TRANSFORMING THE GIANT IN AFRICA WITH FILMS

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Growing up as a Nigerian child it was a joy to come home from school and cool off to Nigerian films starring actors like Aki and Paw Paw, Patience Ozokwor, etc being our favorites. Watching these movies shaped my perception of society. At an early age, I had already begun to mutter prayers to be blessed with a good mother-in-law whom I would not have to banter words with or see as an enemy.

Movies have been proven to change the mindset, perspective, and even culture of individuals and countries which is why the strongest messages are infused in a subtle and entertaining way.

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The World Bank through its DIME initiative has carried out a number of researches on how a blend of education and entertainment can be mixed to address some dire issues in Nigeria. An example of such studies is the “Story of gold” film which was produced to test the use of the entertainment media to nudge savings behavior.

The movie with a theme encouraging entrepreneurs to save responsibly was screened and another movie without the same messaging was screened to a different set of audience. At the end of both screenings, it was discovered that a greater number of the audience that saw the Story of Gold” film opened a savings account on the spot.

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Another research case was the popular MTV Shuga series which highlighted the importance of testing for HIV and reduction in the number of sexual partners. This study, when analyzed, provided empirical evidence that the MTV Shuga series improved knowledge and attitudes of viewers, as well as increased HIV testing and reduced risky sexual behaviors of the Nigerian youth. The show also substantially reduced new infections of Chlamydia, a common sexually transmitted infection in the study population. 

The preliminary results of MTV Shuga offer an encouraging message on the potential to use entertainment-education as a development tool.

Ever wondered how America has managed to portray itself as a world power and living the “American dream” the ultimate goal. It is through films. Does this mean that there are no poor people in America or that once you travel you will succeed?  Your guess is as good as mine.

A friend of mine traveled to Zambia, while on the trip he was asked why Nigerians are so endeared to Juju and traditional worship. Are we all endeared to traditional worship? 

The messaging in our films have to be restructured to achieve the desired change we look forward to as a nation.

Nigerian video films have over the years reflected the way of life of Nigerians, and have told stories of our past and present, consequently making Nigerian movies socially rooted. Ranging from the village scenes, political and traditional justice systems, land tenure, costumes, hair-dos, tattoos, drumming, singing, dancing, indigenous foods, and drinks, as well as religious beliefs all culminating into telling the history of Nigeria and its unity in diversity. 

Producers, movie directors, scriptwriters, and influencers in the movie industry need to urgently rethink their strategic role and influence over societal norms by outlining the merits and demerits of just casually carrying out film projects without a strong messaging attached.

It’s great to see that several directors, movie producers, and influencers have begun to tow this line. We see movies like “Mr and Mrs” addressing Domestic violence and abuse, “93 days” addressing the health sector, “Tolani weds Ayo” speaking on the issue of rape. Have these stories been successful in changing norms yet? Well, these are still early days, but It’s easy to tell a child that fighting, stealing, rape, and a host of other vices are wrong and another thing to show the child what the world would be without these vices. This works to conscientize the individual.

A new platform has emerged – the internet. Research has shown that 45.1% of Nigerians have internet access and this is projected to rise to 81.8% in 2023. This means that a critical mass of Nigerians now have access to watch movies distributed online and on mobile platforms. Curated messages in consciously produced edutainment can be delivered to every individual which can now be spread across to the offline community through person to person interaction. This new platform has an enormous potential to transform how people live and develop social norms.

Now! How can we change the style of messaging our Nigerian films carry? – A positive approach

Bringing it home to the COVID 19 pandemic and how it has exposed our weak health systems with everyone, (both the elite and the poor)forced to access the Nigerian healthcare system. If a film were to be produced on this pandemic, a survey online shows that 65% of film producers will highlight the weak health system in Nigeria. The truth is that we know this fact already? A perspective to take in the production of a film on this could be showing how this pandemic would be combated effectively if Nigeria had a good and efficient healthcare system. Basically painting a picture through the eye of a good and functional healthcare system that every citizen can access. This way, it gives hope and your audience, including policymakers, could look forward to experiencing what a good healthcare system feels like and also work towards achieving this in the shortest time possible. 

Have you ever finished seeing a good western movie and thought, Wow! Nigeria has a long way to go? Then that’s the kind of message I am talking about. Something that spurs you to move out of your comfort zone and do more no matter how little to incite change.

Filmmakers have a new task, which is to attach strong positive messaging in the films they create in an entertaining way of course in order to keep the audience’s attention glued to the screen.

As a movie director or scriptwriter, You have the biggest tool in your hands. Attention spans are dropping, reading long texts has become a challenge but a good movie will always have its audience glued to the end!!

We need to start propagating positive messaging in films, thanks to initiatives like the Nigerian Integrity Film Awards (Homevida) who have already begun to use films to influence positive value in the society with movies like Aviation Man highlighting the dangers of compromising standards for a bribe. Other influencers like the AMVCA, Actors guild and others in the film industry need to be big on this new trend and endorse it as the way forward to attract traction from our producers and directors.

Let’s use the screen to change Nigeria for better!!