Every year Hollywood churns out a good number of ‘war dramas’. You know, those films with a tragic protagonist signs up to protect America from enemies home and far. There are so many iterations of the war film at this point that it would be a surprise if a year went by and the Americas didn’t put out a huge, drawn out epic that extols the virtues of war and promotes it as an honorable, worthy use of your time.
Those films however, don’t just happen. They are often the result of careful collaborations between the United States Ministry of Defense and independent film studios. Studios get funding and permits for their films, the US government gets to tweak the narrative. That is why in the 2000’s, films about war or conflict in the Middle East soared, and films about the war in Vietnam all but disappeared from American cinema. Now, we’re not saying this is good or bad, we are saying media is a powerful narrative tool. And more established countries have always been hip to this.
Filmmakers on the TL pic.twitter.com/v8T2gKW2g9
— Remi Ibinola RIO (@reminola) January 10, 2020
Until very recently, the Nigerian Film and Videos Censor’s Board has had terrible interactions with the Nigerian film industry. With very few positive contributions, the film censors board is best known for banning things on the grounds of morality. You write a song with a Yoruba slang for vagina, your song gets banned. Your film has even a hint of adult themes, you get banished to the dreaded 18+ rating. Filmmakers were content to be left alone.
But this new collaboration with the Defence Headquarters (aka the Ministry of Defence) by the National Film Corporation, one of the quartet of media based government agencies could be a game changer. It shifts the focus from censorship to collaboration and will give filmmakers the opportunity to explore themes that they’d otherwise ignore for fears of profitability. It will be interesting to see how much influence the Censor’s Board and the ministry of defense will have in the eventual projects that will come from this call and if it will finally change how we see government influence in the film industry and rebrand the Nigerian government as a true collaborator in advancing the film industry.
Edwin Okolo is an author and journalist who has worked with YNaija, TheNativemag and the Naked Convos.