“I Am A Proud Feminist” – Genevieve Nnaji

Popular actress, Genevieve Nnaji has been a prominent fixture in the Nigerian film industry for over 20 years, primarily as an actor. Her contributions to filmmaking has received several awards and nominations over the course of her career. In recent years, she has moved into film production, acting as writer, financier, and producer through her production company, The Entertainment Network (T.E.N). “Lionheart” is her directorial debut. In this interview she discusses her new movie “Lionheart” which will begin screening at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival on September 8.

Describe the film for us in your own words.
GN: “Lionheart” is an inspiring drama about family values, succession, and most importantly, female empowerment. It highlights the various challenges faced by women, particularly in male-dominated industries.

What drew you to this story?
GN: The message and the environment which forces a heroine to shoulder the load. Questions of succession, gender roles, and traditional versus modern ideals surround the story. Plus, that it was rooted in African culture which made it even more fascinating. So, drawing inspiration from a close friend and family run businesses in Nigeria, “Lionheart” was created

What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?
GN: I want people to reflect on the endless possibilities of growth and success that come with men and women, the old and the young, working together: a world where insecurities are tackled and equality is encouraged. We need to be more open and accepting of competition instead of feeling threatened by it.

What was the biggest challenge in making the film?
GN: It was very difficult playing both roles of director and lead actor. Fortunately, I was surrounded by a very efficient and effective crew. With their help, plus adrenaline and sheer determination, we were able to make a movie.
How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.
GN: The Entertainment Network (T.E.N.) is a production company I own with my business partner Chinny Onwugbenu and a few silent partners. We also previously self-funded our first feature, Ishaya Bako’s “Road To Yesterday.” The goal is to collaborate and partner with other production companies or like-minded partners committed to telling African stories in the manner in which they should be told. I hope we find the right fit in the coming future.
What’s the best and worst advice you’ve received?
GN: Best advice: “Life is what happens when you are busy making plans.”
Worst advice: “Stay in your lane.”

What advice do you have for other female directors?
GN: I don’t consider myself qualified enough yet to give advice, to be honest, and so I say this to my peers as I say to myself daily: eliminate fear and self-doubt.

Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.

GN: Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman.” It was powerful and strong, and at the same time, feminine and sexy.
I’m a proud feminist who embraces her femininity. I feel sometimes women are made to feel self-conscious and ashamed of their womanhood. Perhaps like “Wonder Woman,” we may wake up one day to discover that it is our superpower, and then we would be unstoppable.

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