Foremost Nollywood producer and director, Lancelot Oduah Imasuen has many creative works like Yesterday and recently Home in exile to his credit. The Edo State Lagos-based director has continued to strive for excellence in his chosen career.
As a child, Imasuen had the dream of becoming a lawyer, but he later followed his passion when he ventured into movie making. Today, he is content and fulfilled with his achievements after fifteen years in the motion picture industry. But, he still believes that the industry can be better if filmmakers get their priorities right.
While speaking with us at his Surulere studio, Imasuen revealed that his recent foray into language movies is aimed at reaching out to Nigerians through their mother tongue. This would help preserve African culture aside achieving the re-orientation of people in indigenous languages. He also spoke on issues affecting Nollywood, his most tragic moment on set and his project 101 among other issues.
Making language movies
I tag my language movies Celebrating and sustaining the Edo language, it signifies a cultural initiative and rejuvenation for me. I discovered that there is so much in our indigenous languages that is not being tapped and there is a general decline of our culture and language, hence the need to reach out to viewers through indigenous language. If you cannot speak your mother tongue in Africa, you are considered lost and the speed with which we imitate western values is very alarming.
As a talented filmmaker, I have decided to embark on cultural re-orientation with Language movies so as to give something different to viewers. I still do English movies, but I feel I owe it to the Edo Kingdom to document films in our indigenous languages. Another reason is to reach out to those in Diaspora, as an avenue to connect Nigerians to their motherland. The movies deal with topical issues that affect us as a people such as greed, human trafficking, prostitution and the roles families play in encouraging these social vices. Some of them are Ebuwa and Obama.
My experience as a filmmaker
I have been in the industry for 15 years as a movie producer and director. It has been a wonderful experience for me and very interesting too. I can’t imagine myself doing anything else aside making movies. My experience is an embodiment of several things, the good, the bad, and the ugly, but I have decided to play up the good and not dwell on the negatives.
It is the satisfaction I derive from making good movies that has kept me going through tough times. I am happy that I am one of the few who pioneered the venture called Nollywood, there is nothing greater than that. I am also excited that it has come thus far not minding lack of Government commitment, lack of infrastructure, lack of corporate backing and finance.
As a child, I knew I won’t leave this world unnoticed no matter my profession. While growing up, I had wanted to be a lawyer. I have made up my mind that I would still study Law and if I don’t do that, I won’t die. My desire to be a lawyer was overshadowed by my passion for the arts so much so that I didn’t want to miss that call. No matter the height I attain, I would always be remembered for being a filmmaker. I didn’t just want to be in the limelight, but I was determined to leave my footprints in the sands of time.
Most tragic moment on set
I have done a lot of movies many of which are challenging. I won’t forget the experience I had on the set of Lost Glory. A reversing car knocked down and killed instantly one of the two girls standing with me by the roadside waiting for our vehicle to convey us from the hotel room to the location. It remains the most tragic incident in my entire career.
Most prominent movie
The movie Yesterday, gave me prominence among my contemporaries till today. The movie was a story on female genital mutilation, rape, and widowhood rites. It was my creation and it was greeted with a lot of applause because I produced and directed it.
The commercialization of the industry, lack of professionalism on the part of practitioners and also the lack of artistic rivalry between artistes is the bane of the industry. We were also doing the right things wrongly. which caused the industry to nose dive. There is no more competition in terms of creativity on the part of movie makers. Yet, the content of the film is what makes the stars and not the other way round as we have it today.
I have just initiated the Nollywood Interactive, which is aimed at producing 101 brand new faces in the industry to further augment my stand that content makes the artist and not the reverse.
I may not be as wealthy as my counterparts abroad, but I am comfortable. It is being consistent with what I do that has brought me this far and I am proud of our achievements in Nollywood even though we desire a more conducive atmosphere to operate.
I believe in what I do. I am very passionate about it too. I am also very optimistic that the industry would boom again. There is always a confirmation that our efforts are not wasted as we are gaining respect in the eyes of the world through our movies. I am not relenting and there is a burning desire to do more. I am confident that in my time, the entertainment industry in Nigeria will take shape.
Home in exile
My new movie, Home in exile is my attempt to capture Nigeria just the way it is. Each time people clamour for our brothers in Diaspora to come home and invest, they don’t ask themselves how our laws can accommodate them. It also tackles greed as one of the monsters that eating deep into the fabric of our society.
I have won many awards, the most recent is Home in Exile, which won two awards at Zuma film festival for the best film that promotes tourism and the best script that came in for the festival.
What I also hope to achieve
I want the industry to get to a point where government would give us support and erect theatres in every state to exhibit our films. The future is in our hands and we should redirect our focus to creativity, which never runs out because it is innate. It will bring prosperity and success to us as a nation. I also want to see a Nigerian movie getting recognition at the Oscars.