The Nigerian corner of the internet can be a very curious place.
These Nigerian teenagers are producing short sci-fi movies using a smart phone and other everyday items. pic.twitter.com/9dXhPGuD9z
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) August 16, 2019
Last week Al-Jazeera published a video essay about a group of teenagers from Kaduna who with the help of a green screen curtain, a smart phone with a cracked screen and a handful of laptops make truly impressive science fiction short films. Al-Jazeera’s video essay was quickly followed by copies from other major international press lauding the work of the teenagers and touting them as the ‘next biggest thing’ in VFX out of Africa.
Don’t get me wrong, they clearly are. The animation and graphics they create are crisp, and even more impressive when you realise these children are entirely self taught and most likely using pirated software they either bought from stores or downloaded off the internet. But as much press as the Al-Jazeera profile brought them, it also rubbed me the wrong way. At no point in the video was it mentioned that the boys of Critic001 (that’s the name of their company) had a YouTube channel where they regularly upload their experiments, or that they have an active social media presence. You can see their most watched film here.
Much like Akenzua Flash, another teenager inspired by fantasy and science fiction to create his own superheroes that center his Nigerian experience, the boys of Critic001, were not ‘discovered’ by Al-Jazeera or any of the other international press. The boys were already doing a good job of harnessing the marketing power of the internet to promote their work and were engaging with an existing audience. The attention merely gave them a signal boost, contrary to the narrative the foreign press were trying to sell.
But the attention of the foreign press also exposed some of the hypocrisy that exists within the Nigerian media industry. Since Akenzua Flash was ‘discovered’ in 2016, with a lot of praise for his work and promises to provide equipment and partnerships, Akenzua is still making his videos and publishing them on Youtube, no partnership, no big break. Already the boys of Critic001 are getting the very same response, lots of Nigerian show runners and directors asking for their social media handles and promising them work and opportunities.
Isn’t it weird that the West needs to ‘discover’ talent in our backyard? That we only scramble for creators and innovators who are already building their platforms after their work forces the west to acknowledge them? Isn’t it a little hypocritical that we are eager to ‘discover’ a group who already have shown advanced skill in film making and have a current YouTube following of 27,000 subscribers and nearly 1 million views, and give them a ‘big break’?
Edwin Okolo is an author and journalist who has worked with YNaija, TheNativemag and the Naked Convos.