District 9 has definitely got Nigerians talking because of the way we were portrayed in the movie. As a science fiction enthusiast, I was really looking forward to this movie. The short film it was based on called ‘Alive in Jo’burg’ was an interesting one if you were in the visual effects field. Then word started to reach me about its portrayal of Nigerians. Some were even saying we should boycott District 9. As usual, the internet forums were blazing the trail. I thought I’d reserve judgement until I saw the film. Wherever possible, I like to form an opinion based on fact rather than just jump on a popular bandwagon for the sake of it.
After watching the film, here are my thoughts. Of course it wasn’t nice to see us portrayed in a negative light. But that’s stating the obvious. I can see why our Minister for Information decided to step in, demand an apology and ban cinemas from showing it. I didn’t agree with the move but I can see why she did it. I my opinion she picked the wrong target. There are several reasons why I hold this view.
1: There are crooks from
in other countries. It is well within citizens of that country’s right to use that fact in anyway they wish. We do the same and have done so in history. At no point did the movie say ALL Nigerians are crooks. Nigeria
2: Nollywood, our indigenous movie industry, has portrayed us in a much harsher light to both national and international audiences. There was a time where you couldn’t get Nollywood movie that didn’t include one of the following or a combination of them; fraud, juju/witchcraft, armed robbery, incest, adultery, cannibalism and of course our favourite, corruption. Nollywood has been pumping out thousands of movies with these themes for years with no real opposition from the general public or any Ministry. I must point out not all film makers in Nollywood do this but the majority do and I am yet to be proved wrong on this.
3: Banning films sets the wrong precedent; in fact it can be dangerous. Let us the public debate the issue. We are mature enough to do so. In fact our Minister has succeeded in giving the movie more publicity which I’m sure she didn’t intend to do.
4: If you analyse the movie, you’ll find that the biggest ‘bad guys’ are in fact the South African based arms company.
I think a more effective way of protecting or promoting the Nigerian image globally is to have a vibrant, respected, highly trained, creative, effective, well financed and subsidised media production sector. We can then do the rest. We can produce documentaries, films, cartoons, music, and stories telling the modern Nigerian story to us and the global audience. It won’t all be good positive but you will definitely get a more balanced view.
We need to look at our media and entertainment sector and honestly ask ourselves are we where we should be to really compete globally. In my opinion the answer is no. However, we are heading in the right direction but that is mainly due to amazing trailblazers who are tirelessly working around the clock. We will need a lot more government help and intervention to really get us there. This is where the Information Ministry can really be of genuine help.
Let the public deal with District 9, Sony PS3’s and all the other distractions.