Thursday, September 18, 2014

SODIQ... for iREP Monthly Screening; 7pm Saturday Sept 20; Freedom Park, Lagos Island 3 Oguntona Crescent, Gbagada Phase 1, Lagos Nigeria. P.O. Box 36 Surulere. T: +234 803 425 1963, +234 802 201 6495, +234 803 403 0646 E:

Thursday, May 3, 2012

An Almajirai State Of Mind

(culled from THE GUARDIAN SUNDAY, 29 APRIL 2012 )

THE decision by the Federal Government to deliver a conventional learning environment for the infamous Almajirai has met with conflicting reactions. Of 400 model Almajirai schools proposed by the FG, the first set was recently commissioned in Sokoto State on April 10,   and the likelihood of the project succeeding has been both contested and anticipated.
Many are in support of what they call a “wise” move toward curbing the illiteracy and religious radicalism latent within the Almajirai. Many more judge the schools a cosmetic approach to what is considered a breeding ground for extremists and a “waste of public funds” that should have been channelled towards improving decaying federal structures. One word that has frequently appeared is the description of the entire project as another “white elephant.”
In its own way, President Jonathan’s administration believes the schools will take the estimated 9.5 million Almajirai off the streets of Northern Nigeria and provide a conducive atmosphere for combining Qu’ranic and Western education. Facilities at the schools include language labs, hostels, clinics, staff quarters and recitation halls. Ironically, much of the criticism of these schools has emanated from the North, but there are others, who are of the view that proper communication and awareness about the benefits of the Almajirai schools will win opposing voices to the government’s camp.
While the different opinions from the ‘experts’ grace the pages of newspapers, the Almajirai have hardly had a chance to put a word in. Widely considered a ‘nuisance’ within and outside Northern Nigeria, it is no wonder that many believe placing them in a ‘normal’ learning institution is a waste not just of taxpayers’ money but possibly, a waste of everyone’s time as well. This notion might however be dismissed as biased and uninformed once these young students of the Qur’an get the chance to personally tell their stories.

Sixty-nine minutes might not have captured the entire essence of their existence, but the message of Duniya Juyi Juyi, a docu-drama about Almajirai is no less effective in voicing “the perspectives and concerns” of the boys. The film, which screened at this year’s iREP International Documentary Film Festival, is largely believable considering the main cast and crew comprise nine real-life Almajirai. The young men — Ikira Mukhtar, Buhari Murtala, Anas Ali, Sadisu Salisu, Abdullahi Yahaya Sa’ad, Auwalu Mahamud, Isma’il Abdullahi, Muhammad Naziru Usman, Kabiru Idris — were trained to act, write and direct their own stories as members of this mostly-neglected arm of society.
Aminu (Ikira Mukhtar) is one of these real-life Oliver Twists and his story along with that of other students from a Qur’anic school in Kano is the pivot for relating the becoming of an Almajirai, the upsides and the down. Meeting Aminu, we discover a respectful young boy, whose father believes it is near impossible for any child to successfully become a religious scholar if he remains under the guidance or tutelage of his parents. Like many other parents, who share a similar belief, Aminu’s father (Sani Garba SK) hands his son over to a Malam (Husaini Sule Koki) at a school in a neighbouring town. Upon his graduation, Aminu is expected to return home. Bitter encounters that jolt the unwitting Aminu fill the time between study and graduation, leaving him convinced that life as an Almajirai is not the best.
He has to struggle for a place to sleep or to have his bath plus try to overcome the taunts and bullying of an older student (Auwalu Mahamud). When the Almajirai are not studying, they produce handicrafts, clean private homes and beg for food and money depending on their ages. On Aminu’s first day out with his begging bowl, someone “kindly” gives him some rotten food warranting a complaint about people giving beggars what belongs in the dustbin. “Treat others the way you want to be treated,” moans the hungry Aminu, an important lesson in life’s generally unwritten rules.
 Aminu later succeeds in finding work as a housekeeper, but his employer (Lubabatu Madaki) will not stop raining insults on him and his parents for abandoning him to a life of begging. When she fires Aminu for being a disturbance, Aminu philosophically concludes that she cares about him “only for my labour, not as a person.” But the blame is not hers alone as Aminu also takes a shot at federal leadership for not “recognising” Almajirai as “citizens of the nation.” The parents are not excluded from the blame especially as some of Aminu’s mates appear to have been dumped for good at the Qur’anic schools, clearly flouting the Malam’s admonition that parents should pay regular visits to their offspring. Oddly enough, Aminu has only a few if mostly good words for the Malam. Many in the older public however believe the Ulamas or Malams are largely responsible for making beggars and extremists of the young boys due to their own ineptitude as religious scholars.
When all hope seems lost for Aminu however, life at the ‘camp’ takes a turn for the better and our young protagonist finds himself on a comfortable plane. But the question remains whether all Almajirai are as lucky as Aminu and what point there is, if any, in thrusting a child into such a harsh and thankless life.

Duniya Juyi Juyi, which means ‘how life goes’ is a much-needed intervention for improving the Almajirai cause. As the young men themselves point out; what they want from the public is not pity, but an opportunity to prove their intelligence. The nine Almajirai, who act in and produce this film prove this point on intelligence beyond any doubt. It is difficult to fault anything in the production besides the sometimes conscious acting and the fact that the Malam does not fulfil his threat to “shackle and cane” Aminu if he attempts to escape a second time. Aminu not only tries to escape a second time, but succeeds on his third try, yet no shackling and caning.
Apart from this though, the documentary —  a joint project of the Goethe Institut Kano and the Child Almajirai Empowerment Support Initiative — is a job well done; training and equipping the Almajirai is commendable. The trainer and Script Consultant was Nasiru Bappah Muhammad.
However to state the obvious, 9 out of 9.5 million Almajirai is infinitesimal, so maybe the Model schools can handle the deficit. Maybe. Given that there is a considerable number of ‘bad’ Almajirai for every Aminu-like boy, the film itself thus becomes a communicative tool for behavioural change, making it essential that the film be screened to other Almajirai as well as the public.
Similarly, 400 concrete spaces will not support what many consider an attempt at scoring cheap political points by President Jonathan. Asides the buildings, many ask, what kind of knowledge will be cloaked under the guise of Western and religious education? Whatever the government’s motive - especially its claims of reducing the threat to national security - there is little doubt that the Almajirai, if left unattended can bloom into the menace may already fear that they are.
For those who consider the Almajirai a disturbing bunch of useless urchins and beggars with no parents or loved ones, the message of this film is simple: “Speak good about us or keep quiet,” as one of the Almajirai declares. The choice, of course, is yours. 3 Oguntona Crescent, Gbagada Phase 1, Lagos Nigeria. P.O. Box 36 Surulere. T: +234 803 425 1963, +234 802 201 6495, +234 803 403 0646 E:

Djo Munga: The Art of Pushing Boundaries in African Cinema

Interview by Belinda Otas
Culled from

“In Kinshasa, every day is a struggle and every night is a party. In a city where everything is for sale, Riva has something everyone wants.” – Djo Tunda wa Munga’s debut feature film, Viva Riva! had cinema buffs the world over in awe. Set in Kinshasa, DRC, the film depicts the country’s tumultuous existence as it chronicles the life of Riva, an ambitious mobster in the making, who returns home after spending a decade in Angola, only to find the country in dire straits as a result of fuel shortages.  What unravels is an enthralling story of frank realism that includes crime, violence, disorder, corruption and sexuality, revealing the myriad complexities ofKinshasa and its citizens. In his own words, Djo Munga and the art of pushing boundaries in African cinema. 

Belinda: Why was it important to tell the story of Viva Riva the way you did?
Djo: This was the first film in 26 years in Congo. When you realise there is no film industry in your country and you are producing the first film in 26 years, you really want to do something different and make a great film. At the same time, you want what you have to say to be personal and important and for people to understand it. In that sense I wanted to talk about the city of Kinshasa because that’s my hometown and many people can relate to it. In the global sense, it was really important to try and describe the city in a way it has never been described.  You talk about night life, the problems that we have and it is important to address certain issues and I also wanted to explore the last 13 years of the city, the war, violence and the change, you know, the new Congo, the crisis and shortage of (fuel) petrol/gas because the shortage did happen in 2001, among the other important elements that was vital to this story.
Belinda: What significant impact has it had in terms of shaping different narratives about the DRC since it was released?
Djo: We had a couple of screenings in Congo, and had close to 300/400 people and of course, we were nervous and not sure. But the response was like wow, this is us and it was like have something where you can recognise yourself. The film opened at the Durban film festival (2011) which was the official African premiere and it was the same. It was a really, really big success and people took ownership of that and the young people were saying how proud they were to have a film about themselves. Also, I think this is the first time, they may see a film where the people look like them and at the same time, it is like an art house movie – it has entertainment and is directed by an African director, with the same level/standard of an international film. The reception has been great.

Belinda: Why the name Viva Riva!? 

Djo: (Laughs) the salsa bit is very important in Congo and the term Viva, Viva La Monica, which is a popular band in theCongo and it’s a reference to Salsa. So I picked the name Viva because it is a way of praising the sense of freedom.

Belinda: I understand you come from a documentary background. I think it is fair to ask how you were able to marry a documentary background, art house and entertainment. Was it very challenging to approach the issues you bring to the fore in the film?
Djo: It was a challenge because for me, when we look at the Congo, we don’t have a cinema, we have a high level of illiteracy in the country and making a film, you want to focus on the issues and elements for the art house and at the same time, you want it to be accessible. That was the reason why I chose the genre of the film. To achieve the art house vision, it was important for it to be close to a documentary. So, it is like a thriller but in a documentary context. So we shot in Kinshasa in the mode of a documentary/style. We went on location and shot the city based on how it was. It was really delicate to balance. It was kind of a film noir vision and at the same time, an approach/take on reality.

Belinda: Viva Riva! has been described as “a tough, sturdy thriller, centred around a small-time hustler called Riva (Patsha Bay), who shows up in the fuel-starved big city with a truck of petrol he’s liberated from his Angolan gangster employers” why did you want to use the metaphor of fuel/petroleum, the lack of it and huge hunger that people have for it as the basis of your film?
Djo: Wow! That’s a question no one has ever asked me. (Laughter) I mean, there was a shortage of gas in Kinshasa in 2001, and there was also one in Zimbabwe. When there is a shortage of gas, everybody is affected because they feel trapped and when you have fuel, you can go anywhere.  So, you are kind of like in a prison in your own country. And certainly, Gas is so important that I would compare it to drug addicts. If they don’t have it, suddenly, that hunger you are talking about becomes some sort of a crisis. This is also the way to link all the stories together because everybody is kind of in the same problem. When you talk about a city and when a city is functional…not having gas can show how dysfunctional the city can be and on a bigger scale, it will show you how people can get greedy and fight for the same thing. (Hunger in society for gas could also be a hunger for change)
Belinda: It has also been described as a “gory, fast-paced gangster movie that gives a unique insight into Kinshasa’s ruthless criminal underworld.” We know about war and the reign of terror dished out by rebels on innocent civilians but we often don’t hear the narrative of violence within the scope of ongoing day-to-day life in Kinshasa. What was it about the violence and pain that we as human beings inflict on each other that you wanted to examine?

Djo: In addition to the gas story, I wanted to explore the effects of capitalism and the violence that happens in Kinshasa and in the Congo. It is a violence which is directly driven by a greed for minerals. In the civil war, for example, like the uprising that you have seen in the Arab world, it is about internal and external forces fighting against the west. In that sense, what I wanted to say about Kinshasa in the story – my tone and intention was ultimately to say Congo has a negative image. It is time to make something different and tell a different story. I want to talk about reality. So what I did was to go to the people’s level and talk about them. People have a life in Congo, every aspect of life and the life goes on and they manage to survive. But also, the violence is a way to depict… I mean…if people think capitalism is good, go to Congo, go and see the effect.
Belinda: What authenticity were you aiming to bring to the screen about ordinary life on the streets of Kinshasa?
Djo: I wanted to emphasise how people manage top cope with everything.  The film also has humour and you can see that people have desires and go about on a day to day basis and deal with all of that.

Belinda: Now you also have one scene where an Angolan is looking down on a Congolese.  Now this is one topic we as Africans are uncomfortable talking about. We will gladly talk about western colonisers but we don’t talk about the fact that we also look down on each other. Why did you want to address that issue?

Djo: Well, because we don’t talk about it and we don’t talk about ourselves and to be honest, it is very important to raise these issues. In my country where I see the UN mission, which also has many Africans, the attitude there and hierarchy is also questioning what it means to be a Pan-Africanist and be African. There is a racist attitude that we see elsewhere with white people and it is worse because they are Africans and I think all that is part of underdevelopment. The racism that we have among ourselves, the lack of empathy that we have among ourselves and the lack of everything. It is also a question of society. The film is not just about entertainment. It is also a mirror on what the society is.

Belinda: Is it too early to say that with the work you are now doing on the ground that a cultural renaissance is on the horizon?

Djo: Oh that’s too early because it is currently on the individual level and to talk about a renaissance you need to have different elements that are coming together and people coming together and pushing it… but I would love to have a renaissance but let’s see realistically if that will happen.

Belinda: When it comes to breaking barriers, especially on the issue of filming sex and sexuality in African cinema, how far did you want to push that boundary and why did you want to go there with one or two of the sex films in Viva Riva!?
Djo: I wanted to push as far as possible and what you see in the film, we are not making a porn film. Look at most African films, there is a night life and sex is part of the life of people…we have doctored ourselves for so long, it was important to me that we push and see…for example, we know that in Kinshasa, the problem of prostitution is quite huge and we have a city that is sexy in the sense that all the relationships between men and women and their sexuality is kind of rich.  So, it was okay to say we must have this in the film but the point is not around that. It was not a point about being naïve but about looking at Africa and saying this is now and today. And it is also a genre film and together, it worked well.
Belinda: I understand you trained everyone involved in the film. Was this because there were no trained actors and crew members and what does this say about the current state of the Congolese film industry? Or was it a case whereby you wanted an organic end product?
Djo: We have no film school or institutions, nothing. We have people who have talent but that talent is not enough. We needed to teach people how to use that talent for the camera and then it became an organic work. We had to train the actors, the technicians and that’s the way things were across the film, Viva Riva!

Belinda: You show us a busy and bustling night life despite the fact that the news media would have us believe, people are locked away in their homes as a result of fear, the raping and looting we hear so much about in the news. What do you hope your film adds to the narratives of DRC and Africa as it is today?

Djo: Well, when people ask and many people write to me and say we are really proud that you have made that film. It is also the fact that people question Nollywood and you have a lot of journalists saying this is what Nollywood should do. I think it is a sign that I brought something new. Maybe like a new direction and the fact that the film is a success and has opened in these different and many countries, US, UK, Australia and South Africa. It is also a sign that first, as an African director, we have something to say to the world and the world is ready to listen to it and Africans are also ready to listen to it. And people enjoy the film. And in terms of identity, we are building our confidence.

Belinda: Let’s talk about Africa’s famous film industry, Nollywood, why do you think it has been so successful and what do you think, it will take to show African cinema beyond Nollywood because there are other film industries  taking shape, from Ghana to Liberia?
Djo: Nollywood has been successful in terms of its ability to respond to the need of African audiences to have their own imagery on screen. That was I believe, the moment when people dreamt of Africans in the scripts even if the stories were not good, at least it was some kind of their imagery, which if you compare to certain cinema, certain art house cinema for example, they are well directed but people just don’t follow.  African cinema just didn’t have that then, it was like they failed to represent the people and so Nollywood was an answer, in order to fill a void. At the same time, Nollywood is a reduced form of quality and in that sense that didn’t work and that’s why I think Viva Riva! did so well and to so many people, it was an answer in terms of telling an African story. It is telling a story with modern entertainment, quality and imagery. I think the film was answering to that.
Belinda: The film has created a new narrative about Kinshasa. are you now under pressure for your next film to deliver?
Djo: (Laughs) no, I feel more confident in terms of wanting to push further and I am more eager to do better and put more elements. But first I feel more pressure to raise the money and to be able to make the film. It is not because there is an interest that you do it. All the elements have to come together. I feel pressured to have all the elements together.
Belinda: Will the lack of funding will be an issue for your filmmakers who will see what you have done and want to emulate you?
Djo: Of course, it is terrible that African filmmakers have to go to western countries to find money. And that is a problem and a really big problem. And I hope that at some appoint, the government of the different African countries will be able to change the attitude to funding?

Belinda: Are you working on anything at present and when should we expect another film from you?
Djo: I am working on a Chinese/Congolese story, a gangster movie also set in Kinshasa and. It is also a look at what is Africa today?

Judy Kibinge: African Filmmakers Don’t Have to Be Followers, We Can Be Leaders!

Judy Kibinge is an award-winning Kenya writer and filmmaker. With a background in advertising, Kibinge is the founder of Seven, a production outfit based in Nairobi. Her films include The Aftermath and Dangerous Affair, which has been described as ‘one of the most important films in Kenya’s film history’. She has also produced a number of documentaries, including A Voice In The Dark and Bless This Land. In our interview, Kibinge tells me why she thinks African filmmakers need to be leaders and not followers.

Belinda: How would you describe the current state of African cinema?

Judy Kibinge: Like many African filmmakers, I make both documentary and narrative films, and whilst initially better known for my narrative work, thanks to films like Dangerous Affair in 2002, which really redefined for aspiring Kenyan filmmakers the kinds of stories, we were “free” to tell. I have been recognised a lot in the last four or five years for films like Peace Wanted Alive, Coming of Age and Headlines in History, which are all documentary films. I find it difficult to generally talk about African Cinema because conditions are different in different countries. What’s happening in Nigeria isn’t what’s happening in South Africa, Egyptian Cinema is worlds away from Kenyan cinema, and to try and summarise it like that is to really simplify a fairly complex market. In Nigeria, I think what is beginning to happen may be the model for the future: Nollywood began as a frenzy of low budget videos, created by businessmen more than filmmakers, and now I feel that a very competitive market has begun to demand better quality and you see very well crafted and shot films beginning to emerge like Kunle Afolayan’s The Figurine. Producers are beginning to really understand the need to do better.  The old Francophone begging bowl model is unsustainable even though the films that come from that region are beautiful, and artistic, whose eye and whose tastes do they pander from?  Who’s paying for those “high art” Francophone films?  Who’s watching them?  I think that filmmakers are beginning to really think about the stories they want to tell, how they are going to sustainably finance their creation, and so on. I’d therefore beware of a forced generalisation but would say and see this stage of African as a period of TRUE AWAKENING. Or maybe I’m just trying to sound romantic.

Belinda: And how you describe the current state of the film industry in Kenya?

Judy Kibinge: It’s very exciting.  There are different kinds of filmmakers and different kinds of films are being made, which is great. I’ve begun to see a lot more people experimenting with shorts, more documentaries and more features.  Ten years ago, we were lucky if one feature got made every four or five year.  Now, there are a few each year, of varying production values. Riverwood, which is Kenyans answer to Nollywood is very vibrant and like Nollywood driven by the businessmen.  They have pretty much cracked the distribution system for vernacular films in particular. They understand their market and have come up with methods to tackle piracy and somehow have their audiences understanding that they need to buy originals – and originals are available. These films are made for lower budgets and successful ones like The Race have had real and constant returns. On the other hand, there are the bigger budget films that the press writes about, films that do the festival rounds – From a Whisper by Wanuri Kahiu, Soul Boy by Hawa Essuman, Togetherness Supreme by Nathan Collette, Ndoto za Elbidi by Nick & Kamau wa Ndungu.  These films aspire to be shown on the big screen, are shot more cinematically, have high production values, but the filmmakers really don’t understand their markets or have a distribution systems they can plug into.  I include myself in that bracket of filmmakers.

Belinda: Is the international film market/industry now more open to narratives from the continent by Africans and on their terms?

Judy Kibinge: I think the international film market is always interested in new narratives be they from Africa, Asia, India, Korea, and Eastern Europe or wherever. I don’t think Africa is a special case. It’s the African filmmaker who has to start producing these films consistently so that we hit a critical mass of films that get our own local audiences used to buying and supporting and looking forward to our films.  We can’t build an industry by solely focusing on satisfying an international itch, as gratifying as receiving global recognition and accolades is. I felt Viva Riva was and is a great film in that it has made the west sit up and will probably allow the filmmaker greater ease in accessing his next funding, and its also woken up international interest in African film. But can Viva Riva make back its money in its own region or continent?  That is the question that really matters.  A great case in point is the Oscar Winning film Tsotsi that reputedly did not achieve high ticket sales in South Africa, whereas Ralph Zimman’s Jerusalema, which didn’t get an Oscar managed to cover the cost of its production within its own market.  Kunle Afolyan’s The Figurine made half of its $400,000 budget back within its own market, Nigeria in just a few weeks.  When such film go onto DVD, the filmmaker can realistically look forward to asking a few million dollars back, because Nigerians love their own movies AND have a huge population and in the diaspora that will buy the film.

Belinda: Funding and distribution are still two very challenging areas for African filmmakers, why and how can this be corrected?

Judy Kibinge: Riverwood handling it very well, but larger budget films struggle, caught between the dream of cinema audiences and dwindling audiences, and the price competition when they go straight to DVD. Funding, South Africa has shown us all how a strong film commission is vital to the health of a strong film industry.  Their mandate includes funding and training and South African filmmakers have multiple opportunities open to them thanks to a commission and industry that has lobbied government and I believe also private sector banks to look at films as investments with possibilities of huge returns.  When you watch award winning independent features and shorts from Europe, America and Canada you are immediately aware of how many funds are available to filmmakers in their own countries, even those countries with vibrant industries.  So government without a doubt has a role to play and will do that more once they realise what a huge economic opportunity a vibrant film sector is for the country and exchequer too.  When we DO receive film funds they aren’t exclusive to our own countries, we are competing with the world for them.  For instance, we applied to and didn’t get funding from last year’s Jan Vrieman documentary fund, with what we felt was an incredibly strong treatment, one which recently won the East African ZIFF documentary pitch.  But when they wrote back explaining that only six percent of all applications manage to get selected, you realise that it might not be your skills as a filmmaker, but the opportunities for funding available to you. But let’s also examine ourselves and what WE can do. We too, as filmmakers have a role to play by joining and supporting our film associations and thus having strong bodies with which to advocate for the kinds of support we need.  Our governments here in Africa are changing from the sleepy bearcats to occasionally open-minded ones.  We need to take advantage too of the huge IT leaps being made in Africa and draw confidence from these huge leaps and realise we don’t have to always be followers, we can be leaders too. Maybe the answer to distribution will come from mobile phone content providers.  After all, this continent uses its phones in the most innovative ways on the planet – Kenya invented the first mobile phone banking system, for instance, and that model is now being exported to the Western world.  We just need and therefore use technology differently.  So lets be open minded – the solutions are somewhere out there.

Belinda: How has setting up your own film company helped you to establish yourself as a filmmaker within Kenya and gain international recognition for your work?

Judy Kibinge: I freelanced for six years and have run a film company for five. The first five years were spent in a complete daze, totally traumatised by new terms like audited accounts and balance sheets and company secretary and all the things that you don’t have to deal with either as an employee or a freelancer. After the fourth year, you emerge, dazed, feel your hands, face, body to make sure your limbs have not been wrenched off you in the spiral through the 1000 days it takes to determine whether a business will sink or swim. I kid you not:  it’s hard to be a filmmaker AND run your own production company; there are bills, rent, salaries and expenses.  But on the other hand you are able to begin to build a credible brand and also begin to own your own work, shape your own projects and products.  I think you can do this as a freelancer too, but having an office allows you to be able to bring in some of the corporate jobs that keep you going when you are not working on a creative film – which sadly, is most of the time.  I am not sure if having a film company enables dreams or erects obstacles in front of them.  The jury is out on that one!  I think to be truly successful, my company would need to be home to a larger, but still select group of producer’s directors and editors who call it home and within it find a space to innovate and grow in, and also contribute to company overheads. Having a film company hasn’t helped, aided or prevented international recognition, but it’s been a place to get up and go to dream and plan and work from everyday and that can’t be a bad thing.  I think sometimes, freelance filmmakers can waste a lot of time dreaming because there’s no fear of survival keeping them going. When you have a company, you have to justify your existence and so you keep producing so not a year goes by, ever, without having something to show for that year. You also feel a sense of pride that the thing you are building is something slightly larger than yourself. But I think you can achieve just as much far more even, without a company.  In the end it all boils down to the films you make.

Belinda: What more can African filmmakers do to up their game?

Judy Kibinge: We as African filmmakers aren’t exposed to enough wonderful global independent films.  They are hard to see or find.  I have been very fortunate in last two years to have had some opportunity for the first time in my filmmaking career to see really see great art house films, and this will influence my next films I am certain. Sometimes there’s snobbery amongst African filmmakers who feel “we must find our own voice, we don’t have to watch other people’s thing”.  I think that’s bollocks.  Some of the best read people in the world are writers and novelists, and as African filmmakers, maybe we need to form small friendly film clubs and exchange the few DVDs we have amongst us so we begin to enjoy talking to each other about films and global film trends, so we become part of a larger brotherhood and sisterhood of filmmakers. We need to read more too.  I think that reading informs so many things – films, structure and so on. We also need to be more aware of the world around us, the uniqueness of our stories.  I have been watching Eastern European films lately and for instance watched a short Polish film about Killing.  The landscape and the characters, I was totally glued.  No wonder it won so many awards.  But in our own backyards we have stories and backdrops and characters that would enthral not only our home-grown audiences, but the world. We need to have confidence in or surroundings to up our game.

Culled from 3 Oguntona Crescent, Gbagada Phase 1, Lagos Nigeria. P.O. Box 36 Surulere. T: +234 803 425 1963, +234 802 201 6495, +234 803 403 0646 E:

ICS Hosts 2012 Africa World Documentary Film Festival

The Institute of Cultural Studies, Obafemi Awolowo University is hosting
this year’s “Africa World Documentary Festival” from 2nd to the 5th May,

The event will be formally declared open by the Vice Chancellor,
Prof. Bamitale Omole at 11:00 a. m on Wednesday 2nd of May  at the Pit

Thereafter, the screening of  films continue at the Pit Theatreand Seminar Room of the Institute of Cultural Studies each day.
In all, about 30 Documentary Films on different aspects of African life,
ancient and contemporary, have been listed for exhibition.  The Festival
is being organized in collaboration with the Centre for International
Studies, University of Missouri, Saint Louis, U.S.A.  

 Apart from its  recreational and educational benefits to staff and students, it will
afford scholars and film makers in Nigeria an opportunity to reflect on
different issues of African existence and essence, being raised in the
films, ranging from politics to religion, environment, gender, arts,
culture and so on.
The Institute is, therefore, soliciting for the participation of all and
sundry in this innovative programme.

Gbemisola Adeoti (Ph.D)
Ag. Director
Institute of Cultural Studies
Obafemi Awolowo University
Ile Ife. 3 Oguntona Crescent, Gbagada Phase 1, Lagos Nigeria. P.O. Box 36 Surulere. T: +234 803 425 1963, +234 802 201 6495, +234 803 403 0646 E:

Friday, April 27, 2012

IRONEATERS screens tomorrow at old Film unit, Lagos; 3pm. FREE Entry

We cordially invite you to the Film-Club Screening of 'IRONEATERS', directed by Shaheen Dill-Riaz, 2009, Germany. Duration: 85 min (OV with English subtitles)

 DATE: Saturday, April 28, 2012,

 TIME: 3 pm

 VENUE: Nigerian Film Corporation Lagos Branch, Old Film Unit, opp. Ikoyi Cemetery, Ikoyi, Lagos

 Free entrance!

 It is the continuation of the Monthly Screening collaboration between the iREP Documentary Film Forum and Goethe Institut, Lagos.

 About the Film:
 Every year, the ebb and flow of the Ganges floodplain leaves farmers in northern Bangladesh in need of employment to help them survive the yearly droughts. Many of them travel hundreds of miles south to the shores of Chittagong to labor in one of Bangladesh's most prosperous industries, dismantling colossal ships and tankers — the discards of the developed world — for scrap iron. Director Shaheen Dill-Riaz's documentary confronts us with an elaborate system of exploitation and dependence. Especially the ones that do the most dangerous and hardest work, got into a hopeless debt trap, that only few can escape.

 We hope to see you there! 
 Kind regards,  

Kim Docter 
Intern Programme Department
Goethe-Institut NigeriaGerman Cultural Centre Lagos
City Hall, Catholic Mission Street opposite Holy Cross Cathedral
Lagos IslandLagos
+234 (0)1 7746888Mobile: +234(0)8026618287 

Lanre OluponaIREP13, Oguntona Street, Gbagada Phase 11, Lagos
08051702004 (sms only) 3 Oguntona Crescent, Gbagada Phase 1, Lagos Nigeria. P.O. Box 36 Surulere. T: +234 803 425 1963, +234 802 201 6495, +234 803 403 0646 E:

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Unveiling IREP 2012: Short reviews of all the films and activities

The 2012 edition of the annual iREPRESENT International Documentary Film Festival ended its four-day run in Lagos last Sunday. It had 18 international visitors and over 300 local participants every day of its proceedings. One of the remarkable fruits from the festival was the birth of The iREP Report (TiR), an initiative of the journalist, DERIN AJAO and a few of her colleagues including Amarachukwu Iwuala and Titi Olurin with the support of the Goethe Institut. From the second day of the festival, Friday, March 23, the TiR issued a daily review of films shown the previous night. And this contributed to the high intellectual content as well as quality of discourse at the festival. Some of the reviews published by two editions of the Report are hereby excerpted.
THE  keynote address at this year’s IREP international film festival was delivered by Prof. Jean-Paul Colleyn. In his paper, captioned, ‘African Cinemas and the Frontiers of Documentary,’  the anthropologist, filmmaker remarked that there is a fictional dimension to documentary films because for every documentary there are thousands of choices open to the filmmaker. Conversely, he noted that there is a documentary content in fictional films because there is a limit to a filmmaker’s imagination since such  stems from socio-cultural experiences.
Colleyn stated that documentary is a personal treatment of reality and that Nollywood films are not as naïve as many people think they are. This is obvious in Nollywood’s reference to the negative influences of wealth and power on society’s otherwise humane individuals. He rounded off by asserting that fictional films are not opposed to truth.
Acclaimed filmmaker Tunde Kelani, who was one of the panelists that discussed Prof. Colleyn’s paper, believes that Nollywood has the capacity to engage documentary in the development of the industry. Sandra Obiago, another panellist, called for more resources and interest in the production of documentaries, observing that the format provide basis for the younger generation to embark on research on subjects of interest. Director, Producer Teco Benson agreed with Prof. Colleyn that many fictional films are embellished documentaries.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Executive Director of iREP, Femi Odugbemi, emphasised the capability of the documentary film to deepen socio-political experiences. Following the address, four individuals were inducted into the iREP Hall of Fame in recognition of their contributions to the development of documentaries in Nigeria. They include Sandra Mbanefo-Obiago, founding Executive Director of Communicating for Change, whose organisation has produced great documentaries and Cyril Okonkwo, who retired from the Nigerian Television Authority a few years ago after producing critically-acclaimed documentaries. Also honoured were Amb.r Mamman Yusuf, who produced news documentaries that define some of our political landmarks and Francis Olatunji Oladele of Calpeny Films, who is a legendary filmmaker and director of ‘Kongi’s Harvest’ and ‘Things Fall Apart.’
— Amarachukwu Iwuala

A Different African Election
 Directed  and Produced by Jareth and Kevin Merz, An African Election trails the events leading up to the Ghanaian Presidential Election of 2008. John Atta Mills and Nana Akufa-Addo represent the leftist National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the conservative New Patriotic Party (NPP), both men are the top contenders in the race leaving in their trail a number of cameo candidates whose following only matters when the elections land in an inconclusive knot.
The documentary, which opened the list of films screening at iREP 2012, profiles the two leading contestants and all the tactics applied in ensuring the 50 per cent plus one vote necessary to claim victory at the polls.
The title of the documentary hardly needs explaining. Elections in many African countries are plagued by rigging and outright ballot box theft. The Ghanaians however were aiming for an exemplary election that would change the face of what is perceived to be ‘an African election.’
Like some other documentaries screening at the festival, Merz as well employs no voice-over but incorporates short typed messages and commentary from journalists, activists and artists in the documentary’s unfolding.
A brief history of Ghana pre- and post- independence also give a defining background to the documentary, a point echoed by one of the commentators that governance in Ghana is built largely on the country’s history.
As the Ghanaians prepare for the polls, the sense of anger was high plus a general outcry for change, making the election of John Kuffour’s replacement a heated assignment.
The Electoral Chair Kwadwo Afari-Gyan is the documentary’s unlikely hero. Former President Jerry Rawlings could have stolen the show, but Afari-Gyan’s role in stemming the erupting political tension saves the day after a gruelling first round of elections that lands in a run-off. When some strange numbers appear after the run-off, it is the electoral chair, who again resolves the impasse.
An interesting angle to the documentary is the focus on two friends, Kwabena Agyepong and Rojo Mettle. Both support different parties and when the numbers appear to have been tampered with, the vociferous Rojo loudly proclaims that, “Kwabena Agyepong walks into the room and funny things start happening.”
In the ensuing altercations protesting the obvious rigging, someone pointedly states that “This is not Nigeria?!”
Indeed it isn’t and as the Ghanaians finally chose a new president in January of 2008, they had set an example of what influence the voter holds in protecting his vote. To borrow the words of Jerry Rawlings on Atta Mills’ campaign trail, “Protect your ballot boxes the way you would protect and defend your mother!”
If there is no other lesson to be learnt from An African Election, this surely is one.
 —  Aderinsola Ajao

 Meeting Freedom Park
Watching a documentary about Freedom Park in Freedom Park never really seemed a possibility. But with the former colonial prison yard coming full circle to being an event hotspot, this idea no longer seemed out of the ordinary and it came to pass on the opening day of iREP 2012.
At the screening of Femi Odugbemi’s ‘And the Chain Was Not… ’ it was time to appreciate the splendour and the history of what is now Freedom Park. The documentary about the building was not just voice-over and talking heads. An enthralling spoken word performance by Crown Troupe’s Segun Adefila gave life to the struggle of the many former prisoners in what was known as Her Majesty’s Prison.
Swaying and gyrating to the indigenous sounds of the shekere, the omele, the bata and the gangan, as dictated by words from poems by Adefila himself and Oyindamola Olofinlua, the overall production is a wonder to see.   Especially considering it is beyond the story of a transformation from captivity to liberation, but another of the struggle itself and how the bonds are broken for true freedom to be achieved.
According to the film, the prison was initially constructed in 1872 to hold 20 inmates. Made with the best quality building materials imported from Britain, the budget for the prison apparently cost more than the colonial government’s budget for education. While the prison stood, it counted on its inmate list, the likes of Obafemi Awolowo, Herbert Macaulay, labour leader Michael Imoudu and Esther Johnson, who was accused of murdering her lover. The prison even gets worthy mention in Awolowo’s memoirs.
Freedom Park was until some decades ago, one of the least popular historical sites in Lagos. The idea for renovating the former prison ground for recreational purposes was conceived by Theo Lawson, an architect. Now in its newfound glory, the former prison is home to all, but a home most especially for cultural purposes.
In Lawson’s words, the former prison kitchen is now the food court; its execution stand is now a stage for unfettered expression and the former cells themselves are represented across the Park in the flower beds and the pagoda cells. Most interesting however, is the Prison Museum which holds artefacts excavated from the former prison.
And the Chain Was Not is a story of survival and a historical record, however subtle of an aspect of colonialism in Nigeria, particularly the prison system and its subjugation of the rights of local ‘troublemakers.’ That the chains are broken at the end of the documentary and that Freedom Park itself stands today, is testament to what strong will can achieve despite dominating oppression. This is what the director achieves in sharing this story now and for posterity’s sake.
— Aderinsola Ajao

Everybody Gets An Education
Branwen Okpako’s biographic portrait of a friend and fellow filmmaker is the story of another Obama doing great things. The film was the star screening on Day 1 of the 2012 IREP International Documentary Film Festival.
The Education of Auma Obama, is the story of a half-sister to the current President of the United States of America. The story is by itself an intriguing one and Auma is revealed as an intelligent student, mother, youth mentor and social activist. Even before it became fashionable to speak out against foreign aid, the documentary shows her as a strong voice opposing the West over-aiding Africa.
Auma’s story is by extension the story of President Barack Obama. The father they both share comes across as a strong influence on his children, and is himself immortalised in the strides of these two children borne to him by different women.
The film is shot in the run-up to the 2008 US Presidential Elections when much attention is on the trailblazing American Barack Obama and his heritage. One unmissable influence in President Obama’s life becomes obvious: his father. It is the same with Auma. Though she reveals that her parents are not necessarily the best any child can hope for, there is no missing her father’s impact on her life. Her father, a Kenyan public servant was himself the son of a cook, who worked with a family of British settlers. But the older Obama made sure his son received an education that would set him above his peers. Barack soon got a scholarship to study in Harvard; a reward of the cook’s hopes for his son.
In Auma’s family though, the scholarship might not have been a good thing in itself. Barack does not return home alone after completing his study. He comes back with Ruth, an American woman whom he gives the task of looking after his children. Kezia, Auma’s mother is promptly given her marching orders. This is a turning point for the once-outgoing Auma as she dives into her shell and stays there till she herself leaves Kenya to study in Germany.
In portraying the making of Auma Obama, Okpako — herself a female filmmaker — employs many female narrators; perhaps also in a nod to women as oral conveyors of family history. Auma’s female relatives and friends all play prominent roles in analysing and retelling their experiences with Auma.
It is impossible to separate the people in Auma’s life from the making of Auma herself. Okpako draws on excerpts from interviews with former teachers and colleagues as well and as we follow the characters through the 90 minutes, the audience itself receives an education based on Auma’s education.
Okpako’s approach to the story is hardly conventional. She gives the meanings of the names of the different dramatis personae. She employs no voice-over in the narration, leaving the audience to unravel the story and navigate it by itself.
The interesting angle with the names hits home hardest when we find out that Auma’s birth name is actually Rita, which means Pearl. Her mother’s name Kesia means ‘sweet-smelling scent’, highly ironic considering her husband finds her repulsive when he returns with his new wife Ruth, whose name is translated as ‘friend’. The name Barack itself means ‘Blessing’ and Hussein is translated as ‘Handsome Man.’
The Education of Auma Obama is a well-researched effort that should not be watched in a hurry.  What Okpako achieves with it is not another Obama Campaign flick but a story of true grit overcoming the biggest challenges and how our ancestry plays a role in who we are and who we might become.
— Aderinsola Ajao

After Occupy Nigeria, What Next?
Cultural activist, Ben Tomoloju chaired the panel that discussed Democracy, Development and Demonstrations on Day 2 of the IREP Festival. The panellists were filmmakers Charles Novia, Mahmood Ali-Balogun, Musa Abdulahi Sufi, Branwen Okpako and Amb. Mamman Yusuf.
Amb. Yusuf corrected the impression that the pro-fuel subsidy protests roundly tagged ‘Occupy Nigeria’ were the first major protests in the country as was being bandied about during the weeks of te mass actions in January.  He reminded the audience of the June 12 crisis, which he noted was one conflict that threatened the continued existence of Nigeria in a magnitude that is only surpassed by the 1967-70 Civil War. He said it was regretful that because the civil society organisations involved in Occupy Nigeria were an incoherent group, the Federal Government used Labour to hijack the protests.
Abdullahi Sufi was glad that Nigerians set aside their religious and ethnic differences to come together and oppose an unacceptable policy by the government. He recalled how Christians gathered to protect Muslims and vice versa  (as they prayed)  — from attack during the protests  Sufi called for public education to achieve greater success in case such a situation arises in future.
Novia explained that social media were a source of worry to the ruling class during the protests, saying that government will be careful in its future dealings with the populace. He rounded off by describing the current national situation as the calm before the storm.
Ali-Balogun was of the opinion that the fact that the protests were not broadcast on international media was a major setback to the struggle. He blamed those who control international media, who also have vested interests in Nigeria, as being responsible for this seeming blackout. He also expressed dismay over the tribalism, nepotism and other primordial sentiments that hampered the protests.
He reiterated Amb. Yusuf’s opinion, while recalling the late Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Moremi and the Aba Women’s riots as ground-shaking symbols of activism that should never be forgotten.
Okpako was displeased that in Germany, for instance, people were more aware of the Boko Haram terrorists than the protests that were ongoing at the time. She advised the audience and by extension, Nigerians to identify what they want to make topical at any point in time.
The session ended with Tomoloju calling for the documentation of information for posterity’s sake, hence the necessity of documentaries.
— Amarachukwu Iwuala

 Building The Nation
In line with the festival’s theme of Africa in Self Conversation: Democracy and Culture, the 2nd IREP festival screened Headlines in History, a documentary about the first 50 years of the Nation Media Group, publishers of East Africa’s most widely-read publication, The Daily Nation. The film recalls how the publishing outfit sustained its ethical journalism and managed to expand its operations across the sub-region despite frustration from government forces and occasional public discontent.
Borne out of a need to provide Kenya’s indigenous population with their own voice in the face of overwhelming colonial censorship, the story of The Nation is itself the story of African independence.
The paper made its debut in 1959 thanks to a chance encounter between a preacher and an activist. A community paper Taifa Leo was acquired and became the Daily Nation. As the years went by, the Daily Nation proved that it was here to stay.
The documentary shows how the newspaper placed itself at the top of news coverage by constantly breaking news ahead of everyone else and having exclusive images of events that heavily influenced Kenyan life and government policy. These included the murders of Tom Mboya and J.M Kariuki, the death of Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel Arap Moi’s swearing-in as president and the Saba Saba protests that ended the one-party system.
In the course of doing their work, staff of the paper suffered multiple arrests and numerous attempts by Moi’s government especially, to silence or weaken this voice of the East African majority. Undeterred, the Nation Media Group spread its wings into Uganda and Tanzania acquiring the Daily Monitor and Mwananchi respectively. They also established a broadcast and media division, diversifying into TV and radio. In 1994, the group also began publishing The East African.
The Nation’s biggest task came however in 2007 during Kenya’s post-election crisis involving President Mwai Kibaki’s supporters and the opposition. Buoyed by its responsibility to its readers, and conscious of the media’s role in society, the Nation joined its voice to brokering peace.
Ending on this note, Headlines in History, is not just the 50-year anniversary of an important publication but a celebration of the important role the press can play in sustaining effective governance.
Echoing this theme was a panel titled ‘Media and Nation Building.’ The panel comprised president of the Nigerian Guild of Editors Gbenga Adefaye; former Managing Editor at NEXT, Kadaria Ahmed; writer Tolu Ogunlesi; performer, culture activist and ex-Deputy Editor of The Guardian,  Ben Tomoloju and Denrele Niyi, Arts Editor of the National Mirror. Lanre Idowu, publisher of Media Review was the moderator.
Tomoloju described the process of nation building as a partnership between the media and the nationalists. This partnership however broke down when the press wanted to properly carry out its duty.  He stressed the importance for the media to understand its role and to do it well, that if a nation is in crisis, the press itself risks becoming an enemy of the people.
For Ogunlesi, the press’ role is a double-edged sword that apart from nation building, also involves some “pulling down.” This call for high ethical standards was a motif in the discussion. Another constant point was the call for innovative approaches to journalism. Emphasised by Ahmed, she said training, improved wages and embracing new media would aid quality journalism.
Ogunlesi raised the issue of how much of his/her proclivities a journalist can bring to their profession at a time of crisis. Other issues that came up at the panel included whether or not the motivation for newspaper ownership is ego-driven or not. Government policy and regulatory laws were also discussed.
According to Adefaye, in recent times, owning a newspaper was motivated by a desire to claim the public space. Ahmed said the influence of the proprietors is itself sometimes unhelpful in the practice of healthy journalism.
Idowu then asked if the advent of social media plays a possible role in this mission and whether the press was to be feared or respected. For Tomoloju, respect is desirable especially regarding being a voice to the voiceless. Adefaye’s response was that, “We should work towards being respected by our readers and feared by the bad boys in our system.”
As part of the self-examination process, the panelists said it is important for the press itself to work within the boundaries of the law, ensure they had their facts right before going to press and develop an overall professional attitude to their work.
It was also an opportunity to sound out their colleagues in the broadcast media to wake up to their responsibility to the audience and try to catch up with the print arm.
Tomoloju rounded off the discussion with the words, “Practice should be in the best of national interest.”
— Aderinsola Ajao

 Africa’s Tech Map
The ICT revolution looming across Africa is the highlight of Michael Grotenhoff’s Linking Africa. From Uganda to Rwanda and then to Kenya, we see how these countries are evolving from largely commodities-based economies to information technology powerhouses.
Mobile Money, a telephone payment option is the sweeping innovation in Uganda, embraced by many but still shunned by some; the software is gradually paying its way into most small and big businesses in the country. Next was Rwanda. Stuck between Uganda and Congo, the agrarian state is on a mission to transform into the region’s biggest ICT pioneer.
A technical partner is South Korea, a country with a similar experience as Rwanda. According to the documentary, Rwanda seeks to establish itself as a link between Uganda, the financial sector and Congo, the home of raw materials.
As the benefits of technological development take root, the running of a fibre optic cable from Kigali through Africa and into Europe sounds like a huge step for the African country.
The film lands finally in Kenya and we meet the inventors of Ushahidi, the now global software that is a consequence of the country’s post election crisis. The software is now widely used as a reporting tool for news and up-to-date sharing of information across global communities. Also in Kenya, we discover the Makerere University’s Computer Science Faculty is churning out thousands of young ICT experts that are ready-made to dominate the sector.
Linking Africa does not show just the major technological strides in these three countries. It follows a Swiss retiree, who restores old computers for the training of youth in Ugandan suburbs. In the absence of constant electricity, he installs a solar-power system for these computers to function.
TRACnet is a medical software developed by a virologist in an AIDS Hospital in Rwanda. This helps him share his patients’ records with hospitals in neighbouring towns and countries. He is also involved in developing techniques that have helped reduce mother to child transmission of the virus.
There is little doubt that all these are not baby steps. Linking Africa shows that the coming years will see Africa as an important global ICT player. To back this point, the documentary featured a female software developer and lecturer at Kenya’s Makerere University, who got a job in an international ICT firm even before the documentary finished shooting.
With the iHub in Kenya poised to be another bright spot on Africa’s tech map, the link between the continent and the world gets stronger with each passing day. You’ll definitely believe this after watching Linking Africa.
 — Aderinsola Ajao

 ...The iREP Workshops
On the second and third days of the film festival, trainings were organised for up-and-coming documentary filmmakers. The facilitators included: Barbel Mauch, a producer from Germany; Alhaji Gboyega Arulogun, documentary filmmaker and TV manager; Cyril Okonkwo, also a docu-mentary filmmaker; Amb. Mamman Yusuf, filmmaker and diplomat; Thomas Plennart and Femi Odugbemi, who are equally documentary filmmakers. The training programmed were: scriptwri-ting, radio documentary, camera work and production.
— Amarachukwu Iwuala

 Rhythms Of Lagos
I don’t want to jive you here tonight. I want to present myself to you as an African...” Fela’s words begin the documentary, ‘Lagos... Notes of a City’. It is indeed fitting as the documentary parodies the everyday experiences of Africans in one of the most populous cities in Africa, Lagos.
Directed by Jens Wenkel, the documentary captures Lagos in its actual sense with its busy streets, heavy traffic and magnetic energy that obviously attracts people from all tribes. It is no wonder then that it is called, ‘no man’s land’.
The vivid portrayal of popular locations in the city and actual lives of people is a powerful aesthetic feature of the film. Mariam, the hausa mother of two, who lives with HIV and Joshua, the security guard, who is optimistic that he will ‘make it’ in Lagos represent throngs of people, who have migrated to this city.
“…in Lagos, there is life,” Mariam says of the city she has come to love, but she warns, “You have to be smart or a two-year old boy will do away with you. That is why they don’t say ‘welcome’, they say, ‘This is Lagos’.” Her experience in Lagos, she says, has made her bolder than she was in the North where she migrated from. Abimbola Philips agrees that life in Lagos is animated. “There’s a lot of energy that is locked up and people want to explore that energy.” She however finds the animation to be “obnoxiously loud and annoying.”
Of interest to the audience is the constant juxtaposition of ideas. Both the charm and the repul-sion of Lagos are well depicted. There is a parallel between the poor and handicapped on the ever boisterous streets of Lagos and the quick switch to the quiet life of Adebanjo, the rich stock broker. Also worthy of note is the sharp contrast between the African shrine and the church scene shown immediately afterwards. This alludes to the general way of life in Lagos.                                                    
  —  Titilayo Olurin

 Remarkable January 25
Remarkable January 25’, one of the films screened at the iREP Festival, is a raw 40-minute film that documents the Egyptian revolution. As its title suggests, the film captures the January 25, 2011 revolution that erupted in Egypt. That day marked a momentous point in the country’s history as people came out in their thousands to protest President Hosni Mubarak’s 30 year autocratic government. Pertinent to the people’s clamor for a change in government is the fact that Mubarak’s government is seen as something so detestable that it is compared to that of a notorious Romanian dictator. “The rule of Mubarak is like the rule of Ceausceascu in Romania,” someone says. The gripping documentary vividly paints a picture of relentless and passionate protesters, who want a change.
As they throng to the Tahrir Square where they call for the resignation of the president, shouts of “freedom” from “oppression” and “corruption” can be heard. “We want freedom, fraternity and equality,” the passion in this protester’s voice is not hard to decipher. One thing is clear from the passion of the protesters; they are unyielding and are prepared to die for their cause. We hear a woman proudly say, “I am a mother of a martyr.”
This is one fascinating feature of the film that we cannot help but notice as it points to the fact that women also join in the struggle. In fact, on one occasion, we see a woman actually lead a protest march.
The protests, which started out as non violent, soon become volatile as the demonstrators are met with hostility from the gov-ernment and even armed forces. Still, they press forward until Mubarak is ousted from power.
However, with the military replacing Mubarak, the January revolution seems only half successful.
The essence of the film though is not to tell us about the success or failure of the revolution but the tenacity behind it. It can therefore be said that the film has the ability to inspire other revolutions for change. The film succeeds in depicting some of the events leading to the revolution through typed messages on the screen. But it could still have done more by giving detailed ac-counts of the events that stirred up the revo-lution.
— Titilayo Olurin 3 Oguntona Crescent, Gbagada Phase 1, Lagos Nigeria. P.O. Box 36 Surulere. T: +234 803 425 1963, +234 802 201 6495, +234 803 403 0646 E: