Some filmmakers said the comments by the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN) that Nollywood movies are promoting money rituals and kidnappings display his poor understanding of the Nigerian motion picture industry and its contents.
The filmmakers, who pushed back against Fashola’s claims at last week’s fourth annual public lecture/symposium of United Action for Change, also accused him of hasty generalisation.
Vice President (Africa) of the International Federation of Film Producers Associations (FIAPF) and Chair, Board of Trustees, Association of Nollywood Core Producers (ANCOP), Alex Eyengho, faulted the Minister, noting that his comment was not based on facts.
Eyengho, who disagreed with the ex-Lagos State Governor said, “he was manifestly off the track in this statement credited to him. Perhaps he would have been right if his claim was talking about some Nollywood movies. The truth here is that his generalisation is hasty and untrue. I would perhaps be more comfortable if he had said some, and indeed go ahead to back up the statement with fact in terms of percentage of Nollywood films he watched, say within a year that promotes rituals and kidnappings.”
Eyengho added that filmmakers don’t just release their works indiscriminately. They are subject to regulatory agencies, chiefly the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) that approves their movies.
He said Fashola’s comments, if indeed true, indicted the regulatory body. “Will the NFVCB okay for release any such films that promote rituals and kidnappings? Assuming but without conceding to the claim, is Mr Fashola’s statement not an indictment on NFVCB as per its primary responsibility,” Eyengho said.
He noted that though the kind of films Fashola referred to might have been true about Nollywood 20 years ago, players have since cleaned up their acts.
He further contended that there was nothing wrong with making films about ritual, kidnapping and other crimes, as long as it is properly told, censored and appropriately classified by the NFVCB.
Besides, Eyengho said movies are a reflection of the Nigerian society. “I don’t know of any film here in Nigeria that sets out to glorify crimes such as rituals, kidnappings, 419, internet scam (yahoo yahoo) etc. What matters in such thematic films is the message and resolution at the end of the film. If for instance, it ends with severe punishments for those involved in such crimes, then there is nothing wrong with it because such films are meant to correct the ills of our society and to serve as a deterrent.”
Executive Chairman, African Creative Economy Advisory Group, Madu Chikwendu, also faulted Fashola, noting that Nigerian movies only reflect reality.
He said, “the filmmaker, like every other Nigerian, is a product of his environment. I have not seen any suspected ritualist that confessed to being influenced by entertainment. Rather they point at the obscene display of wealth by illiterates, politicians, trade unionists, touts etc.”
Chikwendu added that the only “crime” Nollywood “has committed is promoting a cinema of social realism. This is legitimate and acceptable. When we see meritocracy and dignity of labour; when we see more people become rich from their sweat, it will reflect in the movies. Except in the instance of fantasy, entertainment will reflect the realities of its society.”Fashola, in his presentation entitled, ‘Insecurity: Taking actions against organised crime’ at United Action for Change event had submitted that a belief system, reinforced through Nollywood movies, could be fuelling kidnapping, given the number of persons the police have arrested with a human skull and other body parts, with the motive of money ritual.
Fashola said, “Some people believe that if you get a man’s head or a woman’s body parts, they could be turned into money. It’s not true! And when you ask people who believe in it if they have seen it happen before, they tell you someone said they had seen it.
“However, it has become a reinforced belief through entertainment, social media and Nollywood. How can a human head bring money? Money is paper invented by man, not God. They put the paper in a machine to print what we call money, and that is the only place money comes from.
“Therefore, all of us, including those who make the films, must reverse the story and start selling a new story that money is printed in a machine and not through any other way like money rituals.” Fashola stated.