Nneoma, of Pyoo Wata, reviews the reactions of Nigerian bloggers to the recent sci-fi fim, District 9, and also cautions against the use of the rebranding mantra for the purposes of censorship.
Ever since the Dora Akunyili was charged with the task of cleaning up the national image, the nation, including its bloggers, has been even more keenly aware of Nigeria’s face to the world. While some argue that Nigeria is its own worst enemy, others have come to the conclusion that the actions of but a few Nigerians mars the reputation of millions of others. Therefore the need to rebrand Nigeria is needed. We have previously described, here at NigeriansTalk.org, the Nigerian blogosphere’s response to the rebranding project (Good People, Great Nation). Seems like the Nigerian blogosphere has also taken it upon themselves to challenge prevailing negative stereotypes about Nigerians, particularly by Sony. Nigerian bloggers have teamed up with Akunyili (whether advertently or inadvertently) to condemn recent negative depictions of Nigerians propagated by Sony and its subsidiaries.
Earlier this month, I expressed my dismay at the portrayal of Nigerians in what is to be dubbed as Africa’s first major science fiction film, District 9. While this Sony and Tristar Pictures’ film aims to satirize apartheid and tackle xenophobic sentiments that exist in South Africa, it fails to hide the directors’ prejudices against Nigerians living in South Africa. In an interview with the Huffington Post, Neill Blomkamp states that the small population of Nigerians in South Africa is indeed responsible for the majority of crime in his country. In keeping with his bias against Nigerians, District 9 features prominently, a Nigerian criminal gang that engages in dubious business deals and pimps out its women to this largely male alien species. Nigerians are also the center of the films occultic elements, unrelated to Nigerian traditional religion and medicine (despite ill-informed documentaries citing otherwise). In purporting District 9 to be a social commentary against xenophobic hatred and then opening the movie with lurid Nigerian characters, “…contradict[s] himself as soon as he started writing the script,” according to blogger MellowYel of Stuff Nigerians Love/Hate. Nigerian American science fiction author, Nnedi, also vents her frustration with the film on her blog and makes the point that beyond this, black South Africans served as a “mere setting,” for the film. Sugabelly, known for her biting frankness, goes on to suggest that “…if you squinted your eyes just a little bit you might not even notice the movie was set in Africa.” District 9 was hardly a triumph for African film industry and definitely was not worth disparaging Nigerians in South Africa.
Other Nigerians also blogged about their dissatisfaction with the film. Of note is that of SolomonSydelle on the blog NigerianCuriosity. In her post, she relates this film to the recent Sony Playstation 3 ads which makes reference to Nigerian scams. At the time, Akunyili had already demanded an apology from Sony – an apology which can be found on their website. Amongst bloggers and lovers of Nigerian blogs everywhere remained the question, what of District 9, which probably commanded a wider audience than the gaming ads. As of Saturday, we learnt that Akunyili had also demanded an apology from Sony in regards to the District 9 film. Audio of the request by Akunyili can be found here. Additionally, Akunyili requested a ban against the film in Nigeria. While I applaud her efforts to challenge such stereotypes of Nigerians abroad, I find the latter move, unnecessary. If we continue to censor such images, how can we, as bloggers and as a nation, counter such offensive portrayals. It is largely through our ability to access such information that ordinary Nigerian citizens can assist in Akunyili’s rebranding project. The Nigerian government’s willingness to take on District 9, should also be seen as a victory to the many Nigerian bloggers who took offense to this film. One would hope that Akunyili’s mission is not one of censorship which gives birth to misinformation and impedes upon the progress Nigerians have made and continue to make in the blogosphere. Such would be counter-intuitive to the goals of promoting Good People and creating a Great Nation.