Monday, January 1, 2007

When Reality Overtakes Art

Agogo Eewo, our previous movie is a blend of traditional Yoruba folklore with modern political sensibilities in a scorching allegory of corruption in the highest places. Set in a fictional Jogbo but interpreted by many as a thin disguise for a socio-political entity named Nigeria. Can reality overtake art? Since the film was produced a few years ago, a lot of water has passed under the proverbial bridge. Events in the country last year alone make the events in Agogo Eewo pale into nothingness.

At the Los Angeles Film Festival, 2004 where the films were screened, I got interesting questions from the American audience. Will I come back to Hollywood to make movies? My answer was an emphatic NO. The ingredients I needed to craft our movies abound in my environment. The mountains, hills, forests, rivers, the old and new cities and indeed our entire cultural landscape are nearby at home in Nigeria. Are the movies action films. Another NO - they are films that are tied to issues that concern us as a developing nation. There is enough action in our lives already for free.

Did you watch the aircraft disasters whose victims are given mass burial with unmarked graves in full technicolor? The oil pipeline explosions engulfing people and environment with fire and flames roasting everything in its path into cinders? Or the collapsed buildings in glorious slow motion and wails of the trapped and wounded shouting for help that would come too late? Daylight bank armed robberies with the stacatto of gunfire coming from the most automatic and sophisticated weapons providing real sound effects? The commando style snatches of expatriate oil workers by armed militias operating from flying boats in the Delta region? Those bodies prone on the ground groaning from pains or already lifeless are not film extras or background actors. They are Nigerians. The tears and blood are no makeup but the real thing. And yet the real drama with unbelievable plot and twists has shifted to Aso Rock and its occupants, the national and state houses of assembly, the house of representatives, the local governments. The courts write the scripts installing, de-installing, re-installing of political office holders. Comedy comes in the form of my interractions with area boys who have installed parallel governments from local government to state and federal levels. That is comic relief indeed. Enough jagajaga. Let us, as Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the afrobeat icon sang, clear our minds from this musical contraption called 2006 and re-focus for 2007.

My prediction is full of hope and great expectation for the entertainment industry in the new year. We need great movies, music, drama, literature, art etc that will assuage the already battered mind and body of our people. The whole entertainment industry is poised to take Nigeria to the greatest heights in 2007 or has reality already overtaken art?