Film: Tool for Socio-cultural Integration and Tourism Promotion

by Odimegwu Onwumere

Film, as the word implies, is defined as a thin sheet or strip of flexible
material, such as a cellulose derivative or a thermoplastic resin, coated
with a photosensitive emulsion and used to make photographic negatives or
transparencies. In an online report, rom the Old English filmen in the
Indo-European roots, it is believed among them that one indication of the
gulf between them and their Victorian predecessors is that the “Oxford
English Dictionary” fascicle containing the word “film, “published in 1896,
does not have the sense “a motion picture.” The one hint of the future to
be found among still familiar older senses of the word, such as “a thin
skin or membranous coating” or “an abnormal thin coating on the cornea,” is
the sense of “film” used in photography, a sense referring to a coating of
material, such as gelatin, that could substitute for a photographic
plate or be used on a plate or on photographic paper. Thus a word that has
been with them since Old English times took on this new use, first recorded
in 1845, which has since developed and now refers to an art form, a sense
first recorded in 1920. Thereafter, often used in the plural, movies became
a sequence of photographs projected onto a screen with sufficient rapidity
as to create the illusion of motion and continuity.

However, on the theme of “Film as a Tool for Socio-cultural Integration and
Tourism Promotion, “it is imperative to say that Africans, precisely the
present day people called Nigerians, didn’t know what” film” was till when
in 1903 the first film was shown at Glover Hall, Lagos; and thereafter in
1904, the first “film “titled “Palaver “was shot in Jos, in the present
day Plateau State. Before these events took place, Nigerians were enmeshed
in folklores, according to the myths of their different ethnic
groups before they were amalgamated in 1914, by Sir Lord Luggard. Aftermath
of “Palaver”, film-showing and cinema-going was politicized by the British
and American exploiters. Through their makeshift cinema vehicles, they
inculcated the much sorted socio-cultural integration and tourism
promotion. This polarization of “film-showing” and “film-going” was
sustained through a platform called “Colonial Film Unit”.

In the recent times, Nigerian films have been produced since the 1960s. It
is on record that the rise of affordable digital filming and editing
technologies has stimulated the country’s video film industry. Later in the
1990s, the movie industry in Nigeria tremendously progressed. Today,
Nigeria has the second largest film industry in the world, and rated
largest in the Africa’s movie industry – in terms of the value of the movie
industry and the number of annual film production. In this regard, “film” in
Nigeria has brought dividends of eco-political empowerment, socio-cultural
integration and tourism promotion. Nigeria’s “annual film production” is
ahead of the United States but behind the Indian film industries. This was
why Hala Gorani and Jeff Koinange, who were formerly of the Cable News
Network (CNN) said, Nigeria has a US$250 million movie industry, churning
out some 200 videos for the home video, market monthly.

In his Keynote Address at the 2nd National Film Festival, 27th November,
2003, titled, “In Defence of the Films We Have Made”, Odia Ofeimun, a
radical Nigerian poet/author, said that film does represent a deep
psychological implant pressed into place by so many untold and even
unspeakable events in our history. It looks like an underdeveloped prong of
the collective mind of a whole nation. But it is actually the result of a
deliberate scrambling of categories and genre for the sake of effect in a
society where the truth of history is still being told unnecessarily in
whispers. Arguably, in western scholarship, such a fare of screen
narratives would be appreciated as a special category. In literature,
critics of African literature have moved from talking about magical
realism, as Latin Americans pursue it, to what our South African-based
critic, Harry Garuba, has called “animist realism”.

In the said 1960s, the Nigerian films were dominated by the people from
Yoruba ethnic group, thereby giving the people of that region an edge to
showcase their culture. And they were manned by Hubert Ogunde, Duro Ladipo,
Kola Ogunmola, Moses Olaiya (Baba Sala), Ola Balogun and others, whom
Ofeimun, described as, “tough-minded denizens of folk drama. “These
indigenous Nigerian film pioneers were frustrated by high cost of film
production, but they were never discouraged owing to the cultural ties and
tourism they were integrating Nigerians through their films. It was as a
result of the unrelenting spirit of these film-dudes that television
broadcasting in Nigeria, which began in 1960s, received much government
support in its early years; and every state had its own broadcasting
station by the mid-1980s. It was the efforts of these Nigerian film-dudes
that the government law moderated foreign television content to enable the
Nigerian film producers showcase their products. As a result, producers in
Lagos began televising local popular theater productions, which are not far
from the films of the persons mentioned above for Nigeria’s socio-cultural
integration and tourism promotion. Many of that were circulated on video as
well, and a small scale informal video movie trade developed.

In promoting our culture, it is a known truth, said Ofeimun, that rather
than wait on the imports from Hollywood which speak to our common humanity
by denying or simply being indifferent to whatever we could call our own,
the home-video woke up something that was once there but had been stamped
underfoot by managers of the national and sub-regional cultural economy.
Not to forget, this was happening when swindlers in the political
marketplace were emplacing homegrown democracy with one hand and displacing
it with the other. The video arrived in the most homegrown attire that it
could weave for itself in a country where the search for foreign exchange
had become the defining factor in national dream-making. It turned its back
on the dollar trail and reached out for the Naira without hesitation.

Rather than the dollar-mania that had overtaken all comers, it sought an
import-substitution aesthetic which insisted on building a comparative
advantage not as a subaltern of the imported Hollywood stuff but its avid
displacer. Whereas in every other area of economic activity, imports have
killed the local industry, the home-video industry is one area in which the
avalanches of CDs and DVDs that have come as bounties from off-shore
bootlegging confederations have merely widened the room for the video
marketers to dance.

The emergence of film in Nigeria has integrated Nigerian authors to
lengthen the showcasing of their arts through films, as a result, widening
the scope of that genre’s culture which was previously read by those who

Film is widening the cultural relationship and tourism promotion between
Nigeria and other countries since the staging of the first National Film
Festival in 1993. The festival broke the disparity in the West African
coast, relationship with the member states, which were only glued by the
awkward smuggling of goods. Film breached the debasement the international
creditors meted out on us, in the words of Ofeimun, as those who lapped up
what others produced while abandoning their own. Film in Nigeria broke the
pariah on cross border trade which was centred on feeding the stomach and
brought about the exploration and exploitation of indigenous artistic
talents. This broken jinx ended the years of centralised knowledge or
awareness: those who could not read books can now watch films, thereby
making the culture of Nigerians go round, as against the years when it was
few Nigerians that could tell which highlife musicians, authors, or fine
artists were doing what within the West coast.

Many academics and intellectuals, especially Onokome Okome, Jonathan
Haynes, Hyginus Ekwuazi, Wole Ogundele, Obodinma Oha, Brian Larkin and Dul
Johnson, made it their business to monitor and censor film, which’s seen by
them as art, business and social ideology – with elements of culture and
tourism in any defined society. It is only film that can tell story in a
way that no other medium can do. Film has integrated the Onitsha Market
Literature and widened the culture of only buying and selling, for the
inculcation of socio-culture awareness. Likewise, the same is applicable in
the Kano Market Literature.

His film, “Amadi”, Ola Balogun had to show the cultural affinity that a
people can relate with people from other ethnic group by producing a movie
in such a people’s language. It is on record that “Amadi” is clearly an
experimental film: an Igbo film made by a Yoruba. Films such as
Cinaventures’ “Bisi – Daughter of the River”, Ladi Ladebo’s pairing
with African American Ossie Davis and in “Countdown at Kusini” and his
later productions, “Taboo” and “Vendor””, “lack in the true and original
tale of communality of Africans, thereby making us to grasp the visual
results and not in authenticating its Africanness and our culture. Films
like “Dinner with the Devil” by Sanya Dosunmu and Wole Amele and Eddie
Ugbomah production, and “The Great Attempt” which were banned by the film
censors, perhaps met their waterloos, because they breached the culture of

Hubert Ogunde’s film, “Aiye”, was termed the modal film of witchcraft,
showcasing the Yoruba tradition and their cosmic cultural endowment, which
Ofeimun calls, “cultural economics”. Amaka Igwe, Olu Jacobs and Joke Silva,
Zack Orji, Tunde Kelani, Galadima, Liz Benson, Kenneth Nnebue, Peter
Edochie, Sam Loco Efe, Zeb and Chico Ejiro, Mofe Damijo, Yinka
Quadri, Genevieve Nnaji, Jide Kosoko, Omotola Ekehinde, Zack and Fred
Amata, became directors, producers, actors and actresses coming from
different cultural divides. In the words of Ofeimun, they are new denizens
on the block. Their emergence brought about the Nollywood, as it is known
today, widening our culture and promoting tourism.

Nollywood was set by the release of “Living in Bondage” critics called “the”
“box-office movie” in 1992 by NEK Video Links owned by Kenneth Nnebue in
the eastern city of Onitsha. The Promotion of tourism in the story goes
that Kenneth Nnebue had an excess number of imported video cassettes which
he then used to shoot the first film. The huge success of that film set the
pace for others to produce other films or home videos. It is a known fact
that through the business instincts and ethnic links of the Igbo and their
dominance of distribution in major cities across Nigeria, home videos began
to reach people across the country. Nollywood exploded into a booming
industry that pushed foreign media off the shelves. Against the early
Yoruba filmmakers who used local languages, the use of English rather than
local languages served to expand the market and fierce marketing using
posters, trailers, and television advertising also played a role in
Nollywood’s success, bringing back the British and Americans “Colonial Film
Unit”, when films were shown in mobile vans.

However, in Europe, in its “Cross Border
Cooperation: Neighbourhood Programmes under “Technical Aid to the
Commonwealth of Independent States (TACIS) programme, the European
Union launched its “Wider Europe – New Neighbourhood” initiative in 2003.
The creation of “Neighbourhood Programmes”, covering the period 2004-2006,
became the first step in implementation of the new instrument. The
Neighbourhood Programmes as a bi/trilateral programmes and
regional/multilateral cooperation programmes, involved both sides of the
European Union’s external borders. They supported local and regional
authorities and organisations inside and outside the Union to work together
to improve the economic and social conditions of the areas concerned, to
address common challenges, ensuring efficient and secure borders as well as
promoting people-to-people contacts. The initiative seek to address the
challenges posed by proximity and neighbourhood, aimed at working with
neighbouring countries towards improving conditions for the free movement
of goods, services, capital and persons as well as developing a zone of
prosperity and friendly neighbourhood.

“Paving the Way for a New Neighbourhood Instrument”, the Commission adopted
the Communication as part of its new policy, which envisaged the creation
of a new instrument for dealing with the common challenges arising from
proximity related issues on external borders of the enlarged EU. Among the
many examples of projects that were carried out by the “initiative”, a
successful project for national and international heritage reservation was
the one entitled, “Arctic Archives and Films under Restoration in Barents
Region (AARE).” The project aimed at increasing the know-how of the Russian
partners (from Murmansk and Arkhangelsk) in restoring, digitising and
archiving of the unique audiovisual materials – arctic documentary films,
as well as to facilitate their public access.

“Film as a Tool for Socio-cultural Integration and Tourism Promotion”,
however, has brought much good to humankind. Film has brought quantitative
studies increasingly dominating analyses of conflict, issues of data
validity which have many a times received tremendous consideration.
Our local cultures are in sojourn all over the world through film. In the
interaction of cultures, globalisation is also setting the pace.

With the approach that local cultures are overwhelmed, it is on record that
there is sufficient evidence, in accord with a comment that ‘dynamic
cultures will overcome conservative cultures’. In another vein, reports
explicate that attempts by Nigerian video films to mainstream along the
lines of global commercial culture could explain their superficial
commitment to culture… since the elements of local cultures are daily
refined by influences which dictate the mainstreaming of values to fit
global prescriptions. That, itself, brings into question the optimism of a
former Secretary-General of the United Nations who, in reference to
nationhood and cultural projection, stated “(De Cuellar, 1995: 7):”
has led each people to challenge the frame of reference in which the West’s
system of values alone generated rules assumed to be universal and to
demand the right to forge different versions of modernization.” A different
view is the interpretation that ‘forging different versions of
modernization’ means projecting a version of local culture which suits the
demands of global popular culture.

Gelete: Irin Ajo Eda Laye, says the report, which chronicles facets of a
man’s journey through life and was produced by a former television
personality – Jaiye Ojo, is another. The film is said to be a collage of
the lives of different people from different backgrounds: intrigues,
desperation, greed, misfortune, betrayal, and leaves lessons… it portrays
Yoruba culture in its richness, leaving out the kind of abusive and rotten
language used in some other films, ostensibly to raise their popular appeal.

The world cup and other world’s grand finales are today extolled by their
fans through film. The case of the world cup in South Africa is an immense
case study. People, who could not be there live, were united as fans by the
televised world cup films in what many call “Film Centres for Football.” In
the “Film Centres for Football,” a Christian could shake hand with a
Muslim, irrespective of their religious background, and an American can sit
with an Iraqi and watch football film, irrespective of their countries
wrangling, and so on.

Nigerians can’t thank the “Nigerian Film Corporation”, set up in 1979, and
the “Nigerian Film Distribution Company” enough, for playing very
great-secondary roles in their affirmative consequence towards emancipating
our film. Posterity will always remember foundation and pioneering work of
Nigerian filmmakers like Sanya Dosunmu, Jab Adu, Ola Balogun and Eddie
Ugbomah; Ade Foloyan, Moses Adejumo Olaiya, Herbert Ogunde and Bankole
Bello. As part of its cultural preservation programmes, in 2009, UNESCO
called for greater support for Nollywood, which it said, is the
second-largest employer in Nigeria.

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