Prostitutes, Liz Benson & I - Lancelot Imasuen

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Sola

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Prostitutes, Liz Benson & I - Lancelot Imasuen, celebrated Nollywood director and film maker
By Osamudiamen Ogbonmwan - AUGUST 11, 2008

Any lover of Nollywood would most likely know the one-time celebrated actress, Liz Benson whose image Nigeria's movie industry once loomed large that many actress would probably do anything to be in her shoes.

Well, this is not about Benson; rather it centres on one man whose Benson's commendations back in the beginning, helped propel to greater heights.
Benson had told a conference upon the completion of the movie, Yesterday, that it was the first time any director would actually “direct her” stressing that other directors she had worked with always allowed her the leverage to do whatever she deemed proper. After the conference, the director in question, Lancelot Imasuen became a household name as countless directing jobs came his way.

Now, almost everyone in the industry have more than a nice word to say about him. Recently in Benin City where he premiered his latest work, Ebuwa, the Deputy Governor of Edo State, Lucky Eghosa Imasuen, had nothing but praise to shower on him. So did many other top personalities at the event.
A lot of people would, however, be surprised to learn that Imasuen actually commenced his journey into the entertainment world before he left secondary school in Benin City. He started by taking part in dramatic works as early as when he was nine years old. This was on television and radio. When it was time for him to go to the University, he almost chose to read law but as he told The Source, someone said to him that Law was a sacred profession, so it could be difficult for him to juggle the two vocations. Quickly, Imasuen opted out and went on to study his first love: Theatre Arts at the University of Port Harcourt. “When I think about it today, I just thank God,” he told The Source.

Providence, he admitted, brought him to Lagos in 1994 as according to him, there was absolutely no reason for him to be in Lagos at that point in time. But when he came, he walked straight into the office of Peter Igho, a former top notcher of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA). According to Imasuen, Igho was so impressed by his boldness that he handed him over to Danladi Bako who then gave him a job as a contract staff. “To me, it was a dream come through,” he reminisced.

By his second day in Lagos, Imasuen was already working in NTA as a Production Assistant. Then later as a director and also a chorography teacher in a private theatre group. It was one of his students who introduced him to a producer who desperately needed a director for his upcoming movie. The producer and Imasuen spoke and a deal was struck. The movie, Adaku, an Igbo flick was shot. Imasuen, later left NTA in 1996.
Today, he has lost count of the number of movies he has directed. Last year, the ace director got married and only a few months ago, his wife delivered a baby whom he named Ebuwa. Ebuwa is ironically the title of his newest movie. Find out what Imasuen knows about Nigerian prostitutes abroad and why he chose to name his movie, Ebuwa, after his daughter and many more in this revealling interview.

You just released a movie recently. Can you tell me about it?
Ebuwa is not released yet, it was only premiered. I have been involved now in making movies especially for the Edo people in diaspora because I got the information that some languages would be going extinct soon. Edo language could just be one of them. Also, I have always thought that if we want to make an impact internationally, a local language film would help us do just that. With that information and my desire to put my imprint positively on the sands of time, I have been involved in trying to rejuvenate and encourage our people to embrace our language through movies and music. Ebuwa for now is the biggest project in that direction. The premiere was held on May 17 and it was very successful.

What is the meaning of Ebuwa?
The full pronunciation in Osarebuwamen. I just had my first daughter and I called her that. Ebuwa also happens to be the name of the main artiste in the movie and her parents wanted her to live her name which actually means wealth. Ebuwa’s mother in the movie wanted the daughter to live her name by being the source of wealth in the family through any means. So, she was lured into prostitution, trafficked abroad, contracted HIV/AIDS and was sadly repatriated; and it dawned on her that it was her mother that made her pass through that gory experience.

Something must have inspired you to do the movie?
The movie is my concept. I originated the story. In 2003/04, I was involved in the transportation of artistes abroad– people like Julius Agu, Basket Mouth, Klint da Drunk, Patience Okonkwo, Jim Iyke, Eucharia Anunobi – a lot of artistes benefited from the scheme I designed to expose Nollywood to the world. We toured 14 countries.

In Italy, I went round and saw first hand the dehumanising way girls were being treated. On close interaction, I discovered that some of them wouldn’t go that far if they could help the situation. I met a girl who told me that she stole 50,000 Euros from a client and posted the money to the father but three months later, the father could not account for 10,000 Euros. Again, I found out that some of these ladies endure extreme cold waiting for clients and people down here would be waiting for them to send money. Ladies are used in the graveyards, on top of slabs of dead people. You hear weird stories about how these men use them. A man inserted his hand up to his elbow into a lady, can you imagine that? So, I just said, instead of joining the band wagon of people always blaming these girls, I decided to do this movie, Ebuwa: The Tragedy of Greed. It is only very few of them who decided that they want to travel out, others are lured or deceived to go.
Where were the locations?

We shot in Benin. But if you watch the movie you’ll be convinced without reasonable doubt that it was shot in Europe and Benin. If you are not told you will never believe. I also did that intentionally to let people know that Benin is not a village. You will find mansions that looks like European houses. It is a metropolitan city.

So, when are you going to the market with this movie for more Nigerians to see it?
A lot of them (my fans) have seen it already. Just the other day, the Edo State Ministry for Basic Education bought into it and showed it to 500 students across the state. I was amazed by the reaction we got that day. This is a project designed for a purpose. We will be showing it in Abuja in September and from there to London, New York, etc. But at the appropriate time it would be released to the general public. It doesn’t pay me keeping the film but we must achieve the purpose of which it was shot in the first place.

What is your dream for the movie, do you think that government will do something about the plight of the girls?
There is nothing the government can do. When they call for conferences and workshops, who attends? Government officials! Are they the target audience that needs to be told?

This is obviously a very big project. Can you give me an estimate of what it cost you to make the movie?
I have spent over N6.8 million naira.

Who are the major characters in the movie?
My Edo stars. The only known star whose inclusion was intentional, is Hanks Anuku because I wanted to make somethings believable. I had to ask him to speak Italiano.

You said something about the Edo language going extinct.
Yes, according to the statistics, the language would be extinct in the next 50 to 100 years, which is not good. Look at you for instance, we just met and I discovered that you can hardly speak the language and you are from there. This applies also to several other people. Those of us from Edo, are not proud of where we come from. Look at the entertainment industry in Nigeria, it is dominated by the Yorubas. Look at hip-hop today, which song has ever gone without a Yoruba word. These are a people that have been able to protect their cultural heritage-forget the fact that we are in Lagos. I do not have anything against them. It's not by mistake I came from where I am from, God has made it so. Look at 9ice. He is now an international artiste but never says a word in English. He speaks deep Yoruba adages that he funkifies. It is a shame to other nationalities in Nigeria.

Let's now talk about your job. How did you find yourself in movie directing?
Well, I want to say I am a film maker because I have gone past directing now. From childhood I have always known that there was art in me. I didn’t gamble. I saw what a lot of people didn’t see then and I went to school to study Arts. I have been behind the camera for 13 years. I have been directing since I was 17. I made my first movie when I was between 23 and 24 years old. It was entitled Adaku an Igbo language movie, that was in 1995.

So can you remember how many movies you’ve directed so far?
I have lost count of the number of movies I have directed. But I do remember the second one I shot in February 1996 entitled Kill or die. The work had so many stars such as Kate Henshaw, Bob Manuel - Udokwu, Sadiq Daba, Sam Loco-Efe and several others. When I pulled through that project, I knew this was going to be my world. The next one was my project which was funded by Emma Isikaku who believed in me. It was a comedy entitled The year 2000. I came up with the story “because a lot of people thought that the year 2000 will never come. Abacha was the Head of State of Nigeria then. I played his character in the movie. Sam Loco-Efe, Enebeli Enebuwa and Adim Williams were there. It was indeed a great movie.

When you are directing a movie, do you atimes get intimidated by the “stars” you get to work with?
I started meddling with stars in 1996. It was not really intimidation. Normally, if you are young in the field there is this apprehension that comes up on you that you start asking yourself if they will like or respect you. That’s where I am different. I get on set prepared. There is no set I left without earning maximum respect of the artistes. For instance, when I shot the movie, Yesterday: A Devastating tale by Liz Benson who was then the most singularly celebrated actress, we were doing a world press conference after the work had been done and Benson said that was the first time in her life she was being directed... that several other directors she had worked with allowed her to do whatever she wanted to do.

That recommendation shot me to limelight. The movie projected the issue of female genital mutilation, widowhood rights and the issue of rape. It was also my story from a tale I heard from a woman.

Any special artiste you prefer working with?
No. I see all of them as a father sees his children. Though, you can’t take away the fact that some people are more responsible than others. I don’t like chosing artiste. There are some that are just exceptionally good, some are very good but lack discipline. Some are discipline but not too good. It is better not to be very good but very disciplined because that’s where I come in as a director to mould you.

How expensive are you should anyone have a movie and wants you to direct it?
There is no director in Nigeria that is expensive considering what artistes are paid. We all know we have grade ‘A’ actors and directors but its not by choice, but their work have placed them on that level. It is so unfortunate that we are in a society where you need to remind people that this is who I am. They don’t come with a mind that 'oh this is a great guy and has made a difference, sometimes you work and some people drag your credit with you. For me, I am not very keen at making movies for anybody anymore. I want to concentrate on making my works because I’m tired of having conflicts with people. If you can pay my fee, I want to be very expensive in the sense that if you know gold, you’ll know the worth of it.

I have produced more award-winning actors than any other producer today. The statistics are there. From my movie, Yesterday when Rachel Oniga was made best actress with just about six scenes, to Harbinger with Zack Orji, to Appo where Chioma Chukwuka was introduced and Emotional Cracks where Stephanie Okereke and Dakore got into limelight, and so on. My movie was the first Nigerian film to be shown at the Montreal Film Festival in Canada and the New York African Film Festival. In February (2008), my movie was the first Nigerian movie to be displayed at the Pan African Film Festival. And I am the first Nigerian director that was invited to Hollywood to shoot a movie entitled Close Enemies. I have shot in Ghana, Italy, Germany, and so on. The facts are there. I have directed more movies – and the most successful movies – than any other person in this industry. Every time, I get overwhelmed. Last year alone, I got eight awards, just as I have gotten recognition from all over the world. I do not have to say all this if we have good record keeping, so if you want to come to me for a work, you must have a mindset that you are coming to meet a master. If not, to God be the glory.

Okay, let's now delve into your personal life. About a year ago, you got married. Why did it take you that long to get hooked?
People overestimated my age. I got married at 36. I am 37years-old now. Because I got to limelight on time, people think I am too old. I was 26 when I got to limelight. So, when they were shouting I was just looking at them because they use your achievement to measure your age, which is a terrible thing. Marriage is a different ball game. I knew what I was doing because God guides me. That was why on my wedding day, on the bag I shared I wrote “In God’s time, he maketh all things beautiful”, to shame all the devils that have said those things. I am a busy person. I have been to over 130 countries and more than 150 cities in the world, working, and they’ve never heard a girl say she is pregnant for me. I told myself I wasn’t going to have any child out of wedlock. I am not sure at 36 I married late.

Has marriage been good to you?
Well, I am still myself (laughs). This morning, as I was about leaving home, my wife said ‘come and eat’ and I said let them send it to the studio because I had to make our appointment. Months ago, I will just wake up and go out without anybody saying anything to me and eating anywhere. I won’t say marriage makes one more responsible because I have friends who are married but grossly irresponsible. It depends on how you look at it. I am enjoying mine with all its ups and downs. Sometimes it is difficult for the woman to understand in as much as she knew that this was what you were doing before she got into your life.

Do you live in Lagos?
Yes I do. I go to Benin because of the project.

I am sure that as a director you must have had options. Tell me, why did you chose your wife?
If I had seen you, maybe I would have married you (laughs). Okay, seriously, I was at a bus stop in Benin when I saw her. I was coming from Asaba, then decided to go to Lagos by road. I was in the vehicle when I saw this young dark lady walking towards me. I asked her if she was the one who had placed a paper on the seat beside me and she said ‘yes’. We sat together and 13 months later, she was my wife. I had no particular reason for choosing her. This is the truth. Several women that I liked and they also liked and loved me, never took me serious. She was the only one. She was 23 years old, doing her youth service and was serious about me. When I called her from the U.S.A. and told her I wanted to marry her, she banged the phone. But when I returned some months later, she was the first person that called me after barely five minutes that I switched on my phone. Everything was a pointer to the fact that she is my wife. People even discouraged her from marrying me. Saying I wanted to join her to my already long list. But she believed my words. She believed in me.

How long do you think you can stick to this profession?
How do you mean? Have you planned something else for me? This is my life. We are going to set up an ultra-modern studio in Benin soon. By the grace of God, I am going to end my career as a teacher because in the next couple of years, we are starting an international Film and Theatre School in Orokosa Village in Uhunmode Local Government Area in Edo State. That is my village, the place I was born. I hope to retire there, dishing out information that have formed me. We have become an institution of study. Just yesterday (25th July), I got a phone call from Radio Canada International for a programme. They were asking for a phone interview to be broadcast live in a few days time. I obliged them because they wanted to know somethings about Nollywood. A radio station in California also interviewed me in April. We are gathering information now and when the time is right, we are going to bring in international scholars, great film men to come and lecture in the school. I also hope to keep making movies then. I am not an actor, so my face won’t fade. I am improving myself daily by attending seminars, workshops and the likes. I will never resign from making movies and if I do, maybe God will take me to the podium. Even at that, I will still keep making movies because it's my life.

The Source
 

Sola

Administrator
Staff member
#3
You said something about the Edo language going extinct.
Yes, according to the statistics, the language would be extinct in the next 50 to 100 years, which is not good. Look at you for instance, we just met and I discovered that you can hardly speak the language and you are from there. This applies also to several other people. Those of us from Edo, are not proud of where we come from. Look at the entertainment industry in Nigeria, it is dominated by the Yorubas. Look at hip-hop today, which song has ever gone without a Yoruba word. These are a people that have been able to protect their cultural heritage-forget the fact that we are in Lagos. I do not have anything against them. It's not by mistake I came from where I am from, God has made it so. Look at 9ice. He is now an international artiste but never says a word in English. He speaks deep Yoruba adages that he funkifies. It is a shame to other nationalities in Nigeria.
Interesting take on language evolution, considering recent ongoing threads hereabouts...
 

sky_flies

Well-Known Member
#4
Of course we should all know and agree to that Yorubas are dominating the music scene..... and projecting their languages as well.

YMG doesnt project Yoruba language as the music in Yoruba language does.

I mentioned it but I was shunned by NaijaRules. A man who knows less about our discussion just talk now
 

Sola

Administrator
Staff member
#5
Of course we should all know and agree to that Yorubas are dominating the music scene..... and projecting their languages as well.
That's the only thing you pick from it? How about his contention that his Edo language is dying too? All non-English languages need serious help...
 

sky_flies

Well-Known Member
#7
That's the only thing you pick from it? How about his contention that his Edo language is dying too? All non-English languages need serious help...
No mind me jare.... I was relating it to the previous arguement remember...... and how do u think we can help these languages when every one is fast becoming a wannabe?

are you minding sky?
Abegi!!! make I hai word.... na u em won mind........ bia leave me alone else me and u go act drama for NR one day. Im I very :nature-sm o! :fing33:
 

Thickmadam

OHHHHHH YEAHHHHHHHH!!
#8
No mind me jare.... I was relating it to the previous arguement remember...... and how do u think we can help these languages when every one is fast becoming a wannabe?



Abegi!!! make I hai word.... na u em won mind........ bia leave me alone else me and u go act drama for NR one day. Im I very :nature-sm o! :fing33:
abegi, i am an :angel but if you want to :fing23: let me know the time and place and i'll be there.
i'm open anytime next week from tuesday on...
 

vince

Well-Known Member
#14
Really,sky?YMG does not project the yoruba language as the music industries does?How did you arrive at this view?Expansiate a bit more for me,if you please.

BTW,thumbs up for Imasuen for his support for his native tongue.We need more nollywood producers going in this direction.Emem Isong is another lady who has woken up and smelled the coffee.
Of course we should all know and agree to that Yorubas are dominating the music scene..... and projecting their languages as well.

YMG doesnt project Yoruba language as the music in Yoruba language does.

I mentioned it but I was shunned by NaijaRules. A man who knows less about our discussion just talk now
 

sky_flies

Well-Known Member
#15
Really,sky?YMG does not project the yoruba language as the music industries does?How did you arrive at this view?Expansiate a bit more for me,if you please.

BTW,thumbs up for Imasuen for his support for his native tongue.We need more nollywood producers going in this direction.Emem Isong is another lady who has woken up and smelled the coffee.
Vince im so sorry but im done with the Yoruba, Ibo hokum.... I find it extremely tiring and dont want to involve in tribal deficient matters.

Making movies about our cultural heritage doesnt make the younger ones have a want to speak and know their norm, it only creates awareness of what they were unaware of. I loved the movie Uyai by Emem Isong, does it make me want to speak Efik? Nope....

Whether u speak ur native tongue in a movie or not, its doesnt change a thing, the newer generation shrink by every moment when it comes to showcasing their cultural heritage.

I thank God Nigeria music still project our language in a lil sense, that one is almost on its way out also
 

vince

Well-Known Member
#16
Speak for your own tribe,sky.That is not true of other tribes,especially the yorubas and the hausas.The edo people are also very proud of their language and heritage.
sky_flies said:
Making movies about our cultural heritage doesnt make the younger ones have a want to speak and know their norm, it only creates awareness of what they were unaware of.
Are you efik?
sky_flies said:
I loved the movie Uyai by Emem Isong, does it make me want to speak Efik? Nope....
Oh yes,it does.
sky_flies said:
Whether u speak ur native tongue in a movie or not, its doesnt change a thing
Newer generation of which ethnic group do you have in mind?Definitely not of the yorubas or the hausas.They definitely do not shrink from their native tongues.
In this case,again i think you should speak for your own tribe.If that is what is happening within the newer generation of your own tribe,then i can only offer my condolensces.
sky_flies said:
the newer generation shrink by every moment when it comes to showcasing their cultural heritage
 

sky_flies

Well-Known Member
#17
I have so many replies for u Vince but this tribal segregation is driving me nuts..... I've chosen to stay away from such threads cuz it aint the way forward.
 

blackpearl

Well-Known Member
#18
oh lawdddddddd....stop it already!!
Can all this tribe nonsense just stay put for once?
Haba in every single thread it is now about yorubas this and yoruba that, igbos this and igbos that....abeg! Can we focus on the interviews only without putting maggi and salt into it.



geez!
 

vince

Well-Known Member
#19
Tribal segregation?What tribal segregation are you referring to,sky?The issue of supporting and promoting our native languages is what is at the heart of this article, and it is a very relevant issue that faces this generation,and they are not issues to play down or trifle with.I don't see discussing these issues as tribal segregation,even if you do.The promotion of our native languages is what this article is about and the survival of these languages is what is at stake,and i don't take that lightly.
So where does tribal segregation come into this?
I have so many replies for u Vince but this tribal segregation is driving me nuts..... I've chosen to stay away from such threads cuz it aint the way forward.
 

sky_flies

Well-Known Member
#20
Bolanle I really want to stop it.... but Vince wont let me be....

Vince I told u doing movies in Yoruba or Efik or watever doesnt help sustain our tribal values and culture.... ur reply wasdirectly asking me to speak for my tribe... isnt that tribal segregation.... im I not a Nigerian... You forget that im Ibo doesnt mean I dont have Hausa, Ibibio, Kalabari, Yoruba..... friends or relatives, does it occur to u that my mother or grandmother might have been Hausa or Efik? I guess it didnt and mind u I love Nigerians irrespective of our cultural differences

Bolanle im tired of tribal discussions and hope this would be my last comment on it, u are safe!
 
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