Nigeria Films - Beyond the Euphoria Concord Times (Freetown) NEWS December 13, 2003 Posted to the web December 15, 2003 By Oumar Farouk Sesay Freetown The euphoria for Nigerian films which started in the early 90s in the fringes of the entertainment industry has become a national obsession thus provoking debates revolving around theme, morals and artistic value of the films. The pre-war economic hardship, which led to the closure of movie houses, theatres and other entertainment places, created a gap in the industry. This gulf widened during the war when Sierra Leone attained a Pariah state status. Nigerian entrepreneurs capitalized on this business opportunity by marketing Nigerian films. The newly re-established Sierra Leone TV joined the fray by showcasing Nigerian films almost on a daily basis. The effect is a whole nation got hooked and remained addicted to all Nigerian films irrespective of quality. For a traumatized post-Sierra Leone looking for an absolution, Nigerian films with their surreal themes and religious overtones are like a panacea to the ills of our society. Themes like witchcraft-"underworld" and family feud strike a cord with the Sierra Leonean audience. The national obsession climax when Sierra Leoneans started interpreting the world around them on the basis of knowledge derived from Nigerian film. It is little wonder therefore the winner of Miss Sierra Leone beauty pageant died in mysterious fire and Sierra Leoneans were quick to dismiss it as an "underworld" event. The phenomena of Nigeria films have gone beyond entertainment, it has affected the way we live, our perception and interaction with our environment. The impact of art in the national psyche was one reason for censorship of films in the hay days of single party. In this global village no one is advocating censorship of the art, but self-censorship and artistic responsibility must be taken seriously. As I join my compatriots in welcoming the "crème de la crème of Nigerian movie industry in Sierra Leone, I must point out some of the flaws that fraught the industry. A standard film is expected to have a clear objective for the actor to achieve. The nemesis (bad man) imposes obstacles on the path of the actor. A reflection-actor's assistant -who reflects the good qualities of the actor and the romance referring most times to a romantic partner. The entertainment and educational value of a film is derived from the inter-play of this format. Some ingenuous filmmakers roll the nemesis and reflection into one for maximum suspense. In some unique films dealing with mentally deranged characters the actor and the nemesis are rolled into one complex character. Many Nigerian filmmakers tend to mix the characterization to a point that the message becomes blurred. The objective of the film some times shifted according to the whims of the filmmakers, it is my contention that most filmmakers are inspired by financial motivation not artistic actualization. This explains why recurring scenes of "underworld" are pieced together with fragmented episode in order to meet the expectations of the public, The flip side: the whole film industry seems to be producing one big soap opera in different nomenclature. Students of liberal arts will agree with me that Nigerian authors are among the best in the continent. I therefore find it hard to forgive when the Nigerian movie industry gush out mediocre films mostly because they failed to contract the right minds to write their scripts. There should be a distinction between producer director and writer. It is obvious that some films produced in Nigeria are written, directed and acted by the financier. In the absence of a regulatory framework such films are giving the industry a bad name. Plagiarizing Hollywood movies and cinematography will always make Africa second best or better still second worse. Sierra Leone has a vested interest in the success of Nigeria. We have blood ties that date back to the days of slavery, and in recent times, they literally died in the RUF killing fields so that we shall live. The support given to the fledging film industry in Sierra Leone by the visit of Nigerian filmmakers is a testimony that we stand to benefit from a Nigerian success. On the other hand, the validation given to the Nigerian film crew must be reciprocated by sanitizing the industry so as to ensure that what is produced and marketed is artistically and morally consumable.