The above title was my opening interview question for one of Nollywood’s (Nigerian Film Industry) foremost film Directors. He has in recent times, come to worldwide acclaim following a number of works key of which is Invasion 1897 (The Deposition of the Last King of Africa).
Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen fondly called by his many admires in the Nigerian Movie Industry, De’guvnor, is unarguably one of the most celebrated filmmakers today in Nigeria. He is the first Nigerian Filmmaker to be a guest at the CNN Screening Room.
Can you guess what his answer was? If you are keen to know, read this till the very end.
His voice was one laced with passion and determination and I could tell it was one voice that had over the years often archived calm and given direction. My name is Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen he said. I was born in Urhokuosa town of Uhwounode Local Government Council, Edo State, Nigeria; into the family of Chief and Late Madam Godwin Imasuen.
I attended Oguola Primary School and Eghosa Grammar School in Benin City, where my passion for arts and drama developed and grew into what I now do. I was the President of Dramatic Society in Eghosa Grammar School and won lots of Awards and Prizes at School Drama Competitions in Benin City and beyond. Thereafter, I proceeded to the famous University of Port Harcourt to study Theatre Arts.
I started my career as an actor with church drama at the New Benin Baptist Church. And then, moved a step further to the Earthpot Kulture Theatre Troupe in Benin City. My career in directing started at a tender age of 19 years in Benin City with Evangel Theatre a TV Gospel Drama Series. From 1988-1991, I was with BBS (Bendel Broadcasting Service) as a Causal Staff. I then moved to Lagos after my study at the university and joined the NTA (Nigerian Television Authority) from 1994-1996 as a Production Assistant. While with the NTA, I ran a part time job with Radio Nigeria from 1995-1996.
At the age of 26, I directed the film, ‘Yesterday’ a film on the ills of female genital mutilation (FGM). This was the film that shot me to limelight. Despite the challenges I encountered in the early days just by virtue of the fact that the initial filmmakers and directors within Nollywood were from a particular region of the country. It took extra impetus on my path to break into this monopoly and win their support. I have always had the vision that the Nigerian Film industry is a national resource bigger than any one individual. I set to work with the single-minded focus to unite our people and get us to tell our own narrative to the world. This is exemplified in 2010 when I was given an award by the Edo People in Chicago, I dedicated it to the Igbo people – I believe in one Nigeria, one Africa with a heritage and culture worthy of preservation and export.
I am a founding member of DGN (Directors Guild of Nigeria). I now have over two hundred successful movies in my portfolio including: Issachaba (a trilogy), Games Men Play, Games Women Play, Emotional Cracks, Private Sin, Critical Decision, Behind Closed Doors, The Last Burial, August Meeting, Close Enemies (first Nigerian Film to be shot in Hollywood with Nigerian Actors and American Crew), Saving Then Crown (shot in Germany), Yesterday, Harbinger, Home In Exile, Ikuemitin, Ebuwa, Ọbama, Avbugbalama (Edo Language Movies), Open Heaven, Invasion 1897, etc.
Lancewealth Images has enabled the production of more award-winning actors and actresses than most of our counterparts in Nollywood: many A-list actors and actresses have won awards from Lancelot’s directed Film(s).
It will be interesting for people to know that from 1999 till date, I shoot all my movies in Benin City with emphasis deliberately on my people, their history and projecting our rich cultural heritage. I believe that tourism is something we need to develop. Our heritage and our culture is God given resource to the Edo people and the people of Africa that we are yet to tap into. In my quest to use the art of film making to tell our story, Invasion 1897, a movie that spans the continents of Africa and Europe, produced unapologetically from the Benin man’s point of view winning over 19 awards worldwide within a year of its release. It has been called the “Benin Massacre of 1897” in the past- even Google calls it that. However, now we tell the narrative of how our Kingdom was invaded by the British, and our King deposed and valued Art of our people scattered in Museums across the world. The battle was not in London, in New York or Delhi. This battle was in the Benin Kingdom, present day Benin City. We need to tell our story and fix our nations ourselves: there is always room for multinational collaboration, but we must take the lead for our needs.
To answer your opening question, I maintain that anyone can move from grammar school drama club to become world acclaimed movie director. If I could do it, then I believe anyone can do it. For every one out there, I say, “locate your dream, then light up your passion, let the light burn as you keep doing what is right that you believe in and trust in your efforts. I tell you, one day, your candle will light up the world and time will celebrate you”.
If I told you that in 2001, just five years back, I felt low and asked my self “you work so hard, when will you ever be celebrated” Nonetheless, I did not give up. Today, I have so many awards, I have lost count. I have my immediate family to thank for being my fortress of comfort when challenges come up along the way. They are my jewel, the spackle of my success, Mrs. Lancelot Aimua and our three lovely daughters, Ebuwa and Osato and Iyenogie.
Lorettareveals would sum Lancelot up as is a positive minded Filmmaker, a social crusader who believes he can inform, rehabilitate and transform the society and impact on the lives of his people through his works that tell the rest of the world their own narrative in their own way. After all, it was Chinua Achebe, the world famous African Author who said, “Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter”
Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen is the President of Nollywood Project 101 a Plat-form to discover, nurture and expose new faces into the Nigerian motion picture industry. He has also commissioned an initiative to celebrate and sustain the Edo Language, a language he loves so much and does not want to go extinct. Oba-gha-to-kpere!