Kunle Afolayan’s anger is somewhat justified, and it invites us to rethink how we approach works of art

A quoted reply by ace Director, Kunle Afolayan has caused a spirited conversation about what constitutes an appropriate response from creatives to claims of piracy of their creative work.

Twitter user, @iam_muideen, had taken to the microblogging site to lament that while he believes the director did a good job with his latest movie Citation, he thinks Kunle Afolayan did a great disservice to the movie by not including subtitles for the French bit.

The critically acclaimed movie is legally only available on Netflix’s VOD platform. And had @im_muideen watched it there, he would have had a fully subtitled top-quality viewing experience.

Afolayan had quoted the offending tweet with an acerbic response that had his followers divided in the true Nigerian fashion; many appealing to the director’s ‘sense of calm’ and inviting him to be ‘the bigger person.’ Many others pointing out that the reaction while justified, considering the offending party not only declared he had ripped a pirated copy of the Director’s work but also went on to criticise that work based on a false premise, it still comes off as a bit much.

Nigeria’s Nollywood could have overtaken Hollywood as the second-largest producer of films with the accompanying economic payoff, the industry already produces more movies per annum than Hollywood. But piracy continues to shave off millions in revenue for the movie industry, keeping it just barely thriving for years.

In an interview with CNN in 2008, Emmanuel Isikaku, a Nollywood producer of 13 years said about piracy, “[It] has dealt a big blow to the industry.”

Isikaku, 42, claimed he lost so much money on his 2007 movie “Plane Crash.”

“I couldn’t make anything from it even though a lot of people watched the film. Unfortunately, they watched pirated copies,” he said.

Nollywood producers estimated back then that up to a staggering 50 per cent of the industry’s profits were lost to Nigeria’s endemic piracy and corruption problems.

In the over a decade since, a lot has changed with the arrival of subscription-based video-on-demand platforms like IrokoTV. This allowed producers to take bigger risks and gave investors the confidence they needed to bankroll those risky endeavours.

Mr Afolayan is no stranger to these daring forays. His 2014 movie, October 1, is reported to have had a budget of N330 million. A good amount of which he recouped through the box office and festival runs.

That success is not much of a big deal in comparison to the game-changing move by Actor, Director and Producer Genevieve Nnaji. The actor’s 2018 movie Lion Heart, became the first Netflix original movie from Nigeria and was reported to have been acquired at a $3.5 million, Netflix didn’t confirm or deny this due to company policy.

In contrast, Lion Heart’s box office run accrued N21.3 million.

Through hell and high water, the creative industry players have scaled one hurdle after another, charting labyrinthine ways of their own creation to make something from the work they invest blood and tears in. It is perfectly understandable therefore that the director should be so enraged he mouthed off the offending Twitter user.

It is safe to say Mr Afolayan has already made good money from Citation just from Netflix acquisition of the movie, but the truth remains that he could have made so much more with a box office run which was hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic and perhaps, Afolayan’s own business decision.

Notwithstanding, seeing a supposed admirer of his work rip off said work without paying a penny for it, and then coming online to boldly say not only that they pirated the work but they also have a thing or two to say about how he did a shoddy job, will surely have enraged anyone.

Hopefully, now that you know the cost of piracy, you too are angry at that original tweet. The greater hope, however, is that this righteous anger will inspire you and me to pay for the content we love so that the creatives who make them are encouraged to create more works that enrich our culture.

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