“of all the arts, the most important for us is the cinema”
Indeed, the Russian leader could not but re-echo the outstanding results achieved with film in his desire to win Russian. Moving Pictures not pamphlets became his number one medium of spreading propaganda, Lenin understood that his revolutionary notes will only thrive if all of Russia began to sing in harmony.
Almost a century after Lenin’s statement, there still exist a vibrant nexus between national integration and film and video. The audiovisuals have not lost its power or its relevance. Film & video continue to influence human thinking and behaviour owing to its inherent ability to inspire very quickly the emotions of both young and old.
The success of the American film industry (Hollywood) is not only linked to empirical evidence such as the number of viewership or revenue generation. In my opinion, the real success of Hollywood is in the industry’s ability to translate the “American Dream” mantra into compelling and mind-shifting films with a high ability to capture imagination, shape, and direct the sense of what is real, true, and preferable. Hollywood has skillfully used her films to tell stories of hope, peace, security and social wellbeing that captivate audience admiration of being or wanting to be “American”. Movies like “Forrest Gump” and several others is a testament of Hollywood’s influential role in projecting American greatness.
That being said, George Barkas “Palaver” (1929), widely regarded as the first made in Nigeria film was essentially shot to persuade the British public to embrace London’s imperial policy in Nigeria. Although made in Nigeria, “Palaver” was certainly not made to enhance unity or progress of the Nigerian people.
The Nigerian Situation
The negative narratives in “Palaver” and the efforts of hero’s past to debunk such perceptions are worthy of admiration. Notwithstanding, we cannot rest on the laurels of these brave icons, we must continually push forward the Nigerian agenda of togetherness through our films and videos. Since “Palaver”, Nigeria’s large population, rich culture and a plethora of raw talents made the outstanding growth of her film & video industry a certainty. With such an unprecedented outreach, Film & Video has played a significant role in fostering Nigeria’s national integration.
Films such as, “rooster Crow at Dawn”, “Second Chance”, “the New Masquerade”, are classic examples of films that echoed sounds of Nigerian culture, heritage and togetherness. For instance, “Second Chance” portrayed our oneness to attain a common goal with its unique characterization cut across Nigeria’s ethnic regions. The movie “76” in many ways also illustrates values of patriotism.
Film & Videos is indeed the warp and wept of Nigerian’s national integration. Its ability to appeal to the intellect, emotions, and will of citizens gives it primacy of place in the business of enhancing Nigeria’s national integration. With stories that hold a mirror to our society of history, crime, comedy, inequality, ethnic relations, religious tolerance, and everything in between, through films and video we are blessed with the opportunity to impact positive change. The change that influences minds, challenges misconceptions, expands our worldview, and allows us to learn more than we did before pressing play.
Integration and unity are rooted in understanding one another and films are viable ways to teach and enlighten. Take the movie “October 1st” and how it immersed viewers onto what it is like to be a police officer from another region solving inexplicable murders at the tail end of colonialism. Or “The Wedding Party” which displays Nigeria’s excellent diversity using humor and drama to show that our similarities outweigh our differences.
Films and videos are not mere escapism, their impact is profound. A careful study of the main demographic consuming films and videos, reveals that young people are the drivers of change and those challenging negative stereotypes. “The Voice” is a widely viewed reality musical show that has exemplified to Nigerians that it is possible to live and progress together in spite of differences, and showcases our innate talents to a large audience.
The outreach capabilities of films and videos opens up the possibility of influencing millions of minds towards unity and community. Seeing a lead actor or actress take centre-stage and strive towards a shared national ambition, like in the movie “Up North” inspires the same attitude. With diversity and crafty messaging, the movie taught positivity and enlightened viewers against some negative stereotypes built from ignorance. In the same vein, the didactic and moral lessons drawn from Nigerian movies remind viewers of the grave consequences of engaging in crime. This ability to admonish through entertainment is a cogent tool of creating sustainable peace without force.
Notwithstanding, in the wrong hands, film and video can be exploited for evil. My service to Nigerian as the Executive Director of the prestigious National Film & Video Censors Board (NFVCB) has been a humbling and transforming experience. It has equipped me with the apparatuses to contextualize both the challenges and realities of fostering National unity through film & video industry.
As a regulatory body, NFVCB encourages Film & Video producers to tell “unity” stories in ways in which citizens could see and feel the connection between them and national integration ideas that may have been otherwise abstract. Our mandate of regulating content and promoting positive values while maintaining originality puts us at the forefront of fertilizing change and shaping minds towards unity and compassion.
A lot of progress has been made, which could not have been possible without the transformative leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari whose devotion to ensuring the peace, security and togetherness of Nigeria remains priceless. The invaluable supervision and advice of the Ministry of Information and Culture under the leadership of Alhaji. Lai Mohammed has also been tremendously helpful. Applauses also goes to Sons & Daughters of this great Nation who showcase values of nationhood and merits of togetherness while still keeping us entertained
With the exponential growth of the internet in Nigeria, it is forecasted that, Video On Demand (VOD) services such as Netflix Naija, IROKO TV, Ibaka TV, EbonyLife ON, SceneOne TV will continue the upward mobility and upsurges in subscribers and user demand for Nollywood content. More than 40 million Nigerians currently have access to smartphones and by 2025 not less than 140 million people will be mobile smartphone users with access to high speed internet connectivity.
With these developments, the future of film and video will be majorly propelled by internet broadcasting mediums and the financial turnover of the industry will be at record highs. This opens up a wide range of investment prospects and will also offer great opportunities to exact significant influence on a growing audience. It is therefore imperative for industry stakeholders to start re-evaluating their strategies in a manner that incorporates the realities of a social media age towards a more united Nigeria. The Board on its part will continue to set up structures that will strengthen her capacity to tackle issues of piracy and distribution of unwholesome films, musical and video works that are disadvantageous to national development and integration.
It is true, that censorship alone, cannot singlehandedly encourage reflections of patriotic values in our films & videos. It will also rely on the collective efforts of relevant stake holders to launch a serious campaign against disunity, disharmony, and disintegration. Therefore, We must be consistent in our approach, ignore momentary gains and focus on exploring avenues for launching the unity agenda of this Great Nation.
TOGETHER we can win.
ALHAJI. ADEDAYO THOMAS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NFVCB
Alhaji. Adedayo Thomas is the current Executive Director of the National Film & Video Censors Board (NFVCB). As Boss of the NFVCB, Alhaji. Adedayo’s strategic leadership quality is reflective of the achievements and progress made so far by NFVCB. In this piece, the ED examines in detail the specific role of Film & Video in the National Integration discourse of Nigeria.