It is no news that the Nigerian movie industry, tagged Nollywood, grew from nothing to the third best movie industry in the world. However, Award winning Ghanaian American film maker, Leila Djansi, chose to dispute that fact when she insulted, demeaned and disregarded the efforts put in by “Hitlers” in the Nigerian film industry – those from the past, present and future. During an interview in a documentary, the 35-year old spinster, made a statement saying that the Nollywood industry has negativity tagged to it, and so the new generation film makers should not be called “Nollywood” as it would mar their reputation. Being named Nollywood, she said, is like calling your son “Hitler.”
“I don’t think those people, this crop of filmmakers should be put under the umbrella of Nollywood. They should be put independent because the name carries a lot. If you start tagging them Nollywood, every negative connotation that comes with Nollywood… is like calling your son ‘Hitler’.”
That statement had caused an uproar, making one of Nollywood’s best actress and film maker, Stella Damasus, to react to Leila. Although Leila’s interview is not recent, the comment made in it was thrown into limelight last week on social media, when Stella Damasus posted a snippet from the TV interview in her YouTube video. Leila meant to suggest that it would be unfair to put the new names of Nigerian/Ghanaian film makers who are making better films from what old Nollywood is known for, under the same umbrella as ‘Nollywood’. Illustrating that such producers identifying themselves as “Nollywood” is almost equal to a parent calling his/her son.
Meanwhile, Leila failed to recognize that not everyone had the opportunity to study Film Making in the UK like she did, and that the Nigerian film industry is a work in progress. At 19, Leila’s script, Babina, was made into a movie by Producer Akwetey Kanyi, after which she had the privileged of studying abroad. All these were pointed out by Stella who reminded her that she was not in the best position to talk down on an industry which without it, she would not have been known or heard.
According to Stella, who really spoke passionately in her video, Leila’s comment did not only hurt her, but is eating her deep into her bone marrow. She also said Leila did not only insult her (Stella) but every Nollywood actor, producer and director who had labored immensely, using their personal resources to create amazing films. Stella went ahead to record and post the video on YouTube to register her utmost displeasure.
“That is the most derogatory thing anybody can ever say about the Nigerian movie industry. You have no right to demean the hard labour of people…the only reason why we know Leila Djansi is because of a movie, Ties That Bind and the reason why Africans embraced the film is because you used one of our best, Omotola J. Ekeinde. Yes, she is Nollywood so unless you are calling her a “Hitler,” Stella said.
Stella Damasus’ video has received commendation from fellow Nollywood actress, Omotola. J. Ekeinde who starred in Leila Djansi’s award-winning film, ‘Ties That Bind’ alongside Kimberly Elise and Ama K. Abebrese. Omotola wrote on twitter that Leila must apologise for those remarks.
Here is Stella’s video showing her displeasure at Leila: