The Need To Immortalise Nigerian Legends Through Film
There is no clear definition of when film became a thing but the 1980s have been regarded as the year when cinematographic motion pictures made a breakthrough. Since then, film has become an important medium of an art to convey the values and beliefs of the culture. It has, in the past, encouraged ideas, social commentaries and led to human connections by letting people share their experiences with each other.
A couple of weeks ago, I watched The Story of Diana, a four-hour documentary which explored the life and legacy of the People’s princess, Diana. They did this through interviews with historians, experts and people who knew her interwoven with archival footage. I found it so interesting that I went to read her biography written by Andrew Morton. When I was done, it hit me that like Diana, there is a lot of interesting personalities who have lived and died in Nigeria and not much is known about them, their work or what they stood for.
Admittedly, there have been productions, in recent times based on events in history. There were 93 Days in 2016 which chronicled the sacrifice of Dr Adadevoh when Ebola hit Lagos, the biggest city in Nigeria. There was also Izu Ojukwu’s 76 and Lancelot Imasuen’s Invasion 1987, to mention but a few. Besides these, there’s Olasupo Shasore’s Journey of an African Colony: The Making of Nigeria which aims to shed light into historical events of the past. However, there are still a million stories about fascinating people in history to be told.
The whole country was thrown in a state of mourning when Professor Dora Akunyili died. Today, when her name is mentioned, people automatically flashback to her work at the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) where she did the country a great service by purging Nigeria of fake drugs. However, there’s nothing substantial about her life and work out there for the younger ones to feed on. A kid who is in his early teens would most likely know nothing about her, except they immortalise her through elements of popular culture today.
The reading culture, particularly in Nigeria is dying and chances are that younger people will most likely watch a 2-3 hour movie about the life of a popular individual than read a 500-word biography or autobiography. History is not a general interest of many people and was just recently reintroduced into the Nigerian school curriculum. So imagine the amount of younger people walking around, probably clueless or with half-baked opinions about historical events, which shouldn’t be the case. The film then happens to be one of the best media to immortalise people and events and tell these stories to the younger generation and all who will come after them.
There is an urgent need for filmmakers and storytellers to make more films and documentaries that talk about the stories and people no one talks about. People like Ed Emeka Keazor, Onyeka Nwelue, Ujuaku Akukwe and others have in the past put in the work, telling stories of people and events that have shaped the country. These stories need to be told, and a light shone on these events.
History will not be kind to them if they aren’t.