From what I remember of Nigerian television in my own world, we used to keep a date with the NTA on my Grandfather’s massive TV set (the one with the sliding doors) and of course we would switch it on like way before the startup time of 4pm and sometimes sit there watching those coloured vertical lines with that high pitched tone that goes on in the background. Sesame Street was every kid’s delight then (the ones who had access to TV anyway) and I was not an exception.
In addition to that was my weekly dosage of “Tales by Moonlight” on Sunday evenings, with that lovely lady who sits kids down and tells them stories(I can’t believe I haven’t found her name out till now). And yes, I remember the story telling programmers anchored by Jimi Solanke on weekdays. My then lovely NTA Kaduna had programmes I loved, like the series “Wisdom is an asset”(Magana jari che in Hausa) featuring Mallam Kassimu Yero. I have so many others I cant really recollect, but for me those were the glory years of Nigerian Television (not like I had access to the foreign media then anyways).
I wonder why I enjoyed Nigerian Television then, and I ask myself if it was a case of “when the desirable is unavailable, the available becomes desirable”. Or was it just that as a child I didn’t really have a choice as to quality. Its actually hard for me to conclude on that as I cannot remember the value system of the 4 year old me. I remember I used to also enjoy(?) watching Indian movies, and could go with a Chinese movie till the final credits start to show up, but I doubt if I can sit to watch 5 minutes of any of those now. Well, maybe I know better now.
Growing older brought me in contact with the VCR and the world of foreign movies. I remember that all we knew about a foreign movie then was the shooting, and the “actor” (protagonist) having the “last fight” with the “boss”(antagonist) and of course the ‘boss’ getting killed and the ‘actor’ coming to kiss that babe the ‘boss’ was holding for ransom before that scene. Don’t blame my outlook then on the little kid, rather blame it on Roger Moore, Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan who allowed themselves to be used in acting out the ‘007’ legend for me to watch. I guess my exposure to the foreign media made me to take stand on my desires in a movie, and I would say I had a falling-out with the Nigerian movie industry, popularly called Nollywood.
I have my personal philosophy as to what a movie should do to the audience, and I think any movie should do at least two of the three things I believe a movie should do. I believe a movie should entertain, educate and inform.
For a movie to entertain, it certainly has to have the comic effect that brings smiles to my face, and I remember getting so much doses of that from the “Charlie, Charlie” (Charlie Chaplin) series on NTA. Of course there are movies solely designed for the comical purpose, but I believe that this effect can be incorporated in movies that do not have the comical theme.
I know that I have learnt things from movies I wouldn’t have known from school or from reading books. Movies have whet my interest in certain world events and thus driven me to make research about them. I remember how movies like “Escape from Sobibor” and “Nuremberg” drove me to make some personal research on WWII and on the man Adolph Hitler.
Even though a movie is not expected to always be about current affairs, or a substitute to the daily news, I believe that a movie can inform. Movies based on true events, or adaptations from true events can inform the uninformed on some renowned subject matter. Maybe that’s why I don’t enjoy Sci-fi and other inanimate movies, I can hardly relate to them or get informed in any way.
I ask myself if I am biased against Nollywood, or maybe I just have this notion that anything that comes from Nollywood is bad.But then I realize that I have had cause to trash some American movies for their poor production standards. And oh yes, I have seen a few (the functional word here been few) movies made in Nigeria that have caught my interest. I have always loved the productions from Mr Tunde Kelani of the Mainframe Productions.
Where does one draw the line between patriotism and placing a high demand on quality? I know I wouldn’t place a price on a good Nigerian movie production because I have this sense of collective achievement when I see a high quality production from the stables of my Nigerian brothers. I am particular about some things in my world, and sometimes when I am forced to watch some Nigerian productions, I spend most of the time criticizing the work so much so that I lose taste of the whole thing.
I sometimes wonder if some of our producers/directors assume that the people watching their movies are daft or stupid. Some presentations can be so bereft of initiative and originality. I once saw a Nigerian movie that I would call a slapstick presentation of the play “Wedlock of the gods” by Zulu Sofola. I felt like crying not just because it was so glaring a case of plagiarism, but the fact that I had taken part in acting out that play while I was in secondary school.
When would our Nigerian producers understand that a good production would always speak for itself, and that we deserve way more than the vermin they serve to us in the name of movies? You think I’m harsh in qualifying their products as vermin, then wait till you have sampled the mindset of majority of the ones who are die hard Nigerian movie audiences. I do not subscribe to Nigerians having the American mindset because I don’t myself, but I believe that we deserve to have a qualitative mindset in our own Nigerian way.