AN OPEN LETTER TO THE HONOURABLE MINISTER FOR INFORMATION & CULTURE
Dear Honourable Minister,
THE MOPPICON PALAVA
I usually like to mind my business and would not have bothered joining in this debate. As it stands though, it happens to be my business that this will affect. So to some extent I am still in character. Minding my business. Questions will be asked of all filmmakers in the industry today by generations yet unborn if we fail to guide you right on this matter.
In a world where countries are seeking ways of creating enabling environments for creativity and the freedom of expression to thrive. Nigeria is seeking the opposite for its film industry with a bill called “The Motion Pictures Practitioners Council of Nigeria” MOPPICON bill. A bill that has been ten years or more in the making and frankly I believe a total waste of time.
Sadly I will not be attending as I will be out of the country. Please accept my apologies. I have therefore elected to use this medium to put my thoughts in the public domain for the honourable Ministers’ consideration. Also so my colleagues in the industry know where I stand on this matter.
Filmmaking like art, music, poetry and writing is a creative endeavour. Its main barrier is the ability to find funding to express and vent. That honourable Minister is more than enough barrier. To add one that dictates some form of registration and permission to practice amounts to asking the creative not to breathe. As far as I know this does not happen anywhere in the democratic world. Frankly I fail to see how this will even work. Considering how many young boys and girls are out there with digital cameras shooting and making bold films? With the opportunity for exhibition that the internet provides? How will this work?
I understand the Ministerial Committee aimed at fast-tracking the
passage into law of the Motion Picture Practitioners Council of
Nigeria (MOPPICON) Bill is to be inaugurated on Friday, April 8th
2016 at the Conference Room of the National Theatre, Iganmu,
Lagos, by you Sir.
As always, a look at the requirements for membership is a mix of the age old dictates that are part of Nigeria’s problems today – certificates and years of experience. Nowhere does it mention creativity. The one thing required to succeed that cannot be taught or earned by experience.
In a time when the country is in dire straits and unemployment at an all time high. A time when we should be looking at ways to expand the earning potentials of the country and creating more jobs, the MOPPICON bill will do the exact opposite. Stifle the growth potentials of an industry that currently employs hundreds of thousands of our youth and has the capacity to employ millions.
The only person who should have the right to determine who should and should not be a filmmaker is the audience. They vote with their feet. Sooner or later the charlatan is forced to find other means of livelihood when his/her works fail to find an audience. I believe that should be the only way.
MOPPICON as presently proposed or in any other form is a pure waste of time and government resources. It strikes me as the handy work of jobseekers looking to pest on public funds and promote themselves as gate keepers of the industry.
Most industry bodies that thrive and endure are usually the creation of members of the industry. They succeed because they are created to meet a need or needs of the industry in a way that ensures its continued existence and sustenance. Nothing in the MOPPICON bill speaks to this. If anything a very negligible portion of the document I read relates to this. A look at section 11 on the application of the council’s funds bear this out;
Section 11. Application of the Funds
1. to the cost of administration of the Council; 2. for all approved capital projects of the Council; 3. for reimbursing members of the Council or any Committee of the Council for such expenses as may be expressly authorized by the Council in accordance with the rates approved by the Ministry in charge of motion picture matters; and 4. to the payment of salaries, fees or other remuneration or allowances and pensions, gratuities, payable to staff of the Council. 5. the payment of allowances to council members.
These are the things which the councils funds made up of annual government allocations, membership dues and foreign grants etc will be used for. Please, which of these directly benefits the industry?
In its thinking it Sounds and looks like a bad copy of the Academy of Motion Pictures art and sciences of America.
The importance of any organisation is in the benefit it holds for its members. These could range from health insurance and pension schemes for its members. The documentation and gathering of industry data, promoting professionalism through training and internships. Mediation in disputes between members, represent industry interest, Recognition and promotion of excellence and achievements in the industry through awards, etc. An association builds relevance for itself this way and by extension earns respect and prestige which it then transfers to its members, making it the more attractive to subscribe to and join.
The Academy of Motion Arts and Sciences in America was started in 1927 in America by practitioners in the industry. It is totally non governmental. Today it is global force to reckon with. Its membership and awards recognised as the pinnacle of achievement in a filmmaking career world-wide. Yet not even this powerful association of industry peers has the power to tell anyone in America they cant make films. They welcome with open arms new expressions of filmmaking talent in any form anywhere in the world. Promote and invest heavily in any act that advances and broadens the frontiers of filmmaking.
A look at the annual reports of the Academy of motion Picture Arts and Sciences bear out the point I am trying to make. It is replete with activities carried out by the organisation in the development and promotion of the motion picture industry in America.
There is merit in the thought for an umbrella industry body for filmmakers. There is certainly a place for an organisation such as this in Nigeria and I can see the great good it can do. I will gladly subscribe to it. Really as an industry we should think of it. Seriously. But certainly not in this guise and most definitely not midwifed by government. Thanks but no thanks.
Honourable Minister Sir, if the government is desirous of engaging and supporting the film industry, there are urgent areas of need it can focus on. These include in order of priority (my opinion) Exhibition infrastructure, distribution support and production funds. I am sure filmmakers will be more than happy to engage you on this.
I regret I wont be able to attend your session with filmmakers on the 8th of April as I am sure it will be most engaging as any encounter with you usually is. I do hope however that my contributions will be considered. You have a unique opportunity to contribute to the growth of the film industry in Nigeria, but Sir, the MOPPICON bill is certainly not the way.