An Open Letter To Nigerian Film Makers.


    As a communication student, one of the first things I was taught in school was that (mass) communication performs the functions of; entertainment, education, persuasion, information and transmission of cultural heritage from one generation to another.

    The cultural transmission function of Communication is even more important in a country like Nigeria where cultures are been eroded by the day.

    It is assumed (correctly, in my opinion) that Nigerians do not read. What better way then to transfer knowledge of the history of the country than by movies?

    Unlike reading a book, watching a movie does not require the audience to be literate. All that is needed is that they understand the language spoken in the movie.

    While I’ll admit Nigerian film makers do a pretty good job of portraying or transmitting local culture, two departments they have not exactly lived up to expectation are the areas of biopics and historical films.

    A biopic is a  is a film that dramatizes the life of an actual person or people. Such films show the life of a historical person and the central character’s real name is used. An Example is “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”, a movie about the life and times of Nelson Mandela.

    Historical films on the other hand are based upon historical events and famous people. While some are accurate depictions of historical events, others are fictionalized tales that are based on an actual person and their deeds, such as Braveheart, which is loosely based on the 13th-century knight, William Wallace’s fight for Scotland’s independence.

    These film genres are a means of reminding ourselves and (more importantly) future generations of the life and exploits of our heroes (and villians). They serve as means of inspiring young ones to strive to achieve greatness. I remember watching “Invictus” as a teenager and saying to myself, “If I become a leader in future, I want to be like Nelson Mandela.” That is the power of a biopic.

    In my (humble) opinion, very few (if any) politicians in the history of Nigeria are worthy of being called heroes. What we’ve had over the years have been corrupt and visionless people, who care for nothing but their selfish interests.

    That said, a few people can be said to have made political history, and a look into the life of these people can serve as inspiration for future leaders. An example that easily comes to mind is MKO Abiola. Agreed, the man was no saint, but he died fighting for the mandate the people (allegedly) gave him through the June 12, 1993 elections.  The said election was not only adjudged to be the freest and fairest election ever conducted in Nigeria, it also serves as a landmark in the political history of our dear country. Also, the life of General Sanni Abach would make a great movie.

    I admit there is probably a movie about it, but if I’ve not heard of one till now, then either none has been made, or anyone that has, was not good enough for people to talk about.

    In the entertainment industry, the story of quite a number of people like Fela’s incredible life, Dagrin’s short lived success, and Olamide’s take over would serve as good sources of biopics. Freedom Fighters like the late Dele Giwa and Kudirat Abiola also have stories that would inspire people and make great biopics.

    A movie I would love to see (even more than the “June 12” or Abacha one) is one about the Nigerian civil war.

    Independence aside, the Nigerian civil war is the greatest landmark in our political history. Millions of lives were lost and properties worth billions were destroyed during the 30 months the war lasted.

    However,  it is ironic that the only movie about the civil war I’ve seen (or heard about) is “Into the Sun”- a Hollywood movie (even though it was fiction). Hollywood cannot tell the story the way a local filmmaker would.

    This particular subject should be a gold mine of adaptations for Nigerian filmmakers. This is one of the reasons why the adaptation of Chimamanda Adiche’s “Half of a yellow sun” has generated so much buzz.

    In truth, it’s not only Nigeria where this happens. A good number of the Mandela biopics and other major films about African history (for example, “Blood Diamonds”, “Hotel Rwanda”, etc) are made by Hollywood. However, Nigeria being the biggest movie industry in Africa worth 400 million dollar and also the third largest movie producing industry in the world, should lead the way.

    All due respect to the beautiful people of Rwanda and Sierra Leone, but their movie industries are not exactly known for their ability to make good movies. South Africa on the other hand has risen up to the challenge, and made some good movies about the life and journey of the father of their nation- Nelson Mandela.

    I know a few movies in these genres, like Kunle Afolayan’s “October 1st” , Izu Ojukwu’s Lions of 76 and Lancelot Imasuen’s Ovonramwen are in the works. However, a lot more movies along this line would not be a terrible idea.

    While it may be true that the average Nollywood fan is an “housewive who is not ready for change”, and it takes a lot of time and money to make a good biopic, there are people who truly seek change and would appreciate the time and effort put into making a good biopic/historical movie.