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Oguta Lake in Imo State is one of the famed maritime treasures of the Eastern Region. During the Nigerian Civil War it served as a naval base for the Biafran forces. The Lake is a tourism wonder with several myths attached to it. The city of Oguta is famed as the birthplace of erudite jurist and father of entertainer/social critic Charles Charly Boy Oputa, Justice Chukwudifu Oputa and the maverick politician Senator Francis Arthur Nzeribe.
But when the history of entertainment and cultural tourism in the South East is written, the Lake City doesn’t come up with mention. Someone is trying to use his platform Lake City Festival to revive the creative industry in the Lake City. . 

When did you journey into Nollywood begin? 

I like to trace my start off point to 2008 when I got into film school to I  study directing. By the end of the program we were jumping from one set to  the other looking for an opportunity to practice. Experimenting with music
videos, documentaries and events. Basically, its hard for a new kid on the block to find a financier that will trust you hard earned money to make a film. Plus when you have high standards you don’t want to settle for less. So its been a long time coming.

How long have you been in the industry? Have you acted in movies or what role do you play? 

Professionally, I would say about a decade now. I have had to play both  front and behind camera roles. Its like this, the motion picture industry is built in such a way that you grow from one role to the other. PAs grow  to Producers, Camera men grow into directors, writers into producers e.t.c.  Also if you have alot of bills to pay then often you learn more skills.  Also some people are just so gifted they are able to do many things. So I  have been an actor, presenter, cinematographer, producer, director and  writer. So I just call myself an entertainment consultant. Currently, I am
more known as a writer. I am on The Johnsons writing team. I wrote all the  episodes of Samuel Ajibola’s &Dele Issues& comedy skits and I have written a number comedy flicks. I have also done alot of administration. I worked
with African movie academy awards and AME media as logistics officer and Operations executive respectively. I am the national PRO of Screenwriters Guild of Nigeria (SWGN) and now I run a media company and a film festival.
Its been quite a journey.

How can the Igbo film industry compete with her peers and promote Igbo culture, tradition and create jobs? 

First we have to do alot of re-orientation to break the trade mentality.  The way our marketers and producers view what they produce has to change. It is imperative that they view Igbo films as not just spare parts but as
artistic works that transport and preserve igbo culture. The spare part mentality approach to film gives rise to all the other symptomatic issues like poor preparation, little or no research, lack of depth in the stories, poor investment, lack of professional equipment and talents. If we can somehow re-educate the producers and financiers of Igbo films to see the big picture we would have solved 65% of the problem and every aspect of that industry will experience a huge boast. There will be a ripple effect that will cause the industry to grow and whenever there is growth jobs are
created, its just that simple.

Another thing is the individual nature of our people and it is pretty sad. We don’t know how to collaborate. We don’t know how to think community.  Everybody thinks of only himself, nobody thinks of how his actions affects
the whole lot. We are never able to come togther and collectively grow our industry given the fact that this whole new wave of Nollywood grew out of Igbo language films. With all the big names we have, we can’t form one big
alliance that can negotiate with government to create the basic structures that enhance the growth of the industry. Most people are only interested in collecting crumbs from politicians to line their pockets forgetting that if
the government put the right structures in place they won’t need the crumbs. It is my hope that we will get to that level where we can collectively look beyond ourselves and follow Professor John Nash’s postulation that collective good can only be achieved when each individual does what is first best for the group and then themselves.

4. Oguta Lake is one the tourism treasures of the South East. How will Lake City Festival aid in promoting this wonder to the world?

The Wallace Monument witnessed over 200% increase in the number of visitors after the release of the movie &Braveheart& from 80,000 to about 180,000 per year. The city of Cannes in France enjoys over 40million dollars worth of media coverage for free whenever the Cannes Film festival is on. The  city generates millions of Euros from visitors who come in, see the nices places, sleep in there hotels, eat their food, use the transport services
e.t.c and pay money. Basically, film has been proven to be the best way to  sell tourism. Film and tourism is a marriage made in heaven. The mere fact  that Lakecity Film Festival is resident in Oguta has made the entire town
more visible to the whole world. LACIFF has received over 5000 entries from  over 150 countries. What this means is that film makes from over 150  countries have be reading about Oguta and its beautiful lake. Tourism is  very well built into our program and many film makers that make it to Oguta  for the festival always talk about on social media. Journalist talk about  on TV and film lovers share there experiences. Everyone wants to come back
whether to make a movie or just to come enjoy the town. What is the value  of a tourism site if it is not been seen? So LACIFF brings those who carry  the spotlight to the tourism site and wahla! Its working!

What was the idea behind Lake City Festival and what are its aims and 
objectives? 

The idea behind Lakecity Film Festival is to preserve and promote  indigenous film that celebrate culture, history, environment and tourism.  The idea is to spark a cultural revolution that will see to the exploration  of indigenous stories. We have a rich cultural heritage but no one is telling it. We must start. We must preserve our history and school the next generation before we loose everything. We also want to showcase the beautiful town of Oguta using entertainment which is a catalyst sector to grow the local economy. Its a whole lot the town stands benefit and they
are gradually begining to see it.

How will this project empower the youths? 

As for the youths, its their lucky break. LACIFF academy organizes a series  of trainings in various aspects of film making and it is entirely free. Those with interest in film making get trainigs they would have otherwise paid for through their nose for free. Also they get to network with the industry’s best right here on home ground. In the last decade only about four films we partly shot in Oguta. Since the inception of LACIFF in 2016, five movies have been shot in Oguta. Most remarkable is Agwa eti ti Obiuto which will be screening during this year’s festival. The film made use of several oguta home grown talents and they are on their way to become international super stars.

There are youths that are in the crafts business. Their sales peak during the film festival as festival attendee will take home sourvenirs. There are those in the hospitality business who will profit too. Also those in transport and even tour guides that conduct visitors through town. LACIFF is a catalyst which is opening employment opportunities not just for the youth but for everyone. It’s just unfortunate that our government don’t understand this kind of opportunities and don’t come out to support it but we will continue the good work and do our bit to support the government in whichever way we can. This is where we are appreciative to our sponsors MTN, Crystal lake resort, Nollyflames studios and all the good people of Oguta that have supported us in one way or the other.

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WRITTEN BY:

Nnamdi Odumody is the Director of Research and Strategic Partnerships at Wiretooth Technologies, an organization which believes in using technology to ensure digital transformation across different verticals. He is a Strategist and passionate about the Socio Economic Transformation of Igboland.

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