Nollywood’s prospect is bright –Lonzo Nzekwe
If the name Lonzo Nzekwe does not strike you in anyway, the movie, Anchor Baby, one of the best ever to have hit the Noolywood scene, would definitely ring a bell. This may be due to its popularity in the media or its engaging and biting climax, in case you have been lured to the cinema by the movie.
But for a man, who says, “I am just a self-taught producer and director,” what many critics in Nollywood hate to hear, Lonzo is credible and also deserves respect as far as any moviemaker in Nigeria should get.
“I just studied film editing and bought a lot of DVDs through which I taught myself.
“I have always wanted to write a movie that people can relate with and I can see that is happening right now because the movie is out here and a lot of people love it.”
Anchor Baby has its setting in the United States but it was actually shot in Canada, the reason for this is not far-fetched.
According to Nzekwe, it has to do entirely with him, as he shed more light on the process of producing the movie.
“I actually live in Canada and so it was the natural location and I must tell you that it was actually harder to get Omoni (Oboli) to come over there to shoot than some others. I didn't know her before, neither had we really met but I just got in contact with a couple of people that had been in the industry and I was referred to most of the crew and the cast also. We used a casting director for the movie so it was really taken care of on that level,” Nzekwe said.
It is always easy to get a chance to savour the success of any project but the challenges conquered are always there somewhere. Lonzo sheds some light on this area also.
“When it comes to challenges, like I said a while ago, it was the challenge of really getting people to believe in me that I could direct a movie because it was just my first time to be involved in any movie. I had not been involved in movie production before now and so when I was telling people that I wanted to cast people for a movie that I am going to direct, nobody believed me but for people like Omoni, it was an issue of some faith,” he said.
One issue that has bothered the mind of some people in the Nigerian movie industry for sometime now is what makes a movie qualified to be called a Nollywood production and with only Omoni Oboli carrying the Nigerian flag in Anchor Baby, the movie was always going to swim in the speculation but the issue of the Nigerian input is one that Nzekwe puts to bed pretty well with his reply.
“The Nigerian input, as far as I am concerned, is not minimal; that is as a result of the fact that I am a Nigerian and I am the writer, the producer and director of the movie. Aside that, the lead actress in the project is a Nigerian and I think that is the majority right there if we are talking about the input. But you should know that is exactly what the story calls for; I would not put a Nigerian if he or she does not fit in a role. I am a moviemaker and I don't just make movies for the sake of it. I make movies and the script would determine who plays what role because if the script requires me to have 100 Nigerians in it, I would have them but if the script also requires me to have none, then I would not have any Nigerian in the project,” he said.
While the end of the movie seems to punch the greener pasture aspiration of many in Nigeria, Nzekwe says he was inspired into writing the story because of the huge space the word, Anchor baby, occupies in the American lexicon and not directed at Nigerians per se.
“One thing that really inspired me into writing this story is the fact that Anchor Baby, as a term, is a really strong issue in the United States and I wanted to write a story to put a face to who these people are and what they go through. So, that was rally the inspiration – to write a story that many people would relate with regardless of where you come from; either Nigeria or Mexico or wherever. Actually, my point of writing the story is not really to dissuade or discourage anybody from traveling but I just wanted to make a movie, but of course, there are lots of messages in the movie. One of the most powerful of these is why is she (Joyce Nnaga) trying to have a baby in another country, what is wrong with her country? People have to ask that question as to how we are treating our people and such but I am not saying people should not try to give their children a better life or anything like that. People have to take care of our own people in our country and our people don't have to go and struggle elsewhere if the country is good enough,” he said.
Nzekwe, an indigene of Abia State who had both his primary and secondary school education in Nigeria before relocating first to the U.K., then to America before finally settling down in Canada, said he started writing the story encapsulated in the movie in January 2010, and finished it sometime in April after which he started shooting straightaway.
“I am very excited with the encouragement the movie is receiving and Nigerians are really warming up to the movie very much as we can see from the screening in Port Harcourt and Lagos. It was screened twice in Port Harcourt due to popular demand and I am really looking forward to taking things to the next level from there. I already have another project I would be working on next and I intend to even make it bigger and better than Anchor Baby,” he said.
Although it was not a case of intense auditioning, Nzekwe insists it was not a case of just coming to stroll into the movie for sensational actress, Omoni Oboli, even as he admits the fact that the beautiful actress is one of the very best Nollywood has to offer.
“I had not met Omoni or really seen her works before but somebody referred her to me and I picked up a couple of the movies she has done and I got to know her a lot better over the phone and I was convinced she could transform the script into the way I wanted well. I never made the script with her in mind because I didn't even know who she was prior to that time,” he said.
There have been cases of people coming to Nigeria and totally lacking ideas as to who is who and the general knowledge about the Nigerian movie industry.
Lonzo Nzekwe, who says the budget of Anchor Baby would seem huge to Nollywood while it is a low budget project by Hollywood standards, is in touch with home despite being far away as he plans to roll out another project soon.
“My knowledge of Nollywood is broad; I watch movies just like everybody else. I watch a lot of movies and I study and analyse other actors and actresses well but Omoni Oboli stoods out of the lot, it was not like I didn't look at the other,” he said.
To him, like every other industry, Hollywood included, there are bad movies or projects and that is not enough reason to castigate or write off the Nigerian movie industry, which he described as “alright and on its way to getting even bigger and better in years to come,” concluded.