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‘Coming To America 3’: A more African involvement to promote Africa properly

Coming To America 3

By Ohiozokhai Elakhe

‘It’s like they used our creative and cultural art scheme of work as a scrap-book guide to make the film’ said Ogechi Obi, a brilliant Junior Secondary School [J.S.S] art student (now in J.S.S 2) in Lagos State. She said this in reference to the film Coming (Two) America (the 2021 ‘American comedy film which serves as a sequel to the 1988 film Coming to America starring Eddie Murphy); which was showcase of some African cultural dresses (and attempt at culture and behavior) etc.

That’s what the likely future critic/screenplay writer youngster observed. What she didn’t observe was what many like Allegra Frank, Dami Ajayi, Ifeanyi Nsofor and Isaac Yao Addae to mention a few did. We will return to what Ogechi’s senior critics observed. For now let’s teleport back to the past and be youngsters again in order to see things from be Ogechi’s viewpoint. What’s in her art scheme of work (and by extensions the newly used J.S.S 2 and 3 scheme-of-works and the one used before) that made her feel that way, rightly or wrongly?

Grab a sit; relax, get a pop-corn and put on Professor Xaiver’s of the Xmen’s headset. Teleportation activated mode; let’s go wonder into the mind of the scheme; vvvvmmm.

We hover on all the classes to find in random order topics not limited to i. Contemporary dance 1 ii. Contemporary Nigerian Art 1-3 iii. Types and features of Nigerian traditional art 1 & 2 iv. Choreography and Dance 1-4 v. bead work vi. Introduction to embroidery 1& 2 vii. Types of features of Nigerian Art 1-3 viii. ix. Production of pattern—it occurred to us that Ogechi might have also had in mind the scheme of work for the senior classes; thus: i. Visual Arts: Textile Designs, Historical Foundation of Nigerian Arts (200BC – 1900 AD) ii. Music: (Nigerian, African and Western Dance Styles), Pre-colonial African music, Pre-colonial African music (Nigeria) ii. History: Tradition of Origin Various groups, Land and People of Nigeria, The Impact of Migrations war and Politics on Inter Group Relations etc.

Read Also: Amazon Studios acquires Coming 2 America from Paramount Pictures

The schemes are well designed to groom a well guided teenager to become an international acclaim film director and script writer. If they did use the various scheme-of-works produced by Lagos state and by extension other states and other African countries, they have moved closer to perfection; (I remember back in Kogi state where I schooled, an indigene friend of mine told me how amazed he was when a foreign missionaries translated the bible into Igala language in a matter of [short] years—something he couldn’t do in his over thirty long years or so on Earth.)

Back to Ogechi’s seniors; in Dami Ajayi’s online article; ‘Coming-2-America-The-Trouble-With-Zamunda’, he felt part two ruined part 1; he had issues with Zamunda, which to him ‘appears to be a pre-colonial bubble where royals indulge in stick-fighting with their children before breakfast and princes tweeze the whiskers of malnourished lions to display courage.’ Allegra Frank on ‘his’ part in his article ‘Coming-2-America’s-Disastrous Return to Africa’, he said ‘there are no elephants strolling about like the ones on Akeem’s estate. The languages and the accents vary wildly.’

‘Coming to America is most concerned not with Africa but with America … But if Coming to America’s problems lie mostly in its depiction of Africa, its sequel exacerbates those flaws by setting the bulk of its action not in America but in Zamunda … (Akeem) must have a male heir, because in Zamunda, women aren’t even allowed to run businesses, let alone nations … but the premise still plays into stereotypes about Africa being behind the times, and the movie doesn’t get much more thoughtful from there … But as much as Snipes appears to be enjoying the role, his character is a depressingly familiar figure from Western media and headlines: He’s a murderous warlord, one who outfits child soldiers with guns … In one of the trials Lavelle must undertake to become prince, he must pluck the whiskers from one of the beasts …’

On Ifeanyi Nsofor’s part in his article; ‘13-Things-I-Did-(And-Did-Not)-Love-About-‘Coming-2-America’: An African Perspective’, the don’ts includes; Exotic wildlife on parade, Bad barbershop joke, Child soldiers, Female disempowerment, Nude bathing, Fake African accents– valid complaints. Isaac Yao Addae in the article; ‘Why ‘Coming To America’ and its sequel are problematic for Africans in the U.S.’, felt the film (part1) was quite damaging to members of the African Diaspora and created misconceptions and myths about how Africans live.’

Who were the screen play writers, director and story writers? Wikipedia informs that while Eddie Murphy created the characters, the film was directed by Craig Brewer from a screenplay by Kenya Barris, Barry W. Blaustein, and David Sheffield, and a story by Blaustein, Sheffield, and Justin Kanew.

Eddie Murphy we all know; a fantastic actor, comedian, writer, producer, and singer (and black American–that makes him African by right and can say a thing or two about blacks but in relation to saying about African born (living on the continent) and their way of life, I am not sure he can; just as we born and living in Africa can’t do similar for African Americans.) Has he lived here for some time or visited (regularly) to do an understudy like Wesley Snipes has (Snipes said he came once [to Ibadan] on Channels T.V) or did he just go with what the western media has always shown or did he just observe Africans in the U.S or did he formerly consult blacks who grew up in Africa directly? The internet gave me no answers (unless I didn’t do a good check that is.)

Murphy we (now) know (a bit more), but who are the (Acts 19:15) biblical rest? As regards Craig Brewer, Wikipedia informs ‘he is a film director, producer, and screenwriter.’ The 2005 movie Hustle & Flow which won the Audience Award at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival and achieved commercial success, along with an Academy Award for Best Original Song, “It’s Hard out Here for a Pimp”, … ; the 2019 film Dolemite Is My Name (which Eddie Murphy acted in); Empire (which starred Terrence Howard)’ etc are linked to him. Has he lived here for some time or visited (regularly) …

Kenya Barris ‘is an American film and television writer, producer, director, and actor. He is best known as the creator of the ABC sitcom black-ish (2014–present)’ says Wikipedia. He was a writer for The Game, Girlfriends, and Soul etc. Has he lived here …

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Barry W. Blaustein ‘best known for his writing on Saturday Night Live and What’s Alan Watching? and The Nutty Professor’ Has he lived here … David Sheffield is best known for: Saturday Night Live (1980-1983); (TV), Police Academy 2–Their First Assignment (1985); Coming to America (1988); What’s Alan Watching? (1989) (TV); Boomerang (1992 etc. Has he …

Justin Kanew as a non criminal Artful Dodger was able to evade Wikipedia but the internet linked him to the films; National Lampoon’s Adam & Eve (2005); The Man Without A Face (1993); Welcome To The Jungle (2013); The Legend of Awesomest Maximus (2011) as a film producer. Has …

World class script writers etc but any African projects or tours where they did an understudy can’t be found as yet. Even our hard working friends from Asia were ready to tell our stories as many of the Digital Artists were Asian in names. I looked the role cast. Didn’t see any what I will call an (African or Nigerian) heritage consultant. To be fare, they could have been using non African names. And if there were (resident) Africa born consultants, they did a poor job. ‘Na like for the Black Panther film, dey just come ‘parrrparparrr’ do huruhuru research, come use am do film’ said a colleague though according to Frank ‘With Black Panther’s costume designer Ruth Carter on hand this time to craft the costumes, at least scenes like this movie’s dance performance (starring the ever-watchable Teyana Taylor) are marvelous to look at.’

This is article is not written to rubbish their (fine) attempt. In fact they shamed us for not doing the needful. Since Coming to America 1 came out, we as African never thought it right to address the stereotyping from the film and correct either by reaching out to Eddie et al or with ours (Going to America/Coming To Africa). ‘Majority of our films don’t portray d beauty of Africa to the world. That is because we ourselves don’t appreciate our culture and traditions enough to infuse them into the movies we make. That’s why the West themselves only pick a little and from it create a whole African tradition which they assume that’s the way it is; poor showcasing of our films to the world, poor researching on their part. More importantly, African’s not wanting to be African’s in the eyes of the west’ says Alex Aigbike; author: Naked Coin by his pen name Albrin Junior.

Maybe that was all they needed to see. Lets us not forget that their (primary) target audience are Black Americans, who outside Nigerians or (resident) African born don’t understand to a large extent how we flow, language-wise (there is our internationally followed films/music etc from Nigerian/Africa which critics will rightly use to argue otherwise). Frank Allegra agrees via his statement—‘the movie’s real target—the truly backward nation, the place where we see millions of Black people forced into poverty—is the United States’ (to Africa’s disadvantage in a way.) If poverty is putting blacks there at a disadvantage, you don’t expect Eddie to do the right thing when the mother land is not coming to his rescue. He and his script writers are businessmen (and rightfully so)—they know what sells. What sells is the Africa portrayed in the film (unfortunately). It’s not their job to market Nigeria or any African country, unless commissioned to do so. If Africa works with them, it can be mutual benefiting to both—they will make sells and Africa will portray itself (alongside the opportunities for investment and growth) well to the world. Let’s see if that will happen by Coming to America Three.

Putting into mind that many went out to watch part two and part one is considered the ‘most beloved black comedy of all time’ according to thegrio.com, whether we like it or not, the film is a platform we can use to correct the narratives. One of the firsts is start a program to get the likes of him doing understudies of how we ‘dey yan’ for here long before Coming To America 3 (CTA3) is made–the film did lack that distinct Africa voice—just kidding, there is no such thing as a distinct African voice. Even in Nigeria, the intonations of the various tribes are not the same but it could have been better. One aim is to promote our tourism industry which is worth only 1% (pe’ree) of the $1.7 trillion (global) earnings in 2018 according to Quartz Africa in an August 11, 2021 update.

While there is no box office information yet, Wikipedia and FORBES did inform that: (i) CTA2 had a budget of $60 million as compared to the $36 million in 1988 that CTA1 had with its ‘blockbuster’ box office of $288.8-350 million; 128 MILLION DOMESTIC behind who Framed Roger Rabbit and Rain Man (making CTA1 according, the ‘most beloved black comedy of all time.)’ ii. ‘Distribution rights to the film for $125 million acquired by Amazon Studios (and it had) the best opening weekend of any streaming film since March 2020. Nielsen reported that the film totaled 1.4 billion minutes-watched over its first week of release (equaling 1.27 million complete views of the film), the first time a Prime Original topped the company’s charts.’ These are not ‘moimoi’ amounts.

Also, while the film stars black Americans like Arsenio Hall, Wesley Snipes, and James Earl Jones etc, Eddie and co., again shamed us by showing they seem to understand promoting the continent and creating jobs more than we do as the (Nigerian) cast of Davido, Power Rotimi (Olurotimi Akinosho) are part of the 6000-man-job created film.

Also the roll cast had Nigerians like Burna Boy (Coming 2 America soundtrack with John Legend); Tiwatopa Savage (as a writer and performer for sounstrack Koroba alongside writers Micheal Ovie Hunter, Segun Micheal Ajayi, Ovie Micheal Ikaka); Tekno (writer and performer for Waka Waka); David Adedeji Adeleke/Emmanuel Bello (Assurance); Ayorinde Kemit (freestyle Dancer); Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu (as one of its writers for the soundtrack ‘Coming to America’); Felicia Okanlawon (makeup artist to Ms. Jones) and likely (resident) African born names likes Akosua Akoto, Arata A. Maat (female African dancers), and ex NBA player Dikembe Mutombo. There might have been more but it shouldn’t end there.

Frank Allegra says ‘in 2021, is it too much to ask a movie based in Africa to pay some attention to its setting? The movie dutifully repeats its 1980s predecessor beat for beat, which is a whole other issue, but for as much time as it spends on the African continent, we might have hoped that this was one domain where it could have brought some fresh ideas. These fresh ideas will come from consulting (resident) African born professionals in both the film and other industries eg I.M.C/P.R.’ The feedback about 2018 film: King of Boys part 1 (by Kemi Adetiba, starring Jide kosoko etc with a box office of N245 million) by Wikipedia is a testimony.

We have world class directors, script writers, choreographers/dancers consultants, fashion designers, sculptural artists, voice trainers/ linguist and actors to infuse various multicultural traditional dances with contemporary dances or modernize the traditional dances like the Chinese have done, that will ensure ‘Coming To America 3’ and others that follow win win films. … King of Boys part 2 …

While Eddie (who said he has new ideas as indicated in an article) works on part three, Nigeria (and other African countries) needs to ensure that they capitalize on the next SETS to fully tap into the opportunity to promote itself better than Eddie and co. did. Coming to America 1, didn’t have any Nigerians or Africans (to the best of my knowledge), part 2 did. Hopefully part 3 if it ever comes out must have more parts for Nigerians and other Africans as characters in the film or/and consultants/hired helps off screen—there are many Nigerian youths who can handle many scenes, be it dance, costume making, food production.

Just as we have wazobia in Nigeria, would have been nice to hear extended subtle mix of African languages: e.g.; Good morning (MAH CHEE [Twi Ghana]), welcome (wamukelekile [Zulu]) to our land (si ile’ wa [Yoruba], we are honored (a na -asọpụrụ anyị [Igbo]) by your presence (be’irisiwo megenyeti Amharic [Ethiopia].)

The film was shot at the State of Georgia, U.S.A (under the Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment office; a division of the Georgia department of economic development) and likely other parts of America. We did like to see parts of or all of part 3 been shot in Nigeria and other African countries. It will serve as Eddie and co.’s part contribution to African/Nigeria’s economic development in the face of massive unemployment but only if Nigeria and Africa acts to ensure so. A well thought out part 3 could spill/snow ball into merchandisable business which could profit Murphy and Africa.