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Conversation with beloved Germany-based Nollywood actress, Grace Evaly

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Evaly

She was all over the place in Berlin, Germany, dutifully promoting her next project- the filmic commemoration of the Black History Month in Hamburg, where she is currently based.

Visitors at the African Hub, a meeting and melting point for African filmmakers attending the yearly Berlin International Film Festival (BIFF), which held for 10 days last month in Berlin, won’t miss the delectable actress and later day show promoter, Grace Evaly. In fact, a Ugandan visitor to the hub christened her ‘Mama Nollywood’ because of the passion with which she discussed Nollywood and its many exploits.

Amiable and friendly, the tall and fair-complexioned actress Taurus is a chip of the old block. Before she relocated to the Germany, the mother and wife, who has spent over two decades in showbiz, was one of the most sought after actresses in Nollywood.

With over 30 movie credits and a number of modeling jobs to show for what has become for her, a lifetime passion, Grace, born to an Italian father, who is into construction, and a Nigerian mother, who is into some trading, now combines acting with show promotion.

She speaks about what she is up to presently.

Life Of Showbiz
It has all been showbiz for me since I relocated. In fact, after three years of relocating to Germany, I started a family career and became a mum in 2009. So, I had to put my first love career in acting on hold.

I eventually got back to filming in 2016 here in Germany with a movie called Heavy In The Game, starring Segun Arinze and Daniel K. Daniel.

The movie was shot in Germany, Nigeria and Switzerland and directed by Evans Osigwe. So, it has been showbiz for me.

My Last Major Nollywood Project
The last movie projects=I worked on in Nigeria should be between 2004 and 2005, co-starring with Desmond Elliot. It was titled Family Contract, directed by Fidelis Duker, also featuring Stephanie Okereke-Linus.

Then in 2006, I took part in another film, starring J.T. Tom West of blessed memory, directed by Mykel Parish. It was after that that I relocated.

First Nollywood Movie
My first movie in Nollywood was a movie I acted in 1996 alongside Bob Manuel Udokwu, who was already a notable actor from his role on Checkmate.

I recall that I ran into him at a supermarket after receiving the script and out of excitement, walked up to him and told him that I would be featuring in the same movie with him. He was very happy to hear that I was cast in the movie.

As much as the movie was a star -studded one, we were all so excited about working with one another and it was so much fun that we built a bond and most of us are still friends till date.

Journey To The Field Of Promotion
With my background as an actress and knowing that as an actress, the movie we feature in would get nowhere without promotion, I felt the need for our movies to be promoted in Germany, just as it was making headway in the United Kingdom (UK) and some other parts of the world.

I also found out that there really wasn’t any platform in Germany for the promotion of our movies. There were no hypes of sort, despite the fact that our movies were making headlines in other parts of the world.

I also felt the need to partake in the handwork of independent filmmakers by building a platform for our movies to get audience in Germany.

That was why I birthed Nollywood Germany, which is about promoting and projecting African movies in German cinemas by organising film screening events in the cinemas and cultural locations.

We also want to build a marketing and distribution chain through the cinema culture in Germany. People have asked me why Nollywood. Well, firstly, I am a product of Nollywood and secondly, it is the biggest film producing industry in Africa. So, I have a duty to promote it.

Nollywood Screening Nights And Black History Month
So far, we have been organising what we call ‘Nollywood KinoAbend,’ which means screening nights. We started out in 2016 and it was encouraging to see the excitement of how people looked forward to a Nigerian/African movie in the German cinema.

We have also been presenting the initiative to German communities and government agencies and so far, it has been receiving positive feedbacks. Last year, we hosted the maiden edition of ‘Nollywood Travel Film Festival’ in Hamburg. It was a five-day event where we screened four short films and six feature films.

Also, since last year, we have been taking part in the European Film Market-Berlinale, where we have had the opportunity to meet and network with other film agencies, as well as filmmakers from other parts of the world, especially Africa.

I must say that the Embassy of Nigeria in Berlin has been very supportive of our movement by sponsoring our activities at the Berlinale Film Festival.

We have also had the opportunity to introduce our initiative to the Nigerian Film Corporation and the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB).

This year, we started the commemoration of the Black History month. We showed Izu Ojokwu’s 76 and it was a success. It was a great opportunity for us because we had the chance to connect with other organisations and we were able to communicate our initiative to the existing Afro-Germans and Afro-enthusiasts audience.

Reception Of Nollywood Films
So far, Nigerian movies are gaining good reviews, because before now, they were classified and perceived as low quality, especially here in Germany, where there was little or no media platform to give people a better idea of the quality of movies from Nigeria. People only had the opportunity to watch Nigerian movies when they visit places like the UK or through YouTube channels.

I seriously think and believe that there is a market for our movies in Germany, because people love the Nigerian entertainment scene. We have so many blacks of African descent living in Germany and apart from that, the cinema culture is very rich and Germany promotes cultural exchange a lot and movies are part of this medium.

Future Plans For Nollywood Germany And Career Ambition
The future plans for Nollywood Germany is to establish a marketing platform for African movies by screening films regularly in German cinemas and across Europe.

My personal career plan is to return to acting big time and to make films. I am in love with the camera.

I also want to be an entrepreneur in film distribution and to build a positive image for Nigeria through our movies. I definitely miss working in core Nollywood. I miss my colleagues and it is a wonderful feeling to see how a lot of them have become success stories, the groundbreaking headlines they have made and the transition the industry has witnessed.


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