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Using short films to drive social change

By Gbenga Salu
21 May 2015   |   4:44 am
SEVEN short films were recently premiered in Lagos. The films were collaboratively produced between Afrinolly and Ford Foundation under the Cinema4Change project.
Camera. Photo: amazonaws

Camera. Photo: amazonaws

SEVEN short films were recently premiered in Lagos. The films were collaboratively produced between Afrinolly and Ford Foundation under the Cinema4Change project.
The movies spoke on the socio-psychological issues the nation is grappling with, communicating its messages through an edutainment format. The films were meant to entertain its audience but embedded in the stories are messages out to educate and draw attention to some acts that are not appropriate within the societal context.
One of the films, titled Timothy, was written by Ben Chiadike and directed by EjiroOnobrakpor. The story was meant to campaign against self- medication. It narrated how Timothy usually would run at night whenever his father, Obajimi, tried injecting him against malaria.

And Obajimi who visits a local chemist store to get the malaria injection was doing this because he felt that was the way to keep his family safe from malaria.

In one of such days, Timothy ran out and because there was no electricity supply, the candle that provided illumination for their one room apartment got burnt to the end on the wooden table it was placed.

Obajimi was not aware that the candle has burnt out because after injecting his wife, two other children and himself, he slept off. So the candle continued burning and by the time they got to know the house was on fire.
Another of the movies was titled Once and has its setting on Jos and the Jos ethnic crisis. It was built around two teenage friends, Panshak and Abubakar.

They do almost everything together but midway, Abubakar after his father warned him of his friend, Panshak, betraying him, Abubakar started distancing himself from his friend and every efforts by Panshak to ensure that the relationship continue was rebuffed.
However, crisis broke out in Jos and Abubakar and his Hausa friends were captured by a group of older boys but despite the strain relationship, Panshak found a way to rescue his friends, leading them to his church and saving Abubakar and his family. It was written HayeOkoh and directed by Jay-Franklyn.
Another very instructive film from the collection is Henna. And it preaches against child bride. Henna is a story about 13 year old Reina with dreams in a village where young girls are married out early in life. She was not happy when she was asked to drop out of school, not because she was not good academically, but to get married.

She got however terrified after her close friend Amina, a 15 year old lady, who got married to her father died from RVF.

And she rose vehemently against being married out at a young age, preferring that she should be allowed to continue her education. It was written by Alexandra Hul and directed by IshayaBayo.
Earlier in his opening remarks at the event, the Programme Officer, Advancing Public Service Media, Ford Foundation, Mr. Paul Nwulu, said that it was a wonderful thing that the idea that started two years ago has matured. He promised that the partnership is not going to be a one off thing but for a long time.

He also said that his organisation is looking up for new partnerships especially with young film makers as its task is to work with organisations and sometimes government agencies to drive social change through innovative ideas.

According to Nwulu, they got into the Cinema4Change project because they wanted to maximise the power of film to drive social change. “As you know, Nigeria is known for film. ButNollywood has failed us when it comes to tackling social issues.

So Ford Foundation felt how it could leverage the skills in Nollywood to create content that drive change. And we felt that the best way to do that is to build a system that would enable young writers, directors to internalised change through their works.
“So we met with Afrinolly. They have done their Afrinolly short-film competition, which was very successful because it got a lot of young people into the ecosystem. And we told them to pick their best directors from this short-film competition to meet and interact with the Ford Foundation guarantees that are working on these social change issues. And from there develop scripts.”

Nwulu said different workshops were organised for the different units that make up the process of producing a film. “And as you can see today, the output is great; we have high quality films, which are short feature films.
These are films that will touch people and make them realise that these issues are the ones stopping Nigeria from achieving its goals.”
To ensure Nigerians see these films and get the messages in them, Nwulu disclosed that about ten thousand copies would be distributed free besides being open to every opportunity that will make Nigerians watch the films.
He also said that part of the partnership with Afrinollywas to use one of its platforms, the Afrinolly app, which is already installed in more than 3 million phones in Nigeria. Nwulu further said that it is also discussing with television stations to put it on televisions.
“We would give it to them for free but also buy airtime during social change hour to air and discuss these issues. We are also planning showing it on campuses and having discussion on the issues. This is because no matter how good a film is, without people seeing it, the impact is not felt.”

Alexandra Hul, who wrote one of the scripts for the films, noted that the script is a very important aspect of filmmaking. In moving forward to having better compelling script and film, she suggested not borrowing other people’s story, but “sticking to telling our stories, not just the bad aspect of Nigeria.We have beautiful culture, heritage and history. We should tap from that.” She disclosed that her only dream is to keep telling stories that the world would appreciate.”

In his welcome remarks, the Chief Executive Officer of Fansconnect Online Limited, Mr.ChikeMaduegbuna, said that they were happy to get involved in the project and the opportunity given by Ford Foundation through funding the project. He said though it was the first phase of the project, he expected that the partnership would be for a long time.  He narrated how the journey started and the different phases that the project passed through including the different workshops for the writers, directors, editors among others.

Maduegbuna stated that the Afrinolly Cinema4Change project seeks to use the power of film to build a dramatic structure that helps not only to see the person or the issues that a film addresses but also themselves in the story.
“Our goal is to use the power of film to strengthen communities and improve lives. Afrinolly believe that by partnering with non-profits, public sector organisations and corporates, Nigerian film makers can create films that are artistically compelling and socially significant.
“Afrinolly hopes to build through Cinema4Change a platform for untold stories to be told through film and inspire people to create social change. We use the power of film to raise awareness of important social, environmental and other related issues glossed over by mainstream media while also communicating the change society needs.”