Isaac Izoya is the founder of Nollywood Film Festival Germany. The event will hold at the prestigious Filmforum Höchst VHS Cinema in Frankfurt Am Main, Germany from September 10 through to September 12 2015.
How did you get the cultural ambassador title?
Thank you for this brilliant question. Knowing what I represent matters most and the success recorded so far from the organisation I founded Ehizoya Golden Entertainment, a front-line not for-profit culture advocacy organization using Nollywood movies/stars as a medium to unearth the hidden artistic talents and promote African cultural heritage across European countries since 2003 speaks for itself. This feat is a record that remains unbroken by any African entertainer in Europe till now. Therefore, it wasn’t a coincidence when Africa Ambassadors endorsed my Cultural Ambassadorship award which was organised by African Heritage/Media Consult in Hamburg, Germany in 2008. I sincerely worked hard for this honor and it was awarded to me purely on merit
How well do Nollywood movies do in Germany?
After over a decade of promoting Nollywood in European countries using Germany as a base or home away from home for the Nollywood stars, I can only say, we are getting there. This is still far behind from my original expectations which could be attributed to language barrier. There is currently no Nollywood movie in German language so that is a huge setback.
What made you start the Nollywood Film Festival Germany?
Having produced and starred in several films, promoted A-List Nollywood stars, comedians and Hip Hop musicians for years, I noticed other European countries were benefiting more than our own country of base, Germany. After a serious brain storming session with my mentor, the producer and host of Nollywood Radio France, Mr Cyprian Josson, he convinced me to concentrate on NFFG and my one year old NEGA Awards. He encouraged me like a father and later introduced his America based partner Rebecca Monyei who came with full passion for Nollywood, having operated Nollywood Spotlight Blog. They both guided me like a baby all through. Without these two people, the ideas would have withered away because the job was so much.Worth mentioning in realization of the dream in this new city I just moved into (Frankfurt) then are are Mr. J. Iyamu Imade, the President of Nigeria community in Hessen State and Mrs. Heide Ivangs-Kariuki, our able translator and Mr. Klaus-Peter Roth, the cinema director of Hessen State Film forum Höchst VHS-Frankfurt Am Main that had never watched a Nollywood movie before based on the bad impression he got about but still believed in me.
What can we expect at this year’s edition?
Last year was more or less an experiment but this year is the real deal. Unlike last year, we have more films now pouring in to select the best from. We also control the length of films to be screened now. The venue for NFFG and NEGA Gala Night is less than a thousand metres away unlike last year which was over 10 km away. Some sponsors that were looking with one eye closed are now trying to open both eyes which is a good sign for the future. For the very first time, German media houses are now sending their reporters to interview me. We are also having a top stand-up comedian on-board to receive an award and also entertain Nollywood fans. The new Consul Gerneral of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in Frankfurt, , Mr. John C. Ejinaka endorsed the project. Most importantly, we also secured the only hall in Frankfurt where we can party through the night without any police problem. Like you know, Africans love to party.
What has the response been like so far?
The best way to describe it is like what happened recently when a German journalist arranged to interview me. He researched all about me before coming. After one hour, he said to me, “I am sorry, I may not be able to publish this great news but I will assign someone to do it.” In shock, I asked why? He replied, “You are just too real in giving back to this country and in promoting your own culture in this closed society which is not easy for foreigners. I want to join forces with you to open more possibilities for your ambitions. Your vision is too good and it must succeed. I know where to enter and push your project through and I will do everything to make it succeed because it is good for Germany and Nigeria. We need such things in this country.’’ On a separate occasion, I managed to book a meeting with the general manager of Hessisches Filmfoerderung, Mr. F. L. Stephan with my team. Though he had no idea about Nollywood, after over an hour meeting with my team, he made up his mind to visit Nigeria soonest to enable him get a feel about Nollywood. Meeting this high profile man would have been unthinkable few years ago. I think the idea of penetrating Germany with our culture through Nollywood is yielding positive results. How can people get involved? We operate an open door policy. Those who wish to screen their films in Europe have an open door to screen their film without paying for screening or entry fees. We need sponsors too from companies who are also looking for ways of getting across to Africans in the Diaspora.
Who are your partners/sponsors?
Stadt Frankfurt Kulturamt – (Ministry of Art/ Culture Frankfurt City), Amt für multikulturelle Angelegenheiten – AmkA (The Office for Multicultural Affairs), Millennium Hospitality International Hotel, RIA Money Transfer, Ethiopia Airlines, African Tide Union e.V, Nigeria Television Authority Exclusive Live – NTA Channel 10 Lagos, The Guardian newspaper, National Mirror Newspaper, The Nation Newspaper, ECD, Nolly Silver Screen magazine, High Society magazine, The African Courier magazine and a host of others.
What advice do you have for filmmakers in the Diaspora?
Delay is dangerous. Step the industry up and step into Europe’s top cinemas for your film screening. Stop last minute rush in submitting your film because it might be too late to cry then. You also act, what films can we expect to see you in this year? Watch out for my new two films coming out before November, Fortunes Card and Run! But You Can’t Hide both with locations in both European cities and Lagos.
If you could change anything about Nollywood, what would it be and why?
I will wage war against piracy in all departments mercilessly. I will also introduce European standard health insurance for all in Nollywood. I am just sick and tired of the rate we are losing our stars to curable diseases due to lack of viable health insurance in the industry. It is very embarrassing to us in the Diaspora. I will fix the distribution of our movies like it is done in Europe and war the untouchable Mafia in the business. Above all, I will dialogue with the federal government to support Nollywood positively rather than giving money to some to build their mansions in the name of Nollywood.
Who would you like to work with in the industry?
I have worked with virtually all A-List stars in the industry either in productions or in my Europe Tours. Ernest Obi is one outstanding director I admire from afar who I will love to work with in the nearest future. He’s very creative. I am writing a script for him to direct already in the nearest future. Interview by Isabella Akinseye
Interview: Isabella Akinseye
For articles, interviews, pictures and much more, read Issue 15 of Nolly Silver Screen magazine (August 2015)
To download the magazine, click here.
Click here to read the magazine online.