Great stories make great content on television, big screen, or even mobile terminals. Those who say content is king love good stories, the sort that spikes the adrenalin, make it impossible to put down a book or hook you permanently on the screen, large or small, and sometimes become very redeeming in challenging you to be more positively disposed to a cause or society.
“The Milkmaid” by Desmond Ovbiagele is running for the Oscars under the International Feature Film category; Desmond is already enjoying a place in the sun as a history maker. Joel Kachi Benson won a Golden Lion with “Daughters of Chibok” at the Venice Film Festival for best virtual reality story.
Benson has the world at his feet as he uses the film to scrounge for opportunities for the Chibok people nearly forsaken by their government. So, dear friends, let the world hear more of our stories.
Nigeria is a country of great story tellers, some great bards whose perfect blend, like some great coffee, is to sow pleasure into the life of other people with some really beautiful and, sometimes, complicated stories which leave you breathless and challenge you to dream of other ways of adding more life to the perfection before you.
Prof Wole Soyinka’s Nobel Prize for Literature was the crowning glory and global recognition of an African story teller that has conquered the world. Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart continues to cement a literary narrative art steeped deep in a culture, so buoyant but also very arrogant and intransigent, and yet unable to manage individual weaknesses from spilling into societal tragedies. So very enthralling that people are still appalled that Okonkwo actually committed suicide.
Is it any surprise that decades after, Things Fall Apart still remains one of the biggest stories that was adapted for television in Nigeria? Or does it surprise you at all that Mo Abudu is partnering Netflix to adapt Soyinka’s Death And The King’s Horseman for the movies? Or that Chimamanda Adichie’s civil war novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, made a strong showing at the movies? Nigeria is a land of great story tellers. So, those who took history out of our schools failed very miserably in their satanic plans of keeping their sordid past away from the harsh judgement of history. Didn’t some of them try to control the creative license of Prof Ola Rotimi in Hopes of the Living Dead, by rejecting a commissioned play for the country’s independence celebrations just because it tells the heroic story of lepers? The story was told so beautifully that Prof Femi Osofisan in saluting Rotimi in one of his birthday celebrations, wished that he had written such a great book.
Nigeria is a land of great story tellers. Nollywood is evidence of such creative fertility. Those who took history away from our schools never for once thought of the impact of Nollywood until the global community started to serenade the giant strides of an intrusive industry. A native industry that was the product of ingenuity and relentless hard work but virtually unnoticed by the authorities for a long time. Content is king. And the world is ever ready to listen to the stories coming out of Nigeria.
But when Nollywood centred their stories on magic and witchcraft, it did not trouble the system so much except those who fretted that their secrets were being revealed. You know pure abracadabra with some splash of entertainment. So, it seemed to the ordinary mind, but not those so twisted at heart, for whom the night must harbor its secrets too dense and complicated for the ordinary heart.
Content is king. That makes it exciting and very fulfilling that our TVs and Radio are enjoying a considerable dose of Nigerian content.
A couple of years ago, it took me just less than two days to go through a copy of The Chibok Girls by Prof Helon Habila. A compelling book with lots of chills for the bone, my first reaction was to scream, this is for the movies.
I built up pictures in my mind as I go through that beautiful stuff steeped in the concoction of journalistic probing, a writer’s muse and a teacher’s thoroughness and excellence. A shamefully dysfunctional Nigerian story that outraged the global community, Helon returned to a world he had escaped from, and gave new meaning, troubling details and nuanced authenticity to what originally, was understandably, immersed in a halo of uncertainty and impossibility. But it did happen and our government may never be able to put a closure to that tragic story. While it is true that The Chibok Girls has not made that transcendence to the movies, it is worth recognising that Nigerians are doing well in documenting the country’s history in various creative formats, two of the latest being Daughters of Chibok and The Milkmaid.
It is worth pointing out that the two films, like Helon’s The Chibok Girls, are the products of Boko Haram’s criminal activities in the North. Many more will come even if this is not the kind of history they want to be documented in our nation.
Nigeria is a land of great storytellers. And a good story, like The Milkmaid and Daughters of Chibok, attracts the world. Such recognition is important not only for the prestige it confers but for the stamp that you are doing something right. After that recognition, some people really don’t care much anymore.
Long ago when Spike Lee, the African American movie maker was nominated for the Oscar category of the Best Director (that was before winning one for the Best Adapted Screenplay for BlackkKlansman in 2019), the loudmouth he is, shouted to the effect that he has been nominated, nobody can take that from him now.
As I challenge our movie makers to tell more of Nigerian stories, I encourage Desmond to enjoy the bragging rights as he makes his epochal journey to the Oscars. Such opportunities come in rarity, not often.