A people’s culture is their identity. It is what distinguishes them from others. It is what sets them apart and gives them a life. Without a distinct culture, a people are lost. They get submerged by another culture.
And when we talk of culture here, we talk of what constitutes norms and values beyond just clothing and language. And what better means of preserving one’s culture in all its totality than the movies.
From the Chinese, to the Indians and to the US, especially the US and Britain, every single one of these cultures sold their culture through the movies in no small way, right from the moment the television was invented.
Those of us that grew up in the early 90s into the early 2000s were at the brunt of an unprecedented avalanche of diverging cultures into our psychic space, thanks to Chinese Martial arts movies, Indian Romantic movies and the US war films.
As Nollywood took shape, we attempted to mimic all these cultures in the cultural content they sold to all peoples. We tried romantic movies with musicals like the Indian Bollywood does and we looked funny at it. We attempted war films like the US sells in order to promote their weapon business. Who sai. Nobody has been impressed with the outcome so far.
How can an actor be proud that he is imitating the accent and mannerism of a known Hollywood star. Oh how do you explain making Nollywood movies about female serial killers and armed robbers and vampires when these are not original with the African society.
When I saw The Black Book, I felt so ashamed of myself. Here were Nigerians using a foreign language, a foreign costume set and a foreign storyline to make a movie meant for Netflix. It was like trying to sell snow to the Eskimos. Nevertheless, it was a decent movie, The Black Book is.
Then, the theme of ritual killing and money making suddenly took on a spark. Nigerian film makers started making movies about ritual killing, the destruction of indigenous religions by the western religion and suchlike. It is as if we are having an identity crisis in Nollywood.
How else can you explain those Nollywood movies where characters attempt foreign accents, and the film directors promote foreign mannerisms, foreign clothings and even foreign agenda? What is the fate of a movie industry that has not identified what makes for our original cultural content and how best to sell it to the outside world. So far, the only cultural content, though pseudo, we have been able to trend is about ritual killing and poisoning of siblings and kin over land or woman.
Is this what we are all about as a society? Do we not have a rich enough cultural content that we can sell to the outside world?
Imagine that the first movie that gained us attention in Nollywood is a movie about ritual killing, belonging to a secret cult and the revenge of the dead, namely Living in Bondage.
Of course we do. But it appears we are not really at peace with what makes for our original cultural content. I will give you one very spectacular unique culture we have. It is the culture of respect for elders, mutual respect and third party system of conflict resolution.
In the original African, nay, Nigerian culture, elders must be respected unreservedly. This gives a unique order to our society. It is only after the civil war that a new breed of Nigerian parents and youths came about. A breed that blatantly disrespects their elders and respects only affluence and money.
How can we even promote our original cultural content when we are all stuck in a relatively dysfunctional society. A society that would rather promote get rich quick ventures and mindset than promote hard work, team work and community development. A society that would burn a petty thief while they leave those that rob billions of Naira of their common patrimony to turn praise singers of them?
So, I believe the first step for Nigerian film makers is to come to terms with the main intent behind film making which is agenda setting and acculturation. We can start setting agenda for our own society and all societies at large with our films.
Presently, the global family unit is, on the most part, in shambles. The work habit of parents has made a caricature of parenting. Thanks to the adoption of western culture; way of life. We can start making movies that would promote the beauty and wisdom of spending family time together; Movies that would promote enduring marriages; caring husbands and understanding wives. We need more of this.
Instead of promoting the agenda of war like the western world do. Or the agenda of illusory emotion driven love relationships that do stupid things in the name of love like the Indians do. We have our own culture of peace, family and nature friendly barefooted societies with reverence for elders and ancestors. Our own original cultural content can serve as a buffer to the madness the world is driving itself into in the name of civilisation, religious conviction and freedom.