Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Movie Magic

Nigerian movie makers are really coming of age and I thought I should draw your attention to two quality films that I have thoroughly enjoyed this year.

"BLACK NOVEMBER "

It has to be said that Nigerian oil barons are not famed for passionately campaigning for the victims of oil exploration.

Captain Hosa Wells Okunbo, a fifty something former airline pilot who has been a key player at the commercial end of the petroleum industry for three decades, has chosen to stand out from the crowd.

He says that he didn't want to go down in history as "just another rich merchant"; and, in a bid to "give something back" to the region that has made him phenomenally wealthy, he has spent a staggering $20 million-plus of his own money on producing and promoting a film titled "Black November - Struggle For The Niger Delta."

I attended the premiere in Washington DC's Kennedy Centre and was pleasantly surprised. Amazed, even.

When one is told that a film has been written and directed by a young Nigerian (Jeta Amata), one can perhaps be forgiven for assuming that it will be more Nollywood than Hollywood.

When one is told that three very famous A-list actors - Mickey Rourke, Kim Basinger and Viveca Fox - have agreed to work with an African who is an unknown novice compared to the directors they normally work with, one can perhaps be forgiven for assuming that they will snootily restrict themselves to fleeting cameo appearances.

I was wrong on both counts.

Black November, which is based on facts, is not perfect, but it's good.

It is a moving, enraging, chilling, kick-ass celluloid adventure story about greed, brutality and injustice; and Rourke et al deserve hearty applause for enthusiastically throwing themselves into the action from start to finish...and for delivering jolly decent performances.

But Amata's wife, Mbong, is the real star of the show with her impressive portrayal of a girl who gets a scholarship to study abroad and starts off yearning for a normal comfortable life but gets sucked into defending the suffering exploited villagers she grew up with.

Captain Hosa and his team have used Black November as a lobbying tool and are having a significant impact. Amata and Associate Producer Lorenzo Aligbe have been invited to the White House.

Black Democratic Congressman, Bobby Rush and his White Republican colleague, Jeff Fortenberry were so electrified by the film that they decided to sponsor a resolution aimed at pressurising the Nigerian Government and Western oil companies to clean up spills that have transformed the Niger Delta into an environmental disaster zone.

The rich merchant has proved that he is also an inspirational activist.

"THE MEETING"

Produced, directed and co-written by Mildred Okwo, "The Meeting" is a romance, a satire and a fairly serious focus on the frustrations that wannabee contractors face when they pursue government patronage in Abuja- which, as a wag once wryly observed, is the "biggest waiting room in the world".

I went to The Meeting with a couple of girlfriends and we all roared with laughter as we watched the hapless hero battling to overcome the obstacles that were thrown in his way by a Minister's ditzy receptionist.

For those of us who have had personal experience of the Abuja public sector scene, the whole thing was horribly authentic and yet immensely entertaining.

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