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COVID-19 pandemic lens zooms on leadership, trust

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Odugbemi


The COVID-19 pandemic, no doubt, disrupted virtually every aspect of human lives in 2020. It brought a halt to daily routines, forcing everybody indoors and putting pause on production of every form of entertainment.

While big-budget movie and television productions spent much of the year shut down in confusion, some well-researched documentaries were shot in the year.

These documentaries looked at the virus from different angles. While some focused on or addressed the politics, others focused on the spread, the impact it’s had on society and even the race for a vaccine.

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UNMASKED: Leadership, Trust and The COVID-19 Pandemic in Nigeria, a documentary film directed by award-winning filmmaker, Femi Odugbemi and presented by ace journalist-broadcaster, Kadaria Ahmed, is probably one of the best documentaries you can watch if you are looking for a rundown of how the COVID-19 pandemic affected Nigeria and how the nation’s health and government officials attempted to make (non)sense of the crisis.

With the support of PLACNG & MacArthur Foundation, Unmasked was filmed inside isolation centers and Intensive Care Units, ICU in Lagos, and Kaduna fully kitted in Personal Protective Equipment, PPE. It was filmed in slums full of hungry and desperate people and watched vacant-eyed Almajiri children and mass funerals in Kano.

To get the film done, the team travelled Nigeria to document this historical moment and tackle questions of leadership, governance and trust, which were brought to the fore by the pandemic; the answers to which Nigeria needs to find rather urgently.

It features a stellar cast of resource persons drawn from the medical, political, and other relevant sectors of the society.

With the theme centred on Nigeria’s preparedness for the COVID-19 pandemic, the 117-minute documentary film tells the sober, riveting story of COVID-19.

Starting in the early stages of the virus, Ahmed treats this documentary as a timeline exploring multiple aspects of the pandemic with sections dedicated to the issues and the public health community’s fight to combat the disease.

Shunning the idea of a central character, instead, using a moderator, the documentary follows several frontline workers, politicians and ordinary people who appeared overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases. To unmask the pandemic, the moderators asks far ranging questions.

While the documentary gets into some of the politics surrounding the pandemic, it attempts to present things in a more factual manner, focusing on the health experts and their overview of the disease and its long-lasting effects on the world and its people.

To Odugbemi, Unmasked is an important film and he hopes many will get a chance to watch it. In giving the background to the production of the documentary, Odugbemi stated, “The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world on its head and hit the world’s most populous black nation Nigeria with predictable ferocity.

“And with its soft underbelly of corruption, poor healthcare infrastructure, weak systems, and an ever-increasing number of its population below the poverty line, the portent is dire.

“Could this also be an opportunity for reset?”
On her own part, the moderator who is co-producer/presenter of the documentary, noted: “It is the hope of the producers of the documentary that beyond documenting the Nigerian story of COVID-19, Unmasked acts as a catalyst for a conversation on shortcomings in our public health sector that were unmasked by COVID-19.

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“The COVID pandemic was always going to test Nigeria, given its soft underbelly of corruption, poor healthcare infrastructure, weak systems and an ever-increasing number of its population living below the poverty line.”

Ahmed revealed, “The COVID pandemic was bound to test Nigeria given its soft underbelly of corruption, poor healthcare infrastructure, weak systems and an ever-increasing number of its population living below the poverty line.”

The documentary was released in March, and first screened at the 2021 iREP International Documentary Film Festival to critical acclaim by an international audience comprising filmmakers, media scholars, students, and film enthusiasts across four continents.

It had its Lagos premiere on May 7 at the Civic Centre, Lagos. Yesterday was at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan. After yesterday’s screening the train will move to Kaduna, Kano and Port Harcourt, where the conversations will revolve around the training and retention of medical personnel in Nigeria and the provisions of basic health care as a prerequisite for the development of robust human resources.

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