Lilian interviews Grace Evaly and Gerhard Heiland


Hearing the name Nollywood Germany one might mistake it for an entity that will do nothing else but screen Nollywood movies in Germany, but far from it. Grace Evaly (the Nollywood Chic as she´s now fondly called in our studio J) has a lot more in her cylinder hat; She´s going the whole 9 yards. There is more to her vision than just screening and premiering Nollywood movies in German Cinemas, she´s out to setup a full-blown movie industry on it´s own and right now she´s recruiting young talented Afro Germans who have the passion and zeal for acting, dancing and modeling and those who are makeup artists too. She wants to build a team of professionals who can also shoot Nollywood movies in Germany and who knows? Soon it might be just a normal thing to view a Nollywood movie on a German channel.

When asked if she will nudge her children into acting, here is what she has to say.
GRACE: Well, not necessarily but if they show the interest, of course I will encourage them. In fact I´m already seeing the trait in them especially my first daughter who is just 6 and that´s why she´s registered with a modeling agency.

ME: Oh she models.
GRACE: Yes and she dances too.

Liian: Wow great. So why did you choose STIGMA as your first movie to be screened here, was it because it addresses HIV and issues surrounding it or was it just the only one you thought might do well over here?
GRACE: The Producer Dagogo Dinminas happen to live with his family partly in Germany and the movie was co-produced with a German Producer Sonja Nina Gellweiler and of course the theme HIV is one that our society needs to address more.

Lialian: So are you just going to be screening only movies with such sensitive topics or you are open to everything that comes your way? GRACE: No I am not open to everything. I want to concentrate on movies with meaningful impact on our society, especially ones that our kids in the Diaspora can identify with.

Lilian: So Gerhard, I know you´ve been here before and we touched on the topic last time, but tell us more about the ALAFIA Festival and why you and your wife started it in the first place.

GERHARD: Well, ALAFIA Festival was a spontaneous idea. Angelina and I were driving back home one of these days from one of the festivals you have annually in Hamburg and we thought about why the African Festivals aren´t located in the center of town just like the Germans have theirs and then we thought “Why not, after all we are here to stay? Let´s give it a try.” So we got to work immediately. The very first one was so small and not so organized but, we continued with the project. The first few years were challenging but now everything is in it´s place.

Lilian: Hmmm… Kudos! You guys are doing a great job. The ALAFIA Festival is now a household name in Hamburg, just like a state owned thing. Sorry Gerhard, you said we are here to stay like an African would say it, I guess being married to an African for so many years does that to you and seems almost every African in Hamburg know you… (We all erupted in laughter)
GERJARD: I´m German but so many years working with Africans in the African community does that to you eventually.

Lilian: I saw the list of artists they are quite many for just two days, Saturday and Sunday right?
GERHARD: It´s three days, Friday, Saturday and Sunday and yes we have about 14 artists performing amongst them are Wiyaala, Zainab, Abou Day, Rachelle Jeanty, Angelina Akpovo and the Yakawumbu and so on… It´s going to be a mixture of jazz, soul, pop, Afro beat, reggae and so on.

Lilian: You are a Manager and a Promoter, what kind of artists do you work with and what kind of music do you promote?
GERHARD: I´m very flexible but mostly work with African artists with different genres but the music has to be something I personally can listen to and enjoy before I take it up.

Lilian: Have you guys worked together before or this is your first time?
GRACE: Yes this is our first time of working together, though I´ve always been to the Festival annually for quite some time now. The idea to screen the movie at the festival actually came at a team meeting while we were deciding on when and where to do it. After picking a date a team member suggested maybe we can collaborate with the ALAFIA people because it´s the same period and so I got in touch with Angelina at an Award where she was a recipient and here we are.

GERHARD: We are always open for to new ideas. We specialize in music but if we see someone like Grace who specializes in movies? Why not? The festival is a nonprofit venture for us. We are just doing it to get people together and if there is someone with ideas that can work together with ours, they are welcome to join in.

Lilian: Grace are you also planning an African movie festival or something in that nature?
GRACE: Yeah I´m actually working on it but that is going to be the future.

Lilian: Some years ago you brought Wandeco to Hamburg and it was a success but since then you´ve not brought anyone again, moreover Nigerian artists don´t come this way anymore, why is that so?
GRACE: It´s because of sponsorship. It´s very difficult for us to find sponsors for our events down here, so if you know you are a potential sponsor and you´re listening to me right now, please help out. We need you, we need people like you to help showcase our events.

Lilian: WE have come to the end of this segment. Do you have anything to people out there?
GERHARD: I will like to say a very big thank you to our wonderful team. You guys are great, thank you so much. And also to everyone who help organize and make this possible every year and of course thank you TopAfric for having me here.
GRACE: A shoutout to my fans on facebook, instagram and twitter and to everyone listening and to a special one Elizabeth Bosse, my family, my friends and my wonderful team. I thank you all and most especially my husband for being there and very supportive. Thank you baby…

By Lilian Kunu