Ishan, Edo State-born Cultural Ambassador, Isaac Izoya, is the founder of Nollywood Film Festival Germany and Nollywood Europe Golden Awards. Based in Frankfurt, Germany, he is using the two award platforms to launder the image of Nigeria in Europe. In this chat, he speaks about the passion he has for the art, his marriage and the need for the Nigerian government to use art to boost the image of the country before the international community.
By Tofarati Ige
BACKGROUND: I studied Journalism at the London School of Journalism, but I’ve been in Nollywood since 2002. I delved into film making to put the record straight. Before now, the Western world never believed that anything good could come out of Africa and Nigeria in particular.
They never believed we have airports, and other developmental projects in Nigeria. I believe pictures don’t lie, and with Nollywood, we have been able to correct some of the erroneous impressions that the developed nations have about African countries. I also use my movies to promote integration.
For example, if a Nigerian marries an European woman, and divorces her after some years. People would generally conclude that the Nigerian used the European woman to get his residence permit.
Quality of movie
However, if an European woman marries a fellow European and divorces after six weeks, people wouldn’t complain.
In order to boost Nigeria’s image, I also came up with an idea to expose Nollywood stars to the Western world to improve the quality of movie productions. By touring Europe with Nollywood stars, they have been able to learn many things.
I’ve been doing that since 2003, and I can tell you I’ve sponsored over 50 stars including Mama G, Jim Iyke, Desmond Elliot, Ramsey Nouah, Aki and Pawpaw, Nkiru Silvanus, Basketmouth, Timaya, Olu Maintain, among others. I’ve also stepped it up by organizing the Nollywood Film Festival Germany and Nollywood Europe Golden Awards. I thank God for what I have been able to achieve so far.
Challenges in taking Nollywood stars abroad: Financial hurdles is the number one challenge, and it’s so sad. I told you earlier that I began doing this just to better Nigeria’s image in the outside world, but sadly, the Nigerian government doesn’t seem to realise this.
There has been no help from them at all. Meanwhile, other countries spend heavily to boost their reputation through the Arts. The last event we organized was supported by Ethiopian Airways, German Ministry of Art and Culture, and German Ministry of Integration, among others…yet, nothing from Nigeria, whose image we’re promoting.
However, those in the Nigerian Mission in Germany now, especially the Head of Chancery, are really doing well for us. They played major roles in bringing Ambassadors from different parts of the world to our last event.
Discouragement: There are times I’ve been discouraged; especially when calculating losses after shows. Our motto is ‘The show must go on,’ and that boosts my morale. I recently received two awards from Nollywood; by the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) and Nollywood Health Convention.
This made me happy because it means people are keeping records of what we’re doing. Furthermore, a serving US Senator, attended our last event; these are the things that inspire me when I get discouraged.
Golden moments: I remember once, when we were on an European tour with Aki and Pawpaw; a Ghanaian who was driving by, stopped and ran after us.
He lifted up the two actors in the air, and can you believe that the man, who is over 60, started shedding tears that Aki and Pawpaw saved his marriage.
He recalled that he was on the verge of divorce and wasn’t on speaking terms with his wife, before his son slot in a film featuring the two comic actors, and the whole house was engulfed in laughter. The man said he didn’t know when he began to talk to his wife again. At the end of the day, the storyline of the movie was even similar to their situation. Besides, the appreciation I get from people also motivates me.
Experience with Nollywood Stars: Just like everything in life, we have the good and bad sides. But I can say it’s been worth it.
Life as an actor
I am a big-time actor. I remember some newspapers in Holland described me as ‘Jack of all trades…master of all.’ I wrote the script for the award winning-movie, ‘Love in Berlin.’ I also produced it, and played the lead role in it. As a matter of fact, I’ve played the lead and sub-lead roles in about 12 movies including ‘Sinners in the House.’
Marriage: I’ve been married both to a Nigerian and European, but unfortunately, the marriages did not work out.
Nollywood stars and crashed marriages: This happens to people, irrespective of what they do. Besides, we have some living legends in Nollywood who have been married for many years, and they’re still in marriage. It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with being a star. Before marriage, it is advisable that you should observe courtship in order to find out the type of person you want to spend the rest of your life with.