BY ‘SEGUN ODEJIMI
A lot of young Nollywood practitioners wouldn’t hug you and give you a kiss on the cheek if you refer to them as New Nollywood. Some older members will also explicitly tell you (in public, anyway), that the name is a no-no. And rightly so. There is no point trying to separate the newcomers from the old comers. The “old” folks did a good job of putting this industry on its feet with their sweat and doggedness. From Ola Balogun to Duro Ladipo and Hubert Ogunde up until the Kenneth Nnabue and Amaka Igwe years. It was them who laboured for an industry while it was still pretty unfashionable to call yourself a filmmaker in your family. As much headway as the movie-making world was making in Nigeria, the world had not quite noticed. Now, the “new” folks are putting Nigeria FIRMLY on the global filmmaking map with their talent, pretty faces and technological appreciation. Everyone is doing well for the industry, and themselves. Everyone rightfully belongs to Nollywood. Even the little-known actor far up North who has probably just had his screen debut. However, there is a 10-year old draft bill referred to as The MOPICON Bill which is threatening to divide the industry in a way which no language barrier, technological gulf, or government fund has done before.
The Motion Picture Practitioners Council of Nigeria (MOPPICON), according to PART 1 of the 49-page document, will be “charged with the duty of: Functions of the Council (a) determining who are Motion Picture Practitioners (b) determining what standards of knowledge and skills are to be attained by persons seeking to become registered as Motion Picture Practitioners and reviewing those standards from time to time; (c) securing in accordance with the provisions of this Act, the establishment and maintenance of a register of persons entitled to practice as professionals in the motion picture industry, and the publication, from time to time, of lists of those persons…” [You can view the full document here].
Going by conversations (on social media as well as several one-on-one chats TNS has had with several young filmmakers, they believe that this draft bill is the handiwork of certain “older” members of the industry who have, for several years, looked for a way to stifle the voices of the “younger” ones. A filmmaker who would not be named said to me, “O’boy, these people don’t start again. Dem no want make we breathe for where dem dey. Na the meaning of all this rubbish be this. They want to be forever invincible.“
Part of filmmaker, CJ Obasi‘s Facebook post on his thoughts about the bill reads, “If we won’t welcome growth and begin to support young filmmakers and doing everything possible to make life easier for them as filmmakers, rather than pushing them away, alienating them and constricting them, we are going to rebel, it is only natural. The country will lose in the end.” In another comment, he lamented, “Its unfortunate that we the younger generation of filmmakers (upon whom supposedly the future of the industry is on) is only now hearing and reading of the contents of this bill. After over 10 years!“
Chukwuemeka Joseph said, “When I confronted Mr. Mahmud Ali Balogun on this bill in a film makers forum, I was almost swallowed raw by old film makers that were present. CJ, no one can silence us.“
However, Ali Mahmood-Balogun who is expected to serve as the deputy coordinator of the committee to review the draft bill (he was also part of the 20-plus people who drafted the document in 2006) told me that those airing their fears on social media platforms need to be guided as “most of [the contents of the proposed bill] have been overtaken by time, social media and technology.“
“This was a document drafted 10 years ago. The use of social media was non-existent then. So things have changed. The contents will be reviewed,” he said.
Also, in her comment on CJ Obasi’s post, Peace Anyiam-Osigwe, the coordinator of the ministerial committee said, “…There must be a stakeholders meeting and all associations that you should belong to are represented, but even independents are. Going to have a chance, creativity is not to be regulated but standards of professional areas of film making is what should be standardised.” She continued, “…all of us are independent filmmakers and everything in that bill will have to be scrutinized so as not to be a. Decree [a decree] but like APCON Regulation on standards, freedom of expression exists and must, the Late Amaka Igwe had many issues with this version of Mopicon and opposed it as it is presently written, the review committee will review with all Guilds associations and there many of you who fall into a category that still have a voice, creativity has no age. We all are film makers and we all need each other, must listen and engage in constructive analysis. The Minister has allowed us as practitioners to review the bill not politicians.“
Another industry veteran, Greg Odutayo added, “The essence of the ministerial committee is a review. That means you have an opportunity to put forward your thoughts and opinion….Imagine if this was passed 10 years ago. But we also cannot continue to function in an unregulated environment. That is where we are now. Such will allow a few to grow to the detriment of the majority.“
However you chose to see the current developments, things should start getting clearer from April 8, the date chosen for the inauguration of the ministerial committee which will draw members from – as Ali-Balogun put it – relevant guilds and associations.