15 January 2010

Nigeria: Van Vicker - Exploits of a Ghanaian in Nollywood

Photo: Leadership
Nigerian Jim Iyke

The Nigerian movie industry, popularly known as Nollywood, is currently under siege, and the fierce competition is coming from no other place than neighbouring Ghana, described as the second largest market for Nollywood's products.

Names like Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Richard Mofe-Damijo, Emeka Ike, Chidi Mokeme, Jide Kosoko and others used to bring bright smiles to the faces of Nollywood lovers but, these days, it is normal to see faces like Van Vicker, Yvonne Nelson, Jackie Appiah, Nadia Buari and Nana Ama McBrown in Nigerian flicks. These names have not only begun to appear, they are fast gaining ground steadily even as the list keeps rising by the day.

The introduction of Ghanaian actors and actresses is fueled by the fact that Nigerians are always yearning for new things in their movies. To Nigerian movie lovers, the introduction of Ghanaian actors is therefore good for the industry.

Nollywood, over the years has evolved into an open market that gives room for anybody from anywhere. This is driven by the fact that the consumers determine how long the actors remain in the industry. Movie producers are making so much money from these guys. Ghanaian actors today are hot cake as they are said to sell many copies of the movies.

Ghanaian actor, Van Vicker is one that has come to stamp his foot on the Nigerian movie scene. His appearance in flicks in both Nigeria and Ghana scene has helped the light-skinned actor worm his way into the hearts of movie lovers. This is evident in the fact that he made away with the Actor of The Year award at the annual Mode Men of the Year 2009 Awards held at the Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos. Presently, one of Nollywood's most sought-after actors, the handsome Ghanaian won the award beating big names in the industry like Ramsey Nouah, Mike Ezuronye, Nonso Diobi and Desmond Elliot all nominated in the same category to the game.

Before that, the actor had clinched the 2009 Afro-Hollywood Best Actor (African film category) Award held in London on November 11, 2009.

He is the latest in a long line of Nigerian movie heartthrobs, the only difference is that he's Ghanaian. But you wouldn't know it from film posters fighting for space with the likes of Ramsey Nouah, Yemi Blaq, Desmond Elliot and other top-rated Nigerian actors.

Though Ghanaian by nationality, the star says he is beginning to feel like he is Nigerian.

"Nowadays, I spend 75 per cent of my days in Nigeria, shooting films or attending one event or other," he said.

One of Nollywood's most sought-after actors, he broke into the industry in 2006, even though his screen career began on television. Before 2006 he was host on Ghana's Metro TV. He used to host a music show called the HV Show and he did a great job with that.

His acting career kicked off in 2003, when Vicker appeared in a Ghanaian television series, Suncity.

"One series led to another and eventually the big screen arrived sooner than I thought," he stated.

With physical attributes on check and a cute face to go with it, the artiste is probably on many female fans' list as a 'must-have'. He has been quite prolific, starring in many Nollywood movies, and as we watch his talent rise the actor looks totally cool and fully in control on screen. This is backed up with his good looks.

As the first such crossover success, breaking into the Nigerian market was not difficult for him even in the face of stiff competition currently rocking the industry. This is evident in the number of hit movies he featured in last year, flicks like Reloaded and Nnenda among a long list of others that successfully found their way to cinemas.

One quality the star has going for him and which has helped him worm his way into the hearts of his fans is his humility. His manager, Mildred Okwo, said of Vicker: "Van is an extremely focused and disciplined person. He is charming and good natured and rarely loses his temper."

Vicker remains humble, giving God credit for his success.

"I have a passion for what I do and I enjoy doing it. I am focused on bringing out the best in me."

Nigerian fans don't seem bothered by Vicker's nationality though, following the trend, one can confidently say the actor is gearing up to rule the Nigerian screen. That school of thought draws its arguments from the fact that Nigerians actors and actresses have always ruled the African and indeed the Ghanaian movie industry. The argument is also drawn from the fact that Hollywood and other big movie industries would not have achieved their present status if their acts had been limited to their nationals.

The President of Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), Segun Arinze, further strengthened the belief when he said that there is no such chance of Ghollywood actors taking over Nollywood.

"Nollywood has one of the largest pool of actors in the entire continent and so there is no threat of foreigners taking over the industry."

He further likened the situation to Nigerian citizens playing football in Europe.

"That is not to say they rule the European leagues even though they are quite many. The only thing that bothers me is that the actors have to obtain work permit before they can act in Nigeria," he said.

To handle the situation, he said, the AGN is in talks with their Ghanaian counterparts to work out exchange modalities.

For Vicker, however, it is a win-win situation as he said: "I am still active in Ghollywood. My Ghanaian fans are very proud of me, and that is where it all started for me, so I will always be active in Ghana. My management is working out a plan to balance my career in Ghollywood and Nollywood."

The actor was caught in a web of controversy late last year when Weekly Flex, a Ghanaian newspaper published an article involving him and a Liberian, his supposed half-brother. The story revealed that the Liberian, who was known as Frank Vicker, visited Ghana in search of his supposed half-brother. Frank claimed his mother had told him about a brother whose whereabouts is still unknown thus his quest is to search out his brother.

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