A new player on the global film stage…and stories of peace and tolerance, waiting to be told
There already are lots of reasons to visit Africa — incredible scenery, beautiful beaches, wildlife found nowhere else on Earth, a chance to connect to the heritage of my slave ancestors — and this year, the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. But now, I have two new reasons.
One involves the birth of an industry. The other is a story that doesn’t make anyone’s network news.
If you hear much about Nigeria these days, it’s likely dealing with terrorism, sectarian savagery and so on.
What you may not hear is that, after starting up in 1990 with little more than a Betacam and a creative spirit, Nigeria’s 300 producers crank out between 1,200 and 2,000 films a year. That makes Nigeria the second most prolific film-making nation in the world, behind only India, aka Bollywood.
We get the bronze.
Movie making is a $500 million industry in Nigeria, still plenty of room for the “little guy.” No sprawling studios, no whiz-bang gimmickry. Films are shot “on location” in local hotels, offices, people’s homes. Average cost is typically under $25,000 and they’re usually done in a week.
Twelve hundred to 2,000 films a year? That’s an average of three to five new flicks a day. Anybody who sees every Nigerian film released in a given year has way too much free time on his hands.
Most Nigerian movies deal with issues that hit close to home for the audience, not the least of which is religion — and in particularly, the tensions between Christians and Muslims, an issue painfully familiar to much of Africa.
Which brings up the other new reason I have for wanting to visit the motherland.
Of all the surprising things I learned at this year’s U.S.-Africa Travel Seminar in Washington, DC, none was more startling than the state of relations between Christians and Muslims in those two countries. Gambian tourism secretary Kaliba Senghore put it this way:
“In The Gambia, Christians and Muslims are neighbors, friends, They inter-marry. “The Christians go to the mosque. The Muslims go to the church. Only in The Gambia and Ghana can we say this.”
Given the degree of Christian-Muslim bloodletting we’re accustomed to hearing about, those words immediately got my attention. When I started looking around for some sort of confirmation, I got this response from Anouk Zijlma, a former travel agent and an Africa specialist:
“If you look around Africa, Muslims and Christians live peacefully side by side, inter marry, enjoy each others festivals etc. You could take a look in Tanzania, Malawi, Ethiopia, Kenya and even many pockets in Sudan, and see this. So while the Gambia and Ghana are both peaceful countries, I really don’t think they can be said to be the ‘only’ examples of this.”
African nations where Christians and Muslims peacefully co-exist? That’s a story that needs to be told — and a sight this traveler needs to see. All I need to do now is find a way to fly from the west coast of the United States to the west coast of Africa, without laying waste to my wallet.
And that, as cops are fond of saying at crimes scenes, is already “under investigation.”