Africans in Germany. One-on-one with Isaac Izoya – Founder of Nollywood Film Festival Germany (NFFG) & Nollywood Europe Golden Awards (NEGA) as he talks about the festival and life in the highlight of Nollywood, the future of Nollywood in Africa and Europe and the fame.
You have been at the forefront of promoting Nigeria’s creative industry in Europe. How has the journey been in close to 20 years?
To be specific, we celebrated 20th anniversary last year because we started the journey far back in 2002. That`s by the way, in setting the record straight. About how the journey has been since 21 years and still relevant is simply the practical fulfillment of William Shakespeare’s adage in King Henry the Fourth play that “uneasy lies the head that wears a crown”. I think that is the best empirical summary of the rigorous journey to date.
What milestones have you noticed about the industry in all these years?
Watching Nollywood graduate from VHS to big-screen productions, graduating from analog productions to digital and with unbelievable speed in achieving master copies. Acceptability of made in Nigeria movies in the west and the styles of telling our stories that has taken jobs from Western media documentary producers who usually before now come to Africa with their negative lens with just one objective which was to paint Africa negatively as a “black continent,”.
They are now jobless. Thanks to Nollywood productions for educating the world about African history and lifestyle.
What aspects of the industry are you not comfortable with and how can it be done better?
Content copyright protections and the distribution of Nollywood movies need to be improved. I think the government needs to do more to support the creative industry because the creative industry has catapulted the name Nigeria to greater heights than even the football that our country was known for in the 1990s.
America is ruling the world today with most creative industries tied to entertainment and of course, military hardware. Whether you hate America as a country or not, you must watch their movies and listen to their music. The effect of that on people’s lives cannot be overemphasized. You see, those who hate America will end up still imitating their styles, appreciating their culture and lifestyle unknowingly. That’s the positive effect of creativity.
Nigeria government should invest more in the entertainment industry in general, which will in turn help promote and market our country’s image and productivity beyond expectations.
Our practitioners always complain of lack of government support. Is there something we can learn from Europe and their society in this regard?
Like I said earlier, the Federal Government of Nigeria and did states and corporate Nigeria need to wake up and do more in all ramifications to support and promote the creative industry.
In Europe funding is always available for your productions and cultural activities through the ministries involved. Funding for productions is not meant for buying SUVs by the producers, and those funds are accounted for through a system put in place by the government that works.
Musicians get paid when their music is played on radio and television stations, unlike in Nigeria, where producers need to pay radio and TV stations to play their music. Copyright is violated at ease in Nigeria with impunity because those in charge of enforcement are not living up to their expectations. The government needs to step up its game.
You seem to have slowed down your efforts in film production. What is the issue?
Hahahaha! Good observation. I did some productions, which we were about to market when COVID-19 struck. You don`t need to be reminded of what happened to the movement during almost three good years of blackouts during the Corona era that made it impossible to even visit Nigeria. We resumed entertainment activities again just last year, in 2022. My three movies are about to be released, and we have two scripts to roll immediately after the upcoming Nollywood Film Festival scheduled for July ending. We are opening the production gate again soonest by God’s Grace.
Another edition of NFFG will come in a matter of weeks, how is the preparation for this event so far?
Tight! Very tight! Like you know, if there is anything we`ve borrowed from the Germans, it`s early to bed, I mean, early preparation well ahead of time. It`s not a coincidence that our event is getting bigger every year and getting more awareness every year.
The presence of His Excellency, CG Ambassador Wahab Akande and the entire staff of the Consulate General of Nigeria in Frankfurt Am Main is an additional blessing to our endeavour in promoting our culture courtesy of Nollywood events. Like most of his predecessors since 2002, the good old days of His Excellency, Ambassador Baba Waki of the Nigeria Embassy, Berlin, gave us the necessary encouragement that gave birth to what we are today.
CG Amb Wahab Akande is solidly behind all our moves, and we cannot thank him enough with any word. I will definitely not fail to recognise the city of Frankfurt Ministry of Arts and Culture, FilmForum Höchst cinema, Nollywood Practitioner Europe, Ujomor Consulting Paris, Kate Amas Hearty Foundation Berlin, Atop Project Ltd, 24Bits UK and Edna C. Godwin of Beard & Lovely Kuwait, just to mention but a few of those powering us to the promised land.
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What are the high points of this year’s edition of NFFG and NEGA?
The screening of Nigerian blockbuster movies and the honouring of well-deserved recipients and the after party will follow with 12 outstanding traditional Afrobeat musicians from Nigeria with side attraction by Europe-based artists. All performances are scheduled for just one night. You now understand why it`s being referred to as mother of all Afro-shows in Europe. Bringing African culture closer to those in Diaspora and their European friends.
Above all, there`s going to be an opportunity for someone to go home with a key of two bedroom flat located at Ifako-Ijaye, Lagos State, Nigeria through a raffle draw come 29th July, 2023 courtesy of a Lagos State based Real Estate giant, Atop Project Ltd. Such a gesture has never happened anywhere before in any African events in Europe. Like always, we are set to break the record again.
It was reported that there was a misunderstanding between the organisers of NFFG and actor Yul Edochie. What happened and has it been resolved?
There was nothing like a misunderstanding. We are humans and we all know that the guy is going through a lot. Despite the fact that we already signed a contract to prove his willingness to attend, as humans, we were considerate and decided to give him time to heal his wounds while optimistic and looking forward to a better tomorrow. He was appreciative of our understanding.
What does it take to be involved in NFFG and NEGA? Who gets recognised? What are the criteria?
We`ve set a standard which we are maintaining perfectly. Apart from qualitative movies, for your movie to be accepted by the screening committee, your storylines must be educative to those in Africa and especially those in the Diaspora because we consider Nollywood movies as a window to the African continent and a tool for learning the basic African culture by the children born in the Diaspora especially, far away from Africa.
NEGA award is a platform designed to honour Nollywood stakeholders, Nollywood stars, comedians, musicians (both in Africa and in the Diaspora) and has been expanded to recognize the artistic bias of outstanding media personnel, politicians and businessmen and women whose actions have directly or indirectly impacted upon the industry, thereby shaping what it has grown to become today. It`s purely based on merit, not for sale and no back door.
How are the various beneficiaries of the event supporting the initiative? I mean all the stars being honoured?
They know the worth of our 24K Gold award and they don`t play with it. The list of the recipients alone is intimidating and they too never hold back in giving us accolades when necessary. Though you cannot satisfy average human beings, we are grateful whenever we look back in retrospect for being a true Nigerian Cultural Ambassador for all these years.
Aside from NFFG and NEGA, what other projects should fans expect from Isaac Izoya?
Something is loading and I won`t let out the cat now till when things are fully perfected.
You were once listed as one of the glamour boys of Nollywood. Why do you think you were so described?
I remained the first person ever that produced, featured and premiered Nollywood movie in Germany with several Ambassadors and dignitaries in attendance (Sinners In The House) and of course, the first Nollywood actor as far back as 2002 based in Germany.
This is also having spent 21 years promoting Nigerian culture in this part of the world courtesy of Nollywood and still commanding respect and honour even within the diplomatic circle and still waxing stronger and expanding in doing so. I think, that says it all.
Over 150 A-List artists have passed through us down to Europe and the majority of them obtained their first visa through us. For us to Keep a clean record in all these years and a Nigerian for that matter is worth celebrating. I have impacted positively on people’s lives over the years. The journey has not been easy but the passion still remains the same and undaunted. Like I always say, “If it`s easy, let my critics try it”. Our motto which is “The Show Must Go On!” means a lot.
As a Nollywood stakeholder, what’s your view about dating women in Nollywood?
For me, love is a beautiful thing and love knows no bounds. Personally, I have nothing at all against dating Nollywood women. We have seen many Nollywood stars that are happily married and that is true love for you in action.
How many have you dated?
I do not mix business with pleasure. Though our cultural promotion is not a business-oriented outlet, I am focusing on the promotion of our culture and making people happy with no space for any distractions in the name of love. I have not dated any before and not hoping to do so tomorrow.