By Anote Ajeluorou
LAST Friday marked a significant milestone in the film career of one of Nolywood’s most creative and innovative directors, Mr. Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen, also popularly called D’Guvnor. He clocked 20 years as a film director and his family, friends and associates did not allow the day to pass without a gig in his honour. It was tagged ‘An Evening of Fun and Art Appreciation’ and held at Ayo Bankole Centre, at the heart of Nigeria’s filmmaking hub, Surulere, Lagos.
Even the heavens acknowledged the day. Just before the show started, the heavens darkened and heavy rains poured down. But it only served as stimulant to heighten the enthusiasm of admirers of Imasuen and associates. Soon enough, the space at the centre filled up with some of Nollywood’s top directors and producers. Zik Zulu Okafor, Mahmoud Ali-Balogun, Lilian Amah-Aluko, Emem Isong, Mike Nliam, Mena Amata, Fidelis Duker; the list was endless. However, only Hon. Desmond Olushola Elliot was the big actor in the house, as it appeared an all producers, directors’ affair. Comic stars were also among those who honoured Imasuen with their craft.
Recall that Imasuen’s epic film Invasion 1897 that details the fall of Africa’s last empire of Benin Kingdom is still trending. The movie seems to sum up the totality of Imasuen’s filmic art.
Mr. Chukwuma Agwu was first to pour encomiums on Imasuen who hails from Edo State. His story is moving; already an executive business owner, he’d come to Imasuen to learn filmmaking, and found the man humbling in his approach to filmmaking.
According to Agwu, “Lancelot is a star, a star-maker,; he is a luminary”.
For Mr. Famous Otakponmwen, “Imaseun is bigger than he is, than he makes himself to be”.
Founder of Abuja International Film Festival (AIFF) Mr. Fidelis Duker simply said Lancelot has done very well in his chosen career as a filmmaker and wished him the best in the years to come.
Also, for the most prominent film producer in the country who has worked closely with Imasuen, Ms Emem Isong, Lanncelot could only be described a phenomenal filmmaker. She said, “He is a great friend who brought out the best in my films. We have done 12 blockbusters together”.
President of Association of Movie Producer, Mr. Zik Zulu Okafor, said Imasuen is the symbol of resilience that typifies Nollywood. As he put it, “We have walked through the longest road to get here. Invasion 1897 is the signature tune of a great career. Our story (of Nolywood) is one of hopelessness to songs of glory. We have passed through pain. Lancelot is a symbol of where we are going. I celebrate you”.
For Hon. Desmond Olushola Elliot, Imasuen is the only ‘governor’ worth celebrating, saying, “I have always loved this man’s work. I always wanted to meet him. When he introduced himself to me in Benin City, it was as if I had met a god. Games Men Play was the first film I did with him. You are such a great man! You have influenced me. He’s a no nonsense person. He is a disciplined person. He will never play with his work. Come and learn under him and I’m sure you will be glad you did”.
In his response, Imasuen expressed his appreciation to everyone who came, and said he was marking his 20 years as a filmmaker “to serve as inspiration to young people. It’s sad that what we have are selfie stars these days. Young people come to you these days and ask you to make them stars; just like that. They don’t want to work”.
He paid tribute to film editor Mr. Mellanby Iluogbem and Otakponmwen with whom he squatted when he arrived Lagos. Others were Emen Isong , Emmanuel Isiaku, Fidelis Duker who gave him Not My Will to direct.
“I appreciate my family, my beautiful ladies. I thank all Benin people, home and abroad. I thank Igbo people. Igbo people made me. They were led by the indefatigable Emmanuel Isikaku who first believed in me to direct an Igbo language film even when I didn’t understand what was being said. I always believed that art is spiritual; I couldn’t speak Igbo, yet I directed an Igbo language film Year 2000 with N700,000. Mr. Andy Amenechi commended me for directing Yesterday and I felt lifted.
“I advised myself to go into directing. I didn’t think I could compete with the likes of Charles Okafor and Ranson Noah in acting. Lets begin to appreciate what we do in Nollywood”.