At Film Fest: Mind, behavioural ‘Reset’ for a better Nigeria advocated
The seventh edition of Lights Camera Africa Film Festival (LCAFF), which held last week, stirred participants and audience to engage in lively conversation with festival’s theme ‘Reset.’ The discussions pointed in the direction of positive mindset and behavioural change so as to take the country back to its original course before it was derailed through military incursions and the profligacy that followed.
Also, several films connected to positive change were screened. The opening film was A Hotel Called Memory, directed by South Africa-based Akin Omotoso and produced by Ego Boyo. The movie is not the conventional type, but a silent movie, an art film that exhibited so much creativity and talent. It has just about four cast, but the 45 minutes flick was shot with natural light throughout. At the end, Omotoso told those who were a bit confused about it to regard it as their own experience and to understand it for what it is.
A Hotel Called Memory was shot on locations in South Africa, Lagos and Zanzibar, and it stars Nse Ikpe-Etim (Lola), who is separated from her husband in Lagos and decides to go on a journey of self re-discovery in Zanzibar and Cape Town, hoping to forget the past and move on with her life.
Since the director gives every viewer the liberty to interpret the movie the way they understand it, it would be best to relate the experience of the movie to the festival’s theme ‘Reset.’ It is as though the movie is resetting the way people live and do things, as Nigerians, but family inevitably affects society. The child that is brought up with the right values will do things well, no matter where he or she finds himself or herself. Hence the divorce like Lola and her husband are contemplating in the movie will not have good impact on the child, and which will ultimately affect the society negatively.
One expected that the producer, Boyo, who acted in some of the best flicks in Nigeria, such as Keeping Faith, 30 Days, would replicate such movies, when she gets to do her own. But she said she was trying to break away from stereotypes to do a different kind of film.
According to her, “I believe that as an artist, we evolve and we have different experiences and those experiences of where we are at a particular time revolve into what we refocus on eventually. Every time I see the movie, it raises different questions for me, and that is one of the things I wanted to achieve. In this industry, there is an expectation that we are going to do certain types of films, but I wanted to go the other way, to send a different message or even no message and that is what this movie has achieved.”
Other movies such as Bad Market, Quartiers Lointains, Digging Deeper, Ariga Sugar, Omode Meta Nsere, Afia Attack, Vaya were also screened.
The closing event was quite phenomenal, as it was the first day in October, a Sunday and Nigeria’s independence. anniversary It provided a moment for Nigerians to reminisce as a people and it fitted the ‘Reset’ theme perfectly, as it gave participants, as well as, the teaming audience on social media opportunity to bare their minds on how to move Nigeria forward.
Before the town hall discussion, an emotional South African movie, Kalushi, directed by Mandla Dube, tells the story of Solopmon Mahlangu, a township school boy-hawker, who joins the military wing of the ANC to fight the brutal oppression of the apartheid regime, and ends up becoming an icon of South Africa’s liberation.
A documentary Akatakpo: The Legend of Tony Odili was screened soon after. Directed by Edward Emeka Keazor, it features a deep, personal conversation with the 89-year old legend of African music, Tony Odili, who specialises in playing conga drums, reminisces on his awe-inspiring journey through Nigerian music history. He shows the passion with which they did what they loved. Unfortunately, his likes are languishing in penury, unlike the new crop of musicians on the scene.
Perhaps and in a sense, the festival focuses on how Nigerians and the art circle, in particular, could reset their minds and do things better.
The town hall discussion was also online, and Programme Coordinator, Ugoma Adegoke, said some of the responses were bizarre and most were angry, while others were practical in scope. Adegoke said the Independence Day was an apt moment for Nigerians to talk as a family and to celebrate ‘Nigerianity’ and ‘Africanity,’ adding, “We have been experimenting with the theme, ‘Reset.’ I thought we should not forget the real issues and we should use this art event to make change about some of the things that are important to us. We can share views and learn from each other and hopefully some of us will try to put some of the viewpoints forward. I think change starts from somewhere and why you may be frustrated about it. We must make our voice loud enough; it is unacceptable to stay silent.”
A five-man panel of discussion comprising Adegoke, Lanre Shasore, Keazor, Aduke Gomez and Adebola Williams spoke on the ‘Reset’ theme. Williams opened the discussion and said the country is the way Nigerians take, view and treat Nigeria.
According to him, “The big elephant in the wheel is the government and its failure to provide basic amenities that give a level playing ground for the citizens to have an opportunity to succeed, but I also find that despite that failure, government does not fall from the sky. It comes from among the people. What happens is that people in government, at a particular time, are just under the spotlight, but many times, in our own government, which is our own homes, community, with our friends and families, are you corrupt, greedy, malicious? Do you thrash your environment or clean it up?
“The values that you see being expressed on the national stage come from human beings like us. It is what we do in our private that is shown out there. So, if we begin to view ourselves differently, and when we say we are our brother’s keeper, we must truly mean it and when we get into government, we will actually be what we say we are. We cannot be what we are not; that is why they say wealth only amplifies who you have been all along. So for me, if Nigerians could begin to genuinely care for one another, support one another, I am not even talking of the whole country. No; take care of your own environment. If you could sweep in front of your house, and the rest of the people do same, before you know it, the whole street will be clean. It is the sense that someone has to do it; so, when they get into government too, they do the same.”
Williams added, “In our daily lives, in our offices, the deals we are making, the families we are building, are we modeling good behaviour? Most of us allow our children to be open to all sorts of vices. They are learning from television; they are on Facebook, rather than facing their books; they are online, not in line. People are slaying on Instagram, but not slaying in their education.”
For Adegoke, there was need to reset the idea of civility and neighbourliness, pointing out, “I think neighbourliness is a good thing to uphold. Social good is the most important thing.”
Gomez felt strongly that Nigerians should go back to where they were, adding, “We must remember that things were not always good, but people went through stressed then, too, but we must remember that this is the only country we have and we must love it. If you don’t love it, there is no need pointing at other countries and comparing us to them; they don’t have two heads. Nigeria has a very young population and if we do not inculcate in them the love for our heritage, culture, if we do not stop demonising everything that belongs to us, then I am not sure how it will play out.”
Keazor took another dimension entirely, when he said he would reset the biggest mistake of centralising governance in the country, as the main bane of Nigeria’s development.
As he put it: “Lets stop this selfish, false, diluted rhetoric of the Hausa are ‘eating’ money, Yoruba are lazy and the Igbo are thieves. All the regions, by 1960, were contributing to the economy. The north alone was making N31.9 million per annum from tin, but the laziness that oil infused in us caused centralisation and we are all guilty. As far as we were concerned, oil came and we abandoned everything. Anytime oil was about to go down, one thing will happen and it would go up again and we developed a sense of self that we did not deserve. Yes, we were having economic problems even then, but the point is, there was a clear path, there were minds that actually believed in the Nigerian project.”
Keazor did not agree that people should merely love Nigeria even if she was failing in every respect.
According to him, “Nigerians are easy to lead if Nigeria is led properly. If the led see any leader, who has genuinely taken a selfless path and there are returns, even if life is hard, they will follow him. What I think killed us is weariness. People just say, ‘oh, they are all the same thieves; so, why should I bother myself.’”
He gave instances of the selfish ways leaders behave and cause the led to give up on them, when he said: “If someone has an SUV and drives through potholes to his house, as far as he is concerned, others can continue to suffer; he doesn’t care. If we have big generators and others are in darkness, we don’t care. So, I will reset the centralisation of power. We would have sunk or swum on the strength of our own hands in most cases.”
Keazor also said Nigeria needed to go back to where ‘the rain started beating her,’ as it were, noting, “If I could turn back time, no matter how bad things were, yes, the political class were doing some very nasty things, but at least one way or the other, we would have found a way to muddle through. So, if I had my way, I will reset that oil curse, centralisation of power, the coup culture. Leadership begins at the ground level. In that office, what are you doing? How do you run your business? When you are owing your staff salaries, are you buying a new car?”
Shasore would simply reset sectionalism, saying, “We are the government. I don’t think it is cultural for Hausa to be stealing government funds, or the Igbo to be thieves and Yoruba to be lazy. I think it is just bad behaviour from all of us. When you say ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ to most Nigerians, they think you are stupid. We are all at the core of it and we are all responsible for what Nigeria has become. I will like you to remember that so many other African countries are depending on us and looking to becoming like us. So, when you throw that thrash out on the street or cut someone off in traffic, you are also guilty and in need of being reset.”
No doubt, the festival ended successfully. It was the hope of organisers and participants alike that Nigerians would really reset their way of thinking to make her a better country that satisfies the aspirations of all.
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