There are many issues riddling the ever-developing movie industry in Nigeria. But the most disservice they do audience and the purpose of the industry is rotating within a genre and/or sensibility. There is comedy, drama, and romance but very little involvement with history. Why history?
In the words of poet James Baldwin, we must know that “people are trapped in history and history is trapped in them’. This is a testament to the inner longing for heritage and the very need to know more. The most personalized topics most therapists have found disturbing is people’s struggle with identity, and any form of resulting personal illumination is always tied to an eventual understanding of roots.
‘A people without the knowledge of their history, origin, and culture is like a tree without roots’ – Marcus Garvey. It is not accidental that Marcus would use the word “roots”. The depth of roots is the grounding of any great tree, meaning the more people know of themselves the more grounding they get.
The great question remains, how do they know about themselves? From history. Like Peter Westbrook put it, ‘So much of our future lies in preserving our past’, and our past or history mirrors our life and future. This blueprint sometimes is fleeting and indefinite, how then do we learn from it? Arts.
The arts are the purest forms of life and humanity preserved and at the core of the arts is history encoded, experiences and stories seen but untold. The most successful art forms, no matter how vilified, have been met with the praise of relativity. People pine for the arts to open their minds because, most times, acknowledging our mind and its attendant features are the scariest parts of our lives
Hollywood has since embraced this market. The Academy of motion pictures have eaten it up every year no matter how many years or times it is retold. “Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people. But stories can also repair that broken dignity.” Biopics or biographic drama have become a major genre in Hollywood on Broadway, on the Television or in Cinema.
To prove this point, we look no further than the Golden Globe awards where Andra Day won the best actress award for her portrayal of singer Billie Holiday in the Lee Daniels movie, ‘The United States vs Billie Holiday”, Daniel Kaluuya’s win for ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’, and Regina King’s nomination for ‘One Night in Miami’. When these stories are told they trigger realization, acknowledgement, a sense of nostalgia and a sense of belonging.
There have been heavy historical dramas that have incited tons of emotions like ‘Schindler’s List’, ‘Little Boy’, ‘The Boy in the Striped Pajamas’, ‘Roots’ and ’12 years a slave’. Save for a below-par adapatation of Chimamanda Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, why has Nollywood chosen to abandon the history of its people? It took a Broadway production to witness the reenactment of the life and career of probably one of the greatest artist ever, Fela.
Fela, the Broadway production received 11 nominations and 3 wins at the Tony award, the highest honour for theatre. Our stories if abandoned will be told by others. Told well but lacking the sheen of originality. The Biafra war has not been captured, our heroes have not been seen from the inspirational and aspirational lenses of informed cinematic lenses. Our history rots away while millions of Nigerians wander the streets searching to fill the void, in need of closure with their history.
Rather than doing the needful, the industry focuses on store-bought romantic flicks with no resonance, where people do not see their selves represented on the screen or have viable reasons to be invested. The purpose of creative arts is to inform, educate and then entertain. While the comedy they are now associated with is good, there however must be a balance of stories. Stories that mirror the history of the people. This is a charge to Nollywood, that commercialism must not kill the arts. To take a page from Oscar Wilde’s rich cannon, “Art is the only serious thing in the world.”
St. is a graduate of Mass Communication (Diploma) and English and Literature Art (Bachelors Degree). Also a copy / UX writer, he has big dreams of becoming a voice in the media and starting a production company to re-evaluate the standards of entertainment in Nollywood