• Wednesday, February 21, 2024
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Preserving Nollywood films as cultural heritages (2)


Ironically, the present Nollywood filmic experiences are the sole material for socialising the younger generation into the cultural renaissance that the country clamour for. How that would not be the case may continue to be elusive should the best of Nigeria’s cinematic masterpieces and films continue to be left to perish. It is challenging enough that films, like music and photographs, may have erratic and short lifespan, being susceptible to changes in technological advancements. It is more worrisome that the best of the films that represent the culture of the people of Nigeria are out of circulation; due, largely to lack of a culture of preservation and shifts in entertainment ideology that now puts greater premiums on commercialism over creating enduring artistic legacies.

This has contributed to the absence of a well-thought-out data base or archives of Nollywood films that members of the public can easily access to retrieve essential information about the Nigeria people and cultures.  At the moment, there is little evidence to show that Nollywood motion pictures are not being treated as transient entertainment pieces. Except for television stations that have inadvertently provided archival services to Nollywood films, none of the agencies in the country that should ensure that the legacies of Nollywood are treated and preserved as cultural heritage has been able to accomplish outstanding results. Television stations probably have the largest repositories of the little-known and out-of–the–market films and Nollywood blockbusters, even though their primary motivation for preserving the films in their archives is neither to aid programming and not as cultural patrimony nor to serve the commercial interests of producers and artistes.  Next to the T.V stations in the preservation of films for mass accessibility and retrieval are probably online audio–visual archives. For example, YouTube, the online video archives, has demonstrated that popular commercial film archives can generate incomes to stakeholders.  The questions are: How can we ensure that Hollywood treasures do not further lose their cultural flavour and crumble into dust? In other words, how can the nation reverse or reduce the commercial success syndrome that presently characterises Nollywood films, and turn them into an enduring cultural legacy?

As a first step, there is a need for cultural redefinition of who we are as Nigerians to the younger generation who did not see the golden age of Nigerian dramatic and cinematic experience. This can only be possible when there is cultural re-orientation towards filmmaking among Nollywood actors, film makers, producers and marketers and, indeed, the general public. Efforts should, therefore, be made among stakeholders in the film industry such as the Actors Guild of Nigeria, Association of Films, Video Producers and Marketers of Nigeria and the National Film and Video Censors Board to ensure that the moral and cultural features of films are of a quality that merit being protected and preserved for the purpose of cultural transmission to the younger generation. The message should be that film making for viewing sake or for their commercial and aesthetic values is inadequate. Since films are ethnographic products, the contexts of their production, in terms of time and place are supposed to be taken as highly as the story lines they tell.

Against this background, it is imperative that conscious efforts be made to preserve select Nollywood films that are culturally worthy for posterity. This is a task for arts, culture and heritage preservation and promotion agencies such as the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC), National Gallery of Art (NGA), and the National Archives of Nigeria. For example, the National Archives and the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, in particular, ought to do more than they presently do to identify ethnographic and historical films and, even, fictional motion pictures among Nollywood films that are adjudged appropriate for their value as cultural evidence and historical memory of the people of Nigeria, for preservation and display in their collections, especially where none existed before now.

Specifically, there is a need to replace the depleted collections of ethnographic films whose provenance dates back to the colonial days that once constituted major holdings of their archives, in line with UNESCO’s campaign for the development of audio-visual archival infrastructure for the safeguard and preservation of the audio-visual heritage of humanity. This may require the establishment of exclusive National Film Archives in different parts of the country to promote filmic and cinematographic legacies of the people and culture of Nigeria. For effectiveness, such facility should operate within existing facilities in relevant government agencies. Its terms of reference should include the promotion, acquisition, preservation, research and exhibition of a wide range of films and similar ethnographic pieces produced in indigenous languages, from the earliest known recorded films to the present day.

However, the government alone cannot accomplish the goals of the project. The sheer volume of funding, items and the logistics that it will entail will require a greater co-operation and partnership between relevant government agencies, the private sector, and relevant local and international non-governmental culture–based donor agencies. Similarly, its full realisation will require a greater collaboration and more enduring partnerships between the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation and the Ministry of Information and Communication. For instance, the Ministries need to harmonise their respective policies and maintain holistic views on preserving, creating awareness, and communicating information on the material culture evidence of the people of the country.

At the moment, these steps are overdue and, therefore, need to be given urgent attention. Not only will they in the short run create awareness that popular films are more than commercial pieces, they will also in the long run improve the quality of films produced, and ensure that filmmakers, marketers and producers are motivated more by long term filmic legacy, rather than solely by short term commercial interests.

Philip Ojetola