Celebrated actor Paul Ogola has sent shockwaves across the Kenyan film industry after he publicly blasted renowned film writer Oprah Oyugi for allegedly lifting ideas from one of his old scripts and passing them off as her own.
Speaking out on Monday via Facebook, Paul narrated how the ordeal began in 2017 as he embarked on a random political thriller script, before slowly losing interest in the project after hitting some sort of writer’s block.
Since his raw imagination could not heighten the story any further, he felt that instead of completely tossing away the project, it would be better to share it with Oprah Oyugi, someone he considered a close friend and great associate in the filmmaking business.
At the time, he was out of the country for acting classes in Hollywood and trusted she could bolster the story with some of her own ideas.
After all, maybe a little touch of her style was all it needed to turn it into a masterpiece, or so he hoped.
He sent it to her e-mail, and her views were positive.
She immediately offered collaboration and insisted they advance the project.
In his narration, Paul, however, explains that this never happened, and he ended up working on it all alone.
He kept on pitching the story to producers and friends, yearning for a chance and budget to commence shooting.
This never came to fruition.
On the other hand, Ms Oyugi kept making strides in her career and she joined Good Karma Fiction, the production company that produced the now popular “Country Queen” – Kenya’s first homegrown Netflix series that marked the beginning of a significant investment in African film by the American streaming company.
Shot in English, Swahili and a mix of other local languages, the series features a female lead character and chronicles the lives of ordinary Kenyans fighting against corporate power and land grabs. It explores urban and rural Kenya through characters intertwined by love, betrayal and conflict.
Ms Oyugi was one of the show’s writers and was tasked with delivering designated scenes in various episodes.
According to Paul, when the news of the release broke out, he was so genuinely happy for his friend to the extent he personally created a fan-art poster for the series because, at the time, Netflix had not officially commissioned any.
Little did he know the shock that awaited him once the show eventually premiered.
He notes that by the end of the second episode, pictures appeared very similar to his earlier imaginations, nuances, characters and technical set-ups which were still very fresh in his vision.
For instance, he claims that in the “Country Queen” scene where “Mwalimu’s” corpse is ‘kidnapped’ in return for some land deal from his widow was pulled from his script where the protagonist’s son (a whistleblower) was murdered, the convoy to his burial intercepted by the antagonist and the corpse taken until the father gave back the dossier that was to be released at the burial ceremony.
In his post embedded in full below, he attached screenshots of his conversation with Ms Oyugi.
He further points out that all efforts to reach out to her have proven futile, hence his decision to speak out.
Paul Ogola has featured in many films and TV shows, and his big break came in 2012 when he starred in the Kenyan drama film Nairobi Half Life.
He earned significant recognition when he bagged the role of Jela in the Netflix series Sense8 by the Wachowski sisters: Lana and Lilly Wachowski.
The “Crime and Justice” star once worked for Protel Studios as an editor.
Based in Eldoret, Oprah Oyugi is a talented writer, director, and editor who has had the privilege of working in multiple roles in the Kenyan film industry such as a Production Assistant on Netflix’ SENSE 8 Season 2 and a Unit Manager on the critically acclaimed, award-winning feature film, SUPA MODO.
At the publishing of this post, Ms Oyugi was yet to issue a statement regarding the scathing allegations facing her.
This blog shall cover her response as soon as she puts one out.
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