‘Nigerian movie industry biggest in Africa’ - Lancelot O Imasuen

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The history of the Nigerian movie industry would not be complete without a mention of Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen. He has overtime carved a niche for himself in the industry with his works which range over 200. He has produced and directed block buster films like Issakaba part 1 to 4, Games that Women Play, August Meeting, Ibuka, Last Burial and Adaku among others. His passion for the arts started at the tender age of nine as a little boy at the New Benin Baptist Church where he was a member of the children’s drama group and since then, he has never done any work outside the entertainment world. Before his foray into film making, he had stints with several media organisations including Bendel Broadcasting Service now Edo Broadcasting Service, Benin, Radio Nigeria, Lagos and the Nigeria Television Authority where he worked as a contract staff. He speaks to Azuka Ogujiuba on the rapid growth of the industry and why Nollywood has come to stay.

Q:What is your general assessment about the movie industry?
Quite frankly as a major player in the industry, I think this is one industry that needs a lot of commendation, because we've been able to rise from nothing to something. The premise with which we started and where we are now and where we are hoping to get to. I think generally, we've done well. It is difficult to be the spectator, the player and the judge. But quite sincerely without mincing words, without being sentimental, I think we've done well giving the circumstances and the environment with which we've operated. This is an industry that has been sustained on its own. Some guys just want to make some quick business, invest some money and make money back. It is an industry that has not had a major solid government support, an industry that seems not to have had any policy in place. I think quite frankly we have done well. That's not to say that we are not unaware or I am not unaware of the obvious professional lapses inherent in the industry; it is very evident.
But to be very frank with you, I think the Nigerian movie industry, judging from what we have had, judging from what we have available, judging from what had been given to us, judging from the non participation of corporate organisation and business concerns, has been able to become a name from what I will call a non-existent name. The Nigeria movie industry has been able to imprint its name on the sands of time as far as Black civilisation is concerned.

Q:So what are professionals like you doing about the lapses, so that the industry can be taken to the next level?

First and foremost, you cannot give what you don't have. In Nigeria, what has become Nollywood, as a movie production industry, has been pushed to accepting all comers because there are no government regulation, institutional regulations. It is an all comers affair. That is not to say that some of us are not equipped enough to know that some of these things are not supposeD to be done the way they are being done. How many banks want to invest in the industry?...The film maker generates his story, originates his story, creates his story, thinks about producing and sourcing for funds to produce his story. He gets the fund from whichever means or whatever means. He produces his film and bothers with how to sell his or her work. But our counterparts else will only bother themselves with generating ideas. And once the idea is generated there is someone somewhere, there's an organisation somewhere, there is some gathering some where whose business is to get the needed funds for him to expand on his idea. There are funds in France, there are funds in Amsterdam, in Holland, Germany there are funds everywhere for idea development, script development. The man applies, gets this fund. Once he gets the fund, he gets into the developing of the script and his idea. He looks for the best theatre around. Script conferences are organised, funded professionally and executed. One lap of it is gone...If you want to get a grant, why doing this he is not bothered about what his family will eat because the government is there to take care of his family. The man is busy pursuing his dream. This is the experience of a colleague of mine who came to do a documentary on me as a film maker here in Africa. When he called me, he said, Lancelot, I have gotten funds to come and shoot a documentary on you in Nigeria. I said wow! He was able to pay for his ticket, pay his producer's ticket, pay tickets for his crew members all the way from Holland to Nigeria to do the film. Now, when you go to the Cannes festival, when you go to Berlinale, when you go to a festival in Switzerland, when you go to Los Angels film festival, where are the Nigerian films? What is the basis for comparison?. There is a friend of mine who’s got guts, and some money and he said I have 3 million naira Lancelot, come and shoot a film for me. His only concern, his only interest, his only involvement is that this is a trade for him and as a result he is looking forward to what he will get at the end of the day. When the film fails no insurance company will pay him compensation, no government institution will compensate him. So, he gets into the society, and tells you I am the man in the market. They like Genevive Nnaji, they like Pat Attah, whether Genevive is consistent with the character or not because she is in demand, so the professionally trained film maker, has no choice but to put her in the film. Jim Iyke is the face that the public wants, that will guarantee my 3 million back to me. But not minding all the shortcomings Nigerian movie industry has become a force as far as the community of film making is concerned. Forget that you were at the Cannes and you did not see Nigerian films, but there were Nigerian film makers there, acknowledged that they were from Nigeria. Our films will be featured in the first film festival in Switzerland. I have sent 10 movies to them, they will select the ones they need. There's something peculiar with Nigerian film that the entire world is beginning to appreciate. http://odili.net/news/source/2005/nov/26/201.html


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Well he has said it all... and I hope people would really take their time to read and digest this because in Nollywood what they are doing is PURE MAGIC!


Eson 'N' Uselu.
I have always said that Lancelot Oduwa is my man any day any time, and i love this interview, because he was right to the point, and i know he is going to bring the industry to a great height.


Active Member
I guess reading this interveiew providse a person with insight into into Nollywood and also affirms that Nollywood has achieved compared to its counterparts in other African countries given circumstances mentioned above. This does not mean that there are no problems, just to site a comment that in terms of quantity(production) in South Africa there are no home movies and there is fatigue in the movie industry because you see a movie repeated 10 times on and was produced maybe in 1980. Therefore there is a need for also restructuring this area. I agree that governement intervention is important as it motivates people to follow this area because of the support, support for artists in SA is also just a recent activity where there is Department of Arts and Culture that addresses different issues and there is commitment from governemnt, but there is a vast gap in movie production. Although i have said this I think it is important for my country to learn from Nollywood in terms of the positive things in the movie industry and Nigeria has a wealth of information to share with other countries. Nollywood is taking South Africa's consumers by storm and if there is no formal mechanism for networking at movie industry level there might be laws that will prohibit some of us to access these homemovies, somebody from Nigeria should initiate this networking


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obude said:
are you asking that?.
Yep,i am.This is not the first time a nolly producer or director or marketer will sing the praise of nollywood in the media,and it will not be the last.I can't comment each time that happens.


Active Member
Great, great interview.
Pekiso, we from South Africa MUST learn from our brothers in Nigeria. I have made some contact with directors/producers in Nigeria ,and we need to talk. I believe that the Nigerian prototype must be applied within our cultural context(SA) - telling our African stories by Africans. What the Nigerians have done with African images still has not been realized by the majority of African people. It is a master stroke.
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