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Award winning film maker speaks on Nollywood, content, others




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.


‘Chernobyl’ tops TV award list as BAFTA lines up live show



The British Academy of Film and Television Arts will celebrate the best of television broadcast in the United Kingdom during 2019 in a live show at the end of July, though with stars and studio audience absent.

Chernobyl’, HBO’s critically acclaimed dramatisation of events surrounding the world’s worst nuclear accident, tops the roll-call of nominations announced on Thursday, with 14.

“We’ve had over 500 entries this year… (so) it was really fiercely contested,” BAFTA Chair Krishnendu Majumdar told Reuters TV.

Nominations fall into two categories, television and television craft, with winners of the former to be announced at the Virgin Media British Academy Television Awards ceremony on July 31.

As things stand with the coronavirus pandemic, nominees are expected to film their speeches rather than appear in person, and there are no plans for a big audience.

There will, however, be a live element to the BBC show, which actor and filmmaker Richard Ayoade will present.

“All those details are being worked out at the moment because the social distancing rules are changing.

“What we can say at the moment is that there will be a show in a studio and we are working out the participants,” Majumdar said.

‘Chernobyl’ nominations include leading actor for Jared Harris, supporting actor for Stellan Skarsgard and mini-series.

The Crown’, the warts-and-all account of the reign of Queen Elizabeth that aired its third season last year, has seven nominations, with Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s black comedy ‘Fleabag’ and Anglo-Japanese thriller ‘Giri/Haji’ on six each.

The British Academy Television Craft Awards will be announced online on July 17.

Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Ijeoma Popoola (NAN)

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Spanish health workers win 2020 Princess of Asturias Award




Spain‘s health workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic were on Wednesday named winners of the prestigious Princess of Asturias Award for Concord 2020.

The jury said that the health workers are “on the front line of the fight against the illness in our country and ever since the start of this health emergency, they have shown an incredible level of professionalism and commitment.”

The jury noted that since the start of the pandemic in Spain, over 50,000 medical workers have been infected with COVID-19 and more than 60 have lost their lives.

“Exposed to a high, aggressive viral load, in the face of long working hours, sometimes without suitable equipment or material means, … their unconditional dedication represents an exercise in exemplary citizenship and in their vocation to serve,” the jury said.

The Princess of Asturias Awards, established 40 years ago, are granted in eight categories and aim to recognize and reward “the scientific, technical, cultural, social and humanitarian work carried out at an international level by individuals, institutions or groups of individuals or institutions.”

The award winners receive a cash prize of 50,000 euros (56,027 U.S. dollars) and a sculpture expressly created for the awards by Spanish artist Juan Miro in a ceremony held in the city of Oviedo in northern Spain in the presence of the Spanish royal family every October.


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Gov. Ugwuanyi says efforts to transit IMT to degree awarding institution on course



Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State says his administration’s goal of transiting the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT), Enugu to a degree awarding institution is on course.
Ugwuanyi disclosed this during a facility tour of the institution.
The governor, who was led round the structures being put in place in the institution by the Chairman, IMT Governing Board, Mrs Ifeoma Nwobodo expressed satisfaction with the pace of work done.
He said that his administration was on course to reposition the foremost state-owned institute preparatory to its transition to a degree-awarding institution.
Some of the facilities inspected included four academic buildings and other structures recently approved by the state executive council at the cost of N810 million.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that other ongoing projects in the institution include rehabilitation of internal roads and renovation of the Administrative Block.
are refurbishment of the Mass Communication Block and other buildings.
It would be recalled that the current administration had recently approved N282million to pursue the re-accreditation of 41 academic programmes in IMT.

Edited By: Maureen Atuonwu (NAN)

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Italian president awards honours to 57 Heroes of Virus Pandemic



Italian President Sergio Mattarella has given honours to 57 people who distinguished themselves in the country’s battle against the novel coronavirus.

The 57 were each given the title of Knight of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, Mattarella’s office said in a statement on Wednesday.

One of the awardees was Maurizio Cecconi, an Italian doctor whom the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) hailed in April as one the three global heroes of the pandemic.

Cecconi, head of the Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Department of Humanitas Research Hospital in Milan, “galvanised the world to prepare for the tsunami of COVID-19 disease to come,” JAMA wrote.

Another recipient was Mahmoud Lufti Ghuniem, a Lebanese-born delivery bike rider and former nurse, who bought 1,000 face masks and donated them to the Red Cross.

Awards also went to Irene Coppola, who invented a see-through face mask to allow lip-reading by deaf people, and Alessandro Bellantoni, a taxi driver, who gave a free 1,300-kilometre ride to a 3-year-old girl suffering from cancer.

More honours went to ambulance drivers, nurses, hospital security guards, and cleaners, teachers, nursing home assistants, doctors, scientists, and people, who raised funds or donated to the needy.

“The awards, attributed to individuals, symbolically represent the collective effort of many of our fellow citizens in the name of solidarity and constitutional values,” the presidency said.

Italy is one of the countries worst hit by the pandemic.

As of Tuesday, it had reported around 233,500 infections and more than 33,500 deaths from the coronavirus.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Chinese medical experts awarded by Serbia for assistance in fighting COVID-19




Another three members of a six-strong Chinese expert medical team to Serbia were awarded on Monday with military memorial medals for their assistance in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

The medals were awarded by Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin to the three members, who arrived on May 4 to replace their colleagues.

Following the award ceremony, Cheng Shouzhen, a member of the Chinese medical team, said the team has toured many places in Serbia, such as COVID-19 hospitals, elderly care facilities, and child care centers.

“We shared our experience gained in China and especially in Wuhan. We openly exchanged suggestions and opinions in line with the current epidemiological situation about treatment of patients, abolition of the state of emergency, gradual return to work and restarting production, as well as opening borders,” she said.

Chinese Ambassador to Serbia Chen Bo congratulated the country on excellent response to COVID-19, adding that the joint battle against the pandemic strengthened ties between the two countries.

“The Chinese expert medical team to Serbia became a symbol of the friendship between our two countries,” Chen said.

Defense Minister Vulin thanked the Chinese experts for their help. “We learned from you as doctors, but also as human beings. You have demonstrated discipline, endurance and diligence,” he said.

The Chinese medical expert team has been assisting Serbia in fighting the COVID-19 since March 21. On May 6, Serbia lifted the state of emergency, and opened borders for passengers recently.


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Dangote wins World Travel Market Award with CNN commercial 



Barely a week after emerging the most admired brand in Africa, Dangote Industries Limited (DIL) has won another award through its television commercial on the Cable Network News (CNN) detailing its business processes.

The company said in a statement on Sunday in Lagos that Dangote Industries won “Most Compelling Agency Story” award by the World Travel Market (WTM) with its ‘Farm to Table’ commercial.

The commercial, which is part of the ‘Touching Lives’ documentary aired weekly on CNN, detailed the process of food metamorphosis from the farm as raw material to final process as food on the tables at home.

According to CNN International Commercial Account Executive, Varshmi Arasalingam, the award recognises powerful storytelling capabilities.

He affirmed that the Touching Lives Farm To Table campaign holds a prominent socio-economic impact for which Dangote Industries continues to empower and improve the lives of people in Africa.

“We are extremely pleased to announce that Dangote Industries and CNN International Commercial are the winners of the WTM Africa Awards for the ‘Most Compelling Agency Story.

Dangote Industries is one the most diversified business conglomerates in Africa, with multiple entities impacting the daily lives of most of the continent’s population.

“The company provides the population with employment opportunities that are also self-sustaining through basic needs, such as food, cement, construction, agriculture, and technology.

“Through a branded content production, CNN International Commercial (CNNIC) wanted to showcase Dangote Industries empowering Africans through employment and self-sufficient opportunities.

“Filmed and produced by CNNIC’s award-winning branded content studio Create, the campaign promotes Nigeria and the wider continent through the stories of real people, and focuses on the connections people have with each other, be it in their work and daily lives.

“The character-driven story helps to change perceptions and encourage global audiences to visit Nigeria (and the African continent more generally) so they can experience and understand its culture and hospitality.

“It also shows that we should not look at the travel and tourism as a narrow sector, but instead view it as part of a larger socio-economic project.

“In this way, travel and tourism can empower and improve the lives of people in Africa – and all over the world – a goal Dangote is dedicated to realizing,” he said.

In his comment on the award, DIL Group Chief Branding and Corporate Communications Officer, Anthony Chiejina, said the management was delighted at the award and it only showed that the company was living up to its billing as the most diversified conglomerate in Africa.

He said the Commercial shot by the CNN which has won the award depicted the businesses of the company and gave vent to how we arrive at our mission statement of meeting the expectation of the people by providing for their basic needs.

“It simply demonstrates how it starts from the farm through which our people are engaged in every process before it gets to table at home.” he said.

Editing Wale Ojetimi

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Rivers awards N3.9bn convocation arena project in UNIPORT– Gov Wine’s aide



The Rivers Government has awarded contract for the construction of N3.9 billion new convocation arena at the University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT)
to a contractor, Telios Group.

Mr Alabo George-Kelly, the Special Adviser to Gov. Nyseom Wike on Projects, made this known in a statement by Dr Williams Wodi, the university Deputy Director (Information), on Sunday in Port Harcourt.

George-Kelly, handing over the construction site to the contractor, assured the university management that the project would be completed within the stipulated time and according to specification.

“The project’s letter of award has already been issued to the company.

“We are confident that Telios Group will deliver a quality project with attention to details. We do not expect the contractor to cut corners,” he said.

Responding, the Vice-Chancellor of UNIPORT, Prof. Ndowa Lale, thanked Wike for taking steps to fulfil his promise of building a world class convocation arena in the university campus.

He said that Wike, who is alumni of the university, had demonstrated his commitment to the institution.

“To this end, our physical planning and development unit will closely monitor the project to ensure quality job delivery,” he said.

In his remarks, Mr Emmanuel Adaria, representative of Telios Group, said the project would be completed to the contracts’ specification.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the convocation arena, when completed, would accommodate 15,000 students during ceremony.

The arena would also accommodate a minimum of six thousand students when partitioned into six lecture theatres.

Edited By: Angela Okisor/Olagoke Olatoye (NAN)

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UNIFIL awards Chinese woman for exceptional role in peacekeeping in S. Lebanon




The UN Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) awarded a Chinese female major on Friday for her work to integrate a gender perspective into the military functions, the UNIFIL said in a statement.

UNIFIL Chief Stefano Del Col presented Major Yuan Xin of UNIFIL‘s Chinese contingent with the UN Certificate of Recognition award on behalf of the UN peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix.

“I am particularly pleased to recognize the achievements of Maj Xin today in her role in the area of demining, a vital component of operational effectiveness and protection of civilian,” Del Col said.

Del Col made the statement on the occasion of the International Day of UN Peacekeepers held at the UNIFIL‘s headquarters in Naqoura, which paid tribute to the contribution of uniformed and civilian personnel and honored more than 3,900 peacekeepers who lost their lives serving under the UN flag around the world since 1948.

This year, the UN peacekeeper’s day marks the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security and commemorates the key role of women in peacekeeping.

“I would like to express my great pride for the immense contribution of female peacekeepers at UNIFIL,” said Major General Del Col.

He commended all UNIFIL personnel for their “exceptional service and hard work” in ensuring that the UN Mission continues to carry out its operational activities 24/7 and delivers on its mandate even under “these most trying of circumstances.”

“This year, the challenges and threats faced by our peacekeepers are even greater than ever. Despite the risk of COVID-19, they are continuing their operations and supporting the governments and the local populations,” he said.

In December 2002, the UN General Assembly designated May 29 as the International Day of UN Peacekeepers in order to pay tribute to the professionalism, dedication and courage of all the men and women serving in uniform and as civilians in UN peacekeeping operations, and honor the memory of those who have lost their lives for peace.

The global theme of this year’s observance is “Women in Peacekeeping: A Key to Peace.”


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3 Nigerians, 80 others get UN posthumous peacekeeping award



The United Nations on Friday honoured three Nigerians and 80 other military, police and civilian peacekeepers, who lost their lives in the line of duty in 2019.

The fallen heroes were posthumously awarded the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal during a virtual award ceremony to mark the 2020 International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers.

Two of them, Henry Ukomadu, a police sergeant, and Moshood Lasisi, an Army warrant officer, died while serving with the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).

The third fallen Nigerian peacekeeper, Gabriel Shogaolu, died while serving also with MINUSMA but in civilian capacity in 2017.

During the ceremony, streamed live on the UN website, the recipients’ names were announced and displayed on the screen alongside condolence messages from their countries’ Permanent Representatives to the UN.

Names of the fallen Nigerian uniform peacekeepers as displayed on the screen during the virtua ceremony.
Late Gabriel Shogaolu’s name displayed alongside those of other civilian peacekeeping personnel who died in the line of duty.

In his message, Amb. Samson Itegboje, the Deputy Permanent Representative of Nigeria at the UN, extended the “deep condolences and heartfelt sympathies’’ of the Federal Government to the families and countries of the deceased.

Itegboje, who participated in the ceremony, currently serves as Chairman of the UN Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations on behalf of Nigeria.

Nigeria, one of the world’s largest troop contributors to the UN peacekeeping operations, was re-elected chair of the committee also known as C-34 for the 48th time in March.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who presided at the award ceremony, expressed gratitude to the 95,000 UN peacekeepers currently deployed around the world.

Guterres said “they are facing one of the greatest challenges ever: delivering on their peace and security mandates while helping countries to address the COVID-19 pandemic”.

He announced the death of two military UN peacekeepers (one from Cambodia and the other from El Salvador) killed by COVID-19 on Thursday and Friday.

“I now ask all of you, wherever you are, to feel strongly the solidarity with those families that are also permanently in our memory, in our attention.

“This is because they were the ones who suffered more to get less with those fallen in the line of duty,’’ the secretary-general said.

On the theme of this year’s event, “Women in Peacekeeping’’ that highlights their central role in UN operations, Guterres stated that women peacekeepers “play an essential role for the success of our peace operations’’.

“Day by day, women peacekeepers help improve all aspects of our operations and performance; they ensure better access to local communities.

“They prevent and reduce conflict and confrontation, and they serve as role models for their peers and others.

“As we commemorate the 20th anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, we must do more to achieve women’s equal representation in all areas of peace and security,” he asserted.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the ceremony also featured presentation of the UN Military Gender Advocate Award to two female peacekeepers.

The recipients are Commander Carla Araujo of the Brazilian Navy, deployed with the UN Mission in the Central African Republic, and Maj. Suman Gawani of the Indian Army, a Military Observer formerly with the UN Mission in South Sudan.

Edited By: Wale Ojetimi (NAN)

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