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Award winning film maker speaks on Nollywood, content, others

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Nollywood

Abuja, April 15, 2019 Nollywood for some time now has been creating buzz in the global entertainment scene with films such as ‘The Lion Heart,’ King of Boys’, `The Wedding Party’ and `Up North’ getting positive ratings.

In spite of this feat, some players in the industry believe more needs to be done in terms of contents and productions for further global acceptance.

One of such players is Imoh Umoren, an award winning filmmaker known for his socially conscious work, especially producing the first black and white silent film in Nollywood ‘Hard Times’ which won an Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCA) in 2015.

Umoren, whose latest work ‘Lagos: Sex, Lies and Traffic’ x-rays the life of an average Lagosians amidst the running story of a political poster boy, had a chat with News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja.

He maintained that the Nollywood audience wanted better films and expressed his joy at the new crop of film makers coming up to fill the quality gap.

Nigerian filmmaker, Imoh Umoren

Below are excerpts:

Your films are very socially conscious and deal with tough issues, what inspired this?

I am inspired by real life. I observe life and I have gone through a lot of heartache, losing my parents, my siblings.I have had a sad life. I once even lost my dog when I was off to school and my cousin’s girlfriend poisoned it. It broke my heart.

So yeah, going through so much pain myself has opened me to the feelings of others and what they go through. So I make films that relate to our humanity.

My characters are usually vulnerable people struggling with their confidence and with life. I mean I don’t set out to make movies with a social message or things like that. I just write them based on experiences I have been through or observed.

I have also made some bland comedies I must confess mostly TV shows with one-dimensional characters because sometimes people just need a bunch of clowns on TV running around doing absolutely nothing.

I used to disdain people that make it. I still do but sometimes the people need to be entertained and not worry about an incompetent government or lack of electricity. But primarily, I tell deep stories because that’s what I am here for mostly.

Do you think Nigerians are as interested in your kind of edgy conscious works compared to other genres?

Nigerians are bored with the films we offer them lets be honest. We have well shot bare stories of people sitting on the couch and talking to each other; everyone gets tired of that.

Our viewers are very sophisticated now. We watch Game of Thrones and horror movies, you should know we want more.

I am glad there are lots of good filmmakers in Nollywood now, so though we had envisioned a quick revolution, I guess we will settle for slow and steady but the business is moving. Better films are coming out daily.

Tell us about Lagos: Sex, Lies and Traffic; the inspiration and message in the film?

Last year Mnet approached me to pitch a couple of film Ideas to them. I had developed the film three years ago really. So I sent them a bunch of ideas and they loved that and we agreed to make it into a film.

I don’t know if there’s a message behind the film as much as it is an expository. And basically, you can sum up Lagos in those three words Sex,Lies and Traffic.

People have sex with such intensity around here you will think mankind is about to go extinct and we are trying to repopulate, we are lied to by preachers, presidents and Ponzi schemes and in all of this you are stuck in traffic.

Lagos:Sex,Lies and Traffic is a parallel story of the lives of people from different backgrounds that eventually merged.

A poster boy politician gets his mistress pregnant and they have to cover it up or his political ambition is in jeopardy.

So in this film we have drug dealers, prostitutes, politicians, area boys, corrupt police men, taxi drivers; essentially everyone you will meet in Lagos.

But there’s a lot of political undertones in the film. I hope it doesn’t go over the people’s heads.

How was the production process like – challenges and smooth sails?

Making a film is easy. Know what else is easy? open heart surgery. Films are difficult to make even bad ones but I started out by getting a co-writer for the script Gbemisola Afolabi.

I realised I wanted to make a film that touched all aspects of the city and I didn’t want to write it solely from my own point of view and amazingly she brought angles that I didn’t even think of (if you watch the scene in the hairdresser salon you’ll understand).

Storywise, I think Lagos:Sex,Lies and Traffic will be one of the best ones this year.

How does this project differ from your other works?

Lagos:Sex,Lies and Traffic is different because I have stories that run concurrently through the film.

My typical style is usually one primary thread from top to bottom because I never want viewers to be let off the intensity of a character by offering subplots that softens it.

So the subplots of those ones lead right back to the line of fire. It is also my second film I’ve collaborated on in terms of writing. I also did that with club.

I don’t want to be the agony uncle of Nollywood. I have people still trying to kill me off ‘The Happyness Limited’ and ‘Children of Mud’ so if you follow my work you will see the difference.

As an Indie director, what has the experience been working in the Nigerian industry?

The film industry around here has a low entry threshold and that’s why we have a lot of mediocrity. And that has been my problem.

Everybody and their grandfathers want to make films and so we are sometimes looped into the same category you hear comments like “You Nollywood people no dey try” because for every good film there are 1000 mediocre films.

So setting myself apart has been a challenge and it’s unnecessary because if there’s a standard then you don’t have to do anything over the top to stand out.

We are still grappling over the basics and that’s what hurts. I sometimes get tired of working in an entry-level business

If there is anything you can change in the movie industry, what would that be and why?

Distributors not taking any financial risks. The filmmaker takes all the risks, sources money, makes the film, pays the actors and crew, secures distribution, spends a lot of money pushing the film and if that film tanks then it’s all on you and not the distributor.

People reserving the juicy dates for their film releases of films they haven’t even shot. It’s tragic.

Entertainment

FTAN calls for national policy on ‘Cultural Tourism’ in Nigeria

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Alhaji Rabo Saleh, National President, Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN) has called on the Federal Government to come up with a national policy on ‘Cultural Tourism’ to boost the sector.

Saleh said this on Tuesday at the 5th Edition of Nigeria Tourism Investors Forum and Exhibition (NTIFE) in Abuja, with the theme: “An Insight into the Legal Framework of Tourism in Nigeria”.

Saleh said that domestic and international tourism experts have concluded that cultural tourism was Nigeria’s most competitive tourist product, if properly harnessed.

“Nigeria is a promising African tourism destination, therefore, there should be no dichotomy between ‘culture’ and ‘tourism’.

“Culture and Tourism departments in government ministries should work as a team to sell Nigeria to inbound tourists.

“Other countries, like Turkey and China have recently been investing in cultural tourist products with enviable success,” he said.

The FTAN president urged Federal Ministry of Information and Culture and other stakeholders to utilise the opportunities to put Nigeria on the global tourism map.

He added that this could be achieved by the diversification of the economy through cultural tourism products that would attract inbound forex spending tourists, also by promotion of domestic tourism to create business.

“State governments are the natural custodians of most tourist sites because the sites are all local.

“Mapping out tourism development zone at the Local Government level, provision of tourist facilities such as access roads, facilitating land acquisition for tourism investors should be put into consideration,” he said.

He called on the government, both federal and state to analytically look at the Nigeria’s tourism map and build up a motor-able road that would lead to and fro tourist destinations in Nigeria.

Also speaking, Mr Samuel Alabi, Chairman, FTAN Board of Trustees, appealed to the FG to allocate land to FTAN for tourism to flourish.

Alabi, also a former president of FTAN,  added that allocating land to the association would help tourism development in Nigeria.

The event attracted personalities from the Federal Ministry of Information, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, National Orientation Agency as well as stakeholders in the tourism sector, among others.

Edited by Dorcas Jonah/Ifeyinwa Omowole

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Women, groups eulogise men on International Men’s Day

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Men have continued to receive praise and eulogy on social media in commemoration of International Men’s Day.

International Men’s Day (IMD) is an annual international event celebrated on Nov. 19.

The objectives of celebrating an International Men’s Day are set out in ‘The Six Pillars of International Men’s Day.’

It focuses on men’s and boys’ health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, highlighting discrimination against men and promoting male role models.

Nigeria News Agency reports that the accolades, which came mostly from women and social groups, praised men for their bravery and courage.

@Chibeie said, “To the father that never left and provided at all cost!

“To the man that believes in women’s rights! To the man that never raises his hands on a lady!

“To the man that never indulges in rape or Adultery! Happy #InternationalMensDay. You are the real MVP!”(Most valued person).

@BellaRizinti wrote, “Happy #InternationalMen’sDay To my friends & loved ones.

“To the men tackling toxic masculinity. To the men who aren’t afraid to be vulnerable.

“To the men who are struggling with mental health issues. To the men who are told to “man up”. You’re good enough as you are.”

NAN reports that the men were also encouraged to speak up about issues that disturbed their mental health.

@Melacomfort said, “Suicide remains one of the most common causes of death for men, aged between 18-50.

“All men should be made to feel comfortable about speaking openly and getting support.

“Asking for help when you need it doesn’t make you weak. It just means you’re human. #InternationalMensDay.”

@Ericafett said, “To the men out there that realise that your depth as a man and more importantly as a human, isn’t measured by how much you lift or how “tough” you are.

“Rather, your ability to be a good man. Bless all you good ones out there. #InternationalMensDay.”

NAN reports that the celebration in Nigeria was unofficial as the country is not listed as one of the 44 countries in the world that observe the Day.

This has reduced the level of awareness of the importance of the International Men’s Day celebration in Nigeria.

Seeing that the country celebrates International Women’s Day and officially organises events, some respondents noted that the lack of celebration for men was partial.

Albehi Salehi said, “There is Day for men. Sadly government isn’t running any event on this day. Partiality. #InternationalMensDay”

Johnson Akinwale said, “I feel men deserve a celebration as grand as women. Our struggles and pains are valid too and need to be acknowledged.”

Edited by Dada Ahmed

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YCee’s album ‘YCee vs Zaheer’ hits 2m streams

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‘YCee vs Zaheer’, the latest album of singer and rapper, Oludemilade Alejo aka YCee, has been streamed over two million times.

Nigeria News Agency reports that YCee excitedly shared the news on his instagram page @iam_ycee.

The long-awaited debut album entitled ‘Ycee vs Zaheer’ was released on Nov. 8 and has steadily become a fan favourite in the last couple of days.

The project comes as a follow up to his 8-track body of work ‘First Wave’ (2017) and ‘Late Night Vibrations’ in 2018.

The two-dimensional album featured collaborations with Davido, Phyno, and Niniola.

Among the songs contained in the 15-track project are `Its Amazing’, ‘Wahala Dey’, ‘Bossing’, ‘Chocolata’, ‘Cheque’ and ‘Dakun’.

Others are ‘Vibing’, ‘Mo Salah’, ‘So Nice’, ‘Mine’, ‘Love Like That’, ‘Bassline’, ‘Dada’, ‘Vacancy’.

The album also had Ycee engage a squad of fiery producers including Adey, JayBidz, Ballertosh, Fanatix and BeatsbyKarma.

He also worked with Syn X, Krizbeatz, Jay Popping, Buzzin Producer, AP Da Don, TwoSeven, Elmore, and KO.

Speaking on the idea behind the album’s title, the Headies-nominated singer had said that his choice of ‘Ycee vs Zaheer’ was a deliberate attempt to display his singing (Ycee) and rapping (Zaheer) side.

YCee rose to limelight after his single ‘Condo’, which features vocals from Patoranking, earned him two nominations at the 2015 Nigeria Entertainment Awards.

He was also nominated for Best Artist in African Pop at the 2015 All Africa Music Awards.

In October 2016, Ycee signed a record deal with Sony Music, but terminated his contract with the label in February 2018.

Edited by Ese E. Ekama

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Wizkid wins SoulTrain songwriting award for ‘Brown Skin Girl’

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Afropop superstar, Ayodeji Balogun aka Wizkid has won SoulTrain’s Ashford and Simpson Songwriters’ award.

Nigeria News Agency reports that he won the award at the 2019 ceremony held on Sunday in Las Vegas.

The ‘Ojuelegba’ singer earned the award for his collaboration with Beyonce, Blue Ivy Carter and SaiNt Jhn on the sensational song of Beyonce’s ‘Lion Heart: The Gift’ album.

Wizkid shares the award with other credited songwriters including, Beyoncé Knowles, Carlos St. John, Adio Marchant and Shawn Carter.

Others are Stacy BartheAnathi Mnyango, Michael Uzowuru, Ayodeji Balogun and Richard Isong.

NAN reports that this was the third time Wizkid had made the nominees’ list for the prestigious award.

He was nominated for Best Dance Performance in 2017 for his song ‘Come Closer’ and in 2016 for the Rhythm and Bars category for his song ‘One Dance.

Edited by Ese E. Ekama

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‘Most music legends are not versatile’ – Singer, Simi

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Nigerian alternative music star, Simi Ogunleye has deemed audience ‘unrealistic’ expectations from artist as one of the main issues plaguing the music industry.

Nigeria News Agency reports that in a series of Twitter posts @simplysimi, she noted that Nigerian musicians are forced to cater to the same audience and switch their sounds to feed them.

According to the ‘Soldier’ singer, artists are forced to be versatile even when they have their own original sounds, as musical legends are usually monotonous in their sounds.

“I think one of the most trying things Naija artistes deal with is that we are mostly catering to the same audience.

“We don’t want to have to, but the structure of the industry makes it inevitable. We expect the same people to like Rap, street music, soul, pop, indie. Its strange.

“Strange for the audience because they keep messing around with your preference. You expect everyone to please you.

“Zlatan and Johnny Drille. Strange for the artist cos they keep messing around with your creativity. You expect everybody to like your music. A waste of time.

“So when I see someone tell an artist “you’re monotonous’’, it amuses me. Most of the legends are monotonous.

“Unless they don’t have a sound. Imagine Fela doing hip-hop today and RnB tomorrow or Whitney Houston – Soul today, akpala tomorrow,’’ she said.

NAN reports that Simi, who is married to fellow alternative singer, Adekunle Gold recently released a new album, ‘Omo Charlie Champagne’.

The album swiftly follows her acclaimed 2017 eponymous album ‘Simisola’ which went on to win ‘Album of the Year’ at the Headies and contained a bunch of fantastic singles, including ‘Joromi’ and ‘Lovin.”

Edited by Ese E. Ekama

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Centre to produce documentary film on 1949 Iva Valley massacre

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The Center for Memories says it will produce a documentary film on the 1949 Iva Valley Enugu coal mine massacre to immortalise the victims.

A historian at the centre, Mrs Rina Okonkwo, said this on Monday during the wreath-laying ceremony to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the massacre at the New Market Roundabout, Enugu.

Okonkwo said that the documentary would avail the younger generation the opportunity to learn about the past “in sight and sound.”

She said that the documentary would help to capture the remaining form of the environment where the coal miners’ worked as well as interviews of the aged survivors of the attack.

Okonkwo said that the centre would also strive to produce the story and pictorial of the incident in a modern history book as “the Federal Government is restoring back history to school curriculum’’.

He said: “We are pushing ahead with the documentary project, however, we have funding challenge since the centre is not a profit-making institution.

“However, we are still looking ahead and optimistic that the project will be out probably before the next anniversary of the massacre,’’ the historian said.

Okonkwo said that the documentary had become expedient because “Nigerians easily forget, while most historical events and relics are fading away from our memories and sight’’.

Nigeria News Agency reports that on Nov. 18, 1949, no fewer than 21 coal miners were brutally massacred, while 50 others were injured by the British colonialists for daring to protest aginst racism as well as their poor working and living conditions.

(Edited by Sam Oditah)

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