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Nigerian movies, not yet uhuru for content interpretation, editing

By Omiko Awa
24 October 2021   |   4:14 am
No doubts, the country’s movie industry, Nollywood, remains a strong diplomatic weapon based on the manner it showcases the nation’s diverse cultural heritage.


No doubts, the country’s movie industry, Nollywood, remains a strong diplomatic weapon based on the manner it showcases the nation’s diverse cultural heritage.

Like the United States of America, India and China, whose movies are in the forefront of their country’s cultural diplomacy, showcasing the level of their technology, so, is the Nigerian movie.

The Guardian gathered that some parents and institutions in the Diaspora use Nigerian movies to teach their children and students Nigerian culture and languages in their homes and institutions.

The Guardian checks revealed that even in some African countries, words including, Igwe, Onu Owu, Oga, K-leg, Abi, notin spoil, and others, learnt from Nigerian movies, have become part of their daily vocabulary.

Despite the growing impact of the industry, its challenges still remain unattended.

From the dearth of funds to appropriate plots, setting, conflict and resolution, the Nigerian movie industry cannot be relegated to the background; it has become an essential sector of the nation’s cultural export.

However, it is very painful to notice that a good number of works are marred by poor interpretations on the screen.

For each time there are errors either on the lexis, poor grammar or syntax, the message aimed at passing to the audience is muddled up, especially for the foreign audience, thus, giving wrong interpretations.

The Nigerian audience could fix the missing lines, taking the slip-ups as part of thorns on the sector’s flesh, not for the foreign audience, which will not only be misled, but see the blooper as mental laziness.

On ways to make our movies leave up to its biddings, the President/Founder of Eko International Film Festival (EKOIFF), Hope Obioma Opara, observed that many of the blunders noticed on screen are mostly done on movies produced and directed locally and for local consumption, adding that Nigeria has very good editors that are known for doing excellent jobs and being part of the productions that have produced very good films across the globe.

The film festival organiser noted that movies with such blunders are often of the low budget ones, whose producers lack the needed fund to hire professionals to handle the subtitling, adding that despite this, people — locals and foreigners — still enjoy Nigerian movies, even though the editors are reprimanded behind the screen.

He noted that the Nigerian films remain among the most desired movies across the globe.

For Dr. Olatunji Samson Sotimirin, director, musician, broadcaster, comedian and lecturer, Department of Creative Arts, University of Lagos (UNILAG), the situation can be very disturbing, distracting and terribly annoying.

According to him, the directors or producers of such movies should take the responsibility for this deficiency, saying it is important to engage professionals to handle every aspect of production irrespective of the grade of the movie, as every work not only for the directors or editors, but also for the totality of the sector.

The theatre teacher said it is not enough to have talent and dexterity to operate video editing software or assume the role of a subtitler (translator), because subtitling requires some cognitive process. The officer must have the capacity to read and write, and interpret connotations, which must not be taken for granted.

He said: “The major problem in the industry is that some of the filmmakers, especially those in the local language movies genre are negligent and nonchalant in their attitude to provide succinct, intelligible and correct textual descriptions of what is said on the screen. They more often than not underestimate the intelligence of their audience with this self-conceited posture.”

For the Executive Director, International Centre for Playwright Development in Africa, Paul Ugbede, most epic movies presented to viewers on television fall victim of wrong interpretations either in subtitles or dialogue.

He noted that reading wrong subtitles or listening to wrong interpretations of movie dialogues do have negative effect on people, making them to unconsciously switch off from watching such productions.

According to him, movies act on the sensory nerves of viewers and if the nerves receive wrong messages they find it difficult to decide and as such unconsciously switch off or find something else to fill the gap.

The award-winning playwright disclosed that wrong expressions build up wrong messages, which is the reason most films, especially epic are devoid of emotions, adding that wrong interpretations can destroy filmic emotions.

The President, Oreofe Films and Multimedia Studios, and Founder, City of Talents, Ibadan, Oreofe Williams noted that the flub is a misrepresentation of filmmakers’ and editors’ intellectual strand before the international community, stressing that they depict that movie makers are linguistically shallow.

“Some filmmakers do not know that subtitling a locally made film in English is not only for the local audience, but also for the global audience and once an international spectator finds it difficult to comprehend what is written on the screen, the director, cast and crew have lost such audience,” he said.

According to him, there is a theory called the auteur theory that refers to the director as the author of his work, adding that the director of a movie or TV soap has the sole responsibility to oversee his/her work from pre-production to post-production.

He noted that before the movie goes out to the public, it is the duty of the director to watch the movie with the aim of correcting the subtitling and other errors.

“There is so much character jeopardy that nobody wants to be controlled. So, the problem is a combination of pseudo-intelligence and deliberate clout chasing in the industry.”