American filmmaker, Ose Oyamendan who is coming off the critically acclaimed and award-winning film, Aswat Acherim (Other Voices) about unlikely friends in the Gaza-Sderot war zone of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Ose often takes on very deep and complicated stories. I have been pushing him for years to tell a great African story, something from his background. When he finally told me about this project, I was completely blown away. If it was fiction, it would be a blockbuster. As a true story, it’s many more times bigger. I knew immediately that this is a story that has to be told. Ose is the best person I know who can do it justice and I will do all I can to help tell it,” says Harris.
Harris leads an impressive crew that includes industry veteran and award-winning producer, Veronique Bernard and one of the world’s best documentary film editors, Monique Zavistovski. The film, which has been in production for a few years, is slated for release in 2022.
In May, the project was formally unveiled at the two of the biggest pitch forums in the film industry. It made its debut at the Hotdocs Forum in Toronto, Canada in early May, and two weeks later, it was one of the 10 films selected from all over the world to participate at the Docs Barcelona pitching forum in Spain. At both forums, MKO: Waiting for Mr. President was one of the most talked about projects and is now one of most anticipated films in the industry in 2022.
“I have been producing films for a long time and our experience at the pitch forums was simply amazing,” says Bernard. “It confirmed what I have always felt about the film, that it has the potential to be truly great. We had interest from the biggest sales agencies and the most important broadcasters in the world. We had great meetings with funders. We have a nice wind behind our backs.”
The documentary features all the key players in this saga of Shakespearean proportions that shook the country. Some of the interviewees include General Ibrahim Babangida who annulled the election, Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe who was Abiola’s running mate, Ambassador Tom Pickering who led the American delegation to the fatal meeting with Abiola, General Abdulsalam Abubakar who was the head of state at the time of Abiola’s death, Ambassador Walter Carrington, the American ambassador in Nigeria during the crisis, Prof. Wole Soyinka, a key leader of the opposition to the military, Professor Humphrey Nwosu, the NEC chairman, Chief Arthur Nzeribe whose lawsuits undermined the election, members of Abiola’s family, retired military officers, politicians, diplomats and foreign journalists.
Ose draws on his experience working as journalist at the time of the elections and crisis, and at Amnesty International USA at the height of the foreign battle for democracy in Nigeria to tell a story with unrivalled access. For the first time, the film reveals what really happened in some of the darkest years in Nigeria’s history.
A graduate of the prestigious film programme at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, Ose has won awards from a few film festivals including Tribeca, Rome and Worldfest Houston. His works have played at over 60 film festivals worldwide, on cable, satellite and national television stations, streaming platforms, before world leaders, parliaments, international NGOs and his graduate thesis film, A Final Wish, is licensed by Apple as part of the Halloween collection.