Thursday, September 15, 2016

'76 AND "93 DAYS"

I am not a fan of Nollywood (the Nigerian film industry). I can't say I was ever a fan even in the days when I was either compelled to see Nigerian movies or see them for just about any other reason I may not be able to explain for now. Indeed, a few of the movies have impressed me, especially those from the stable of MAINFRAME PICTURES, because of the way Tunde Kelani stuck to and with standards as consideration, even over profits. Once a while one movie or the other comes along and you get this feeling that eventually we will get things right, and scripts will be better interpreted and make more sense overall.


I had always hoped that one day, Nigeria's story (not only of rituals, wickedness, negative  spiritualism, churchism, dry comedy, diabolism, of females useful only as sex objects in their scant dressing, cultism etc) nay history will begin to be told on Nollywood. It would be for me a reason to screen them on my phone, laptop or TV. When "HALF OF A YELLOW SUN" by Chimamanda Adichie was adapted for the screen I didn't waste much time before seeing it, even though it was at some point banned by the  government controlled film and video censors board because it dwelt on a very emotive issue (the Nigeria-Biafra civil war of 1967-1970), the ghost of which hasn't relented one bit in haunting Nigeria, seeing that major actors on both sides of the divide are still alive, with Nigeria not moved an inch away from the brink of disintegration, the subject on which the movie is predicated. In the end I was rather disappointed with the movie, which I found rather simplistic amongst other reasons I'd rather not go into now, even though it had foreign professional input, even international stars like Chinwetel Ejiofor who incidentally is of Nigerian descent, and Igbo parentage.


Then recently, I heard about '76 and I was intrigued. I waited for the same film and video censorship board to say something, yet I heard nothing. I felt it must have been a bold move for a Nigerian producer to touch on the subject of the coup of February 13, 1976 in which General Murtala Ramat Mohammed, Nigeria's Head of State at the time was assassinated. Nollywood appeared to be telling doubters like me with that strike, that they weren't joking anymore, enough of "Aki and Pawpaw" teaching children bad manners, or producers connecting mishaps in people's lives to the diabolic, and the varying instances of bad research in subjects related to the medical, historical, traditional (for instance as regards how the Igbo "Igwe-In-Council" operates, amongst others) even socioeconomic lifestyles of average Nigerians. I have seen the trailer (which doesn't look any different from most Nigerian movie trailers) but not the movie, though I'd like to give the producers of this one the benefit of the doubt.

POSTER OF THE MOVIE '76


While I was pondering about how to go about seeing '76, "93 DAYS" which I'd followed since it was in the conception stage, immediately after we'd managed to put the EBOLA outbreak behind us, and Danny Glover visited (though not his first having visited severally to attend movie awards, even became an awardee at some point if memory serves me right). When I saw the trailer recently, I was glad that the period between the actual event and the movie depicting it isn't far and wide apart. I feel it's pertinent that for the lessons from the period a few months back, to be imbibed and not easily forgotten, the release of this film at this time is the best that could've been done. This, featuring as usual Hollywood and Nollywood stars and household names looks to me like a must see.

DANNY GLOVER IN "93 DAYS" 

Interestingly, I have found over time that when blockbusters are about to be made, there are names that feature in such movies that you would hardly find in your everyday Nollywood movies, because the caliber of actors and actresses you'd find in such  intercontinental and international collaborations such as "93 DAYS" are such that would never soil their reputation with the crap that Nollywood routinely churns out in the name of home videos. Even the Nigerian cinemas wouldn't touch these movies for a while, till recently when a few stakeholders in the industry started upgrading their acts, enough to begin to tempt perennial critics like me to begin reconsidering seeing Nigerian movies once again as pastime.


These few sparks in the sea of unimpressive performances by Nollywood practitioners, show that they can actually be better than what they currently put out. Even Africa is tired of the poo they'd have to put up with over the years because of lack of alternative from their own film industry and expectations are high for the pacesetting movie industry in Africa to pioneer the new way forward. Apparently, Nollywood must chart this next path, like it did the initial one on its own, as even the best intentioned Nigerian government hasn't done much to help, even when state governments like Cross Rivers incorporated a movie studio in the Tinapa project, it ended up failing because Nollywood had no input hence till date, like many  government projects in Nigeria without input of those meant to benefit, the complex remains, though completed, a white elephant project, hosting only once a while, conferences mainly by the state  government which would either not pay or pay subsidized fees to use the facilities, rendering the complex an unsustainable edifice, and not the legacy project the governor who conceived it meant for it to be.


Sometimes, the blame hardly lies with the government, nor with Nollywood, as with the proposed FILM VILLAGE that was meant to be built in Kano, to help move "Kannywood" (the Hausa-speaking film industry based in northern Nigeria) to Nollywood's level and hopefully beyond, but was thwarted by protests from Muslim clerics, who claimed that the film industry is anti-Islamic and would erode the good character of the youths of the region, even though the movie industry in that region, except for very few instances hardly deviates from what is culturally and religiously acceptable. Not even the fact that the film village was to be named after President Muhammadu Buhari (who apart from been a "son of the soil" is beloved of the people of the north, with a huge cult following, that cuts across all ages), could sway the hard-line stance of these so called policy-shapers and moral police of northern Nigeria, talk more the possibility of such a structure contributing employment and boost revenue generation at least to some extent in the region that's considered by their southern counterparts as consumers of wealth produced in the latters' region, besides engaging more youths in more productive activity than leaving them easy prey to religious opportunists who may engage them in destructive activities associated with terrorists, after becoming radicalized at the hands of Islamic Fundamentalists.


Even if it is true that the present crop of actors and actresses in Kannywood are people of questionable character and prostitutes, shouldn't the idea be to work at reforms, rather than throwing the baby out with the bath water? This is another area where the refusal to delineate between "mosque and state" is stagnating progress in the north of Nigeria. Interestingly, all of the morality of that region has not reduced by any means, the bloodshed, corruption and all the evil as you'd find in any modern society from taking root, even spreading from the region to other parts of Nigeria.


Before I digress (as I am wont to) any further, I want to congratulate those who made these two  aforementioned movies possible. For daring to tell our ancient and modern history via the screen, even when it isn't the easy way to go considering the complexities the Nigerian environment portends for those who dare. I will go ahead and plan to see both movies as soon as possible, especially "93 DAYS" seeing that I was also in the thick of things working in Lagos, with my protective gear daily as we hoped to stem the tide of a hemorrhagic fever that landed our shores from Liberia, and would've easily decimated the population of Lagos, even unto Port Harcourt in Rivers State, had it not been for the heroic efforts of the late Dr. Stella Adadevoh and her team, some of whom also lost their lives, to save us! The recognition the Nigerian government has failed to give these heroines and heroes, they will now get internationally, with the launch of this movie at various film festivals worldwide, screenings at cinemas home and abroad, as Nollywood hits another notch, in spite of its hostile surroundings.


'kovich


PICTURE CREDIT:
- http://www.radiorepublik.com
- http://www.youtube.com

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