Few will argue that these are difficult times and that life issues have left the majority of Nigerians feeling beaten black and blue. ÌTÌJÚ, a movie with the rider “hope heals” is an inspiring movie of hope renewed. However, be prepared to be taken on a roller coaster ride of emotions by this beautiful story.
ÌTÌJÚ is the product of a unique and exciting collaboration between MINDS Reform Initiative and Lagos State Ministry of Education, which without doubt remains at the forefront of Special Needs Education in Nigeria. Commenting on the movie project, Sade Adefisayo, Lagos State Commissioner of Education, says, “I am excited that this project highlights such an important issue that has largely remained under the radar.”
“We look forward to exploring this relationship further – during and beyond this project as the ministry appreciates the contribution it will certainly make towards the development of Special Needs Education in Lagos State”.
The title, ÌTÌJÚ is a Yoruba word which roughly translates to a feeling of shame and this movie boldly sets out to remove the stigma attached to people living with various challenges in our culture. Sadly, this suffocating culture discourages people from speaking up about their personal challenges and how will one find solutions to issues that one cannot talk about? ÌTÌJÚ may be a Yoruba word but make no mistake about it, it is a Nigerian problem. Dyslexia, the learning disorder, which makes reading and writing herculean tasks, has been described by educationists as “the silent destroyer” and is said to be responsible for the high rate of school dropouts and the increasing number of juvenile crimes in our society.
Interestingly, the disorder does not affect the sufferer’s intellect, as dyslexics are famed for their creativity and excellent problem solving abilities. Lack of awareness in our society has, however, led to dyslexics being labelled as dull and stupid as they struggle through school. Rejection by parents and the resultant low self esteem have been identified as major causes of mental health issues in society. These manifest in different ways from depression, drug and alcohol abuse, bipolar disorder and an alarming increase in suicide rates. Estimated to affect 10percent – 15percent of the Nigerian population, according to Ben Arikpo, of Dyslexia Foundation (Nigeria), dyslexia is a massive problem “hidden from plain sight”. As the Coronavirus pandemic has taught us, the most dangerous enemy is the invisible one.
Though 90 percent of teachers in Nigeria have never heard of dyslexia, not to talk of parents, the list of foreign household names that are known dyslexics is endless; Sir Richard Branson (Virgin Atlantic), Will Smith (Hollywood A list actor), Thomas Edison (inventor of the light bulb) and Lewis Hamilton (Formula One champion) to name a few. Unable to disguise his passion on the subject matter, Oladapo Akande, promoter of the NGO, MINDS Reform Initiative, is quoted as saying, “though not dyslexic myself, I was privileged to witness first hand, during my primary and secondary school days in the United Kingdom, how early diagnosis and timely intervention helped salvage the destiny and restored meaning to the lives of some of my dyslexic classmates, who having received the attention at the right time, went on to succeed in their chosen profession. It is amazing what knowledge can do. Contrary to the popular saying, ignorance is far from being bliss.”
The movie is the brainchild of Akande, who is a two-time author and writer of the popular weekly newspaper column, Character matters with Daps. His partner and fellow producer on the project, Roy Osuji of Alvary Studios and Alvary Creatives, is the producer of the early 2020 movie, Handicapped; a gripping story that highlights the scourge of human trafficking.
According to Roy Osuji, “ÌTÌJÚ is our gift to the world during these crazy times where mental health is a big deal. It is an expression of hope for everyone going through rejection just because they are having a hard time grasping the conventional ways of doing things. We hope to inspire and entertain film watchers all over the world”.
As part of giving back to society, MINDS Reform Initiative and Alvary Studios, the producers of the movie, have undertaken to show an abbreviated version of the movie for free at selected public schools in Lagos. ÌTÌJÚ, a feel-good movie, which will both entertain and enlighten the audience is billed to premiere at the cinemas early in 2022. To conclude, in addition to creating greater awareness about the reality of dyslexia and mental health challenges that have become so prevalent, the movie cleverly succeeds in its mission to renew the hope of Nigerians – during these trying times – that no matter what their individual challenges are, they too can overcome.