– By Austeen Eboka
EGOS AND EGOMANIACS – Film Making and Film Makers in the Diaspora.
First, reference the recently concluded FACE Awards ceremony in Atlanta, I greatly applaud the organizers for their selfless, generous and noble efforts at putting together such a prestigious and glamorous event. It was highly impressive, and humbling to be in the same room with such high-powered personalities. Thank you Princess Asha Okojie of AfriQ’talk Culture Beyond Borders and the FACE team. I pray more blessings and God’s continued favor on you all.
For some time leading to the FACE awards event, it had come to my hearing that some individuals attempted to sabotage the ceremony by instigating some negative responses and acceptance of the prestigious affair which, by the way, was not only well attended but, graced by Ministers from the continent, a US Senator, the Nigerian Consular General himself, Arik Air Vice President, some notable US TV Network personalities, entrepreneurs and several highly placed dignitaries both here and abroad.
Not to mention a written congratulatory message from Atlanta’s Mayor Kasim Reed to both the organizers and award recipients. These incorrigible elements, I understand, had the boldness to go as far as to challenge the authenticity and validity of the awards, the organizers as well as the recipients. What height of impertinence.
Secondly, some of us are privy to the unfortunate egocentricity currently pervading our beloved Nollywood industry where some do not understand the concept of team work, professional etiquette and collaborative ventures. There seems to be constant squabbling for dominance in terms of the quantity of movies they churn out yearly. To these individuals, quality and professionalism are foreign. Meanwhile, the ‘real filmmakers’ continue to struggle to accomplish their objectives and get the required resources to achieve their goals of producing quality work. But, change will definitely come when the wheat will be separated from the chaff.
Having said this, I do not comprehend the reason to have Nollywood validate Diaspora filmmaking. Basically, the coinage of the term “NOLLYWOOD USA” denotes just that. Common sense tells us that Nollywood relates to Nigerian Film Industry; just as Bollywood is to India. But then, here in the USA, where we have a mesh of artistes from across the continent coming together for the purpose of creating art, we still call this congregation Nollywood?
Is this deficiency due to a lack of intellectual capability or competence to actually device a more appropriate title for Diaspora film making? Try DIASWOOD, if you are so inclined to having the ‘wood’ attached. And, by the way, there is a DIASWOOD NETWORK in existence, ably put together by one of our very own here in the USA, ATL to be precise; a very well rounded professional in the industry, known across the world, whom I have been blessed to have worked with and continue to work and associate with. But, being who we are, because we did not initiate it, we cannot be a part of it. So, we’d rather become conniving, slippery and antagonistic towards such efforts. We’d rather tie our loins to someone else’s who has no bearing whatsoever on your existence or what you do here.
Furthermore, in relation to the Arts, there are over 2,000 film festivals organized yearly just here in the US. We never see or hear one party running the others down, asking such stupid questions as, “Who gave you the right”, “What qualifications do you have” to set up shop? If anything, there is support across the board. Also, there have been a few African awards shows done here in America that some of us do not even relate to. But no one has openly challenged or questioned the validity of such organizers, some of whom know nothing about the Arts. Of course, I do commend such efforts.
May be someday, we would have the good sense to merge all these different cells together to form ONE reputable, world class African Awards Body. Frankly, I am at a loss as to where to place my judgment on such. Whenever I hear that term – Nollywood USA – it takes all the fibers of my being to keep me from screaming out loud. Try ‘Hollywood Africa’ or ‘Bollywood Asia’ for good measure. I never heard of such intellectual mediocrity in conceptualizing a term or title.
It usually is not in my character to openly express my disgust at the some human follies, as no one is perfect. However, when some elements tend to continually indulge in heedless and irrational exhibition of their absurdities, it becomes imperative for me, and incumbent upon me to call some of this recklessness to order. And, at the end of the day, I DARE anyone of these individuals to tackle or challenge me with regard to my stand on this matter.
Some even had the temerity to confront one of the award recipients, and another member of the organizing body to accuse them of having rigged the whole thing. SERIOUSLY? What impudence! Half education is dangerous; no education at all, especially in the field of one’s endeavor is catastrophic. If you want to debate me on this issue or, any other relating to the Arts, please, let me know the date and time and I shall be there. I only need a 5-minute notice.
To the organizers, and my fellow recipients, do not let your spirits be dampened. In the same token, do not also let such awards get to your heads as humility is the key to achieving greater heights. Just be thankful to God that your efforts, no matter how little have been recognized and appreciated by others. Being nominated is not only gratifying but, a motivation to go out and do bigger things, because the world is watching. Even the Good Book says to rejoice with whomever is rejoicing and be happy for others so that, in like manner, you also may have others rejoice with, and be happy for you.
Film making is not the sole prerogative of any one entity, person or group. Organizing award shows likewise, should not be anyone’s birthright. That some nonentities have decided, out of their indecisive decision to claim “ownership” of not just the African film making industry here in the USA but, to also arrogate to themselves all power and office to decide who or who does not have the right to initiate such ventures is most unbecoming.
To realize that, as much as we are trying to build an industry of and for artistes in the Diaspora, some of us are filled with a mixture of animosity, avarice, self-aggrandizement and a bit of momentary goodness, if any at all, is not a pleasant discovery. It is on record that, one of the very first African movies, if not the first shot here in the US, I was a part of. This was in New York in 2004. The producers of this movie have not claimed proprietorship of Diaspora film making. Who then is it that has placed him/herself as the governor of African film making in the Diaspora?
Ordinarily, I would not have bothered myself with such trivialities as they do not merit any response from me. But, I feel pained that, here we are, Africans, instead of coming together to form a team, pulling our resources to encourage, stimulate and promote African Art, and Films, and those who have the courage to engage in same, as is typical, we embark on destroying, castigating, back-biting and undermining each other.
I ask, who the heck gives YOU the RIGHT or the PLUCK to challenge, dispute, question or contest other people’s well-meaning gestures? What gives anyone the impetus or audacity to claim ownership of any of these ventures? Winning an award, as far as I am concerned, is only a testament to the fact that your peers recognize and appreciate your contribution. It does not mean you are the best as there are so many out there doing great and greater things yet unknown. It is humbling and inspiring as well. However, what does it cost for us to be happy for, and rejoice with one another? Is it in the African DNA to be naturally antagonistic and unprogressive?
As a pioneering member of the Nollywood industry, with over 30 yrs in the field, both stage and screen, I can confidently, and in all modesty say that, none of those referred to here can claim to have been in this field as long as I have or paid as much dues as I have. Not to mention the fact that some of them do not know a thing about the arts. But I do not go around degrading their efforts or questioning them about their works. And there are so many out there like me or even much more experienced in this field whom we are yet to come across.
They are not running around provoking their peers or contesting some of the award shows being put together by others. Be mindful, though, it is not the length of time one has expended on an enterprise that matters but, our objective, dedication, zeal and passion. Some of my fellow award recipients, I know for a fact, have likewise put in a great effort at their craft. And they keep working at it. There are still many more out there, unknown to us who are achieving a remarkable lot.
So, do we undermine them because they do not belong to our clique or yours? How do we grow if we cannot support and motivate each other? But you feel others must come seek permission from you in order to shoot a film, organize an awards ceremony? So, I ask again, WHO THE HECK ARE YOU? What credentials or qualifications do you possess that make you the sole proprietor/proprietress of this supposedly honorable and wholesome institution? For the purpose of decorum, I have decided to refrain myself from calling out the individuals involved as none of them has had the courage to confront me.
However, it is said that, “When dry bones are mentioned in a proverb, the old woman feels uneasy.” It would be wise for these ludicrous elements to nip this idiocy in the bud before it festers uncontrollably. Nonetheless, our people also say that, “The head of an old man is not good for knocks; but may they not give us reason to reverse that saying.” If anyone feels the need to take me up on this, please be my guest. I live there. To succeed, one needs to follow the footsteps of those who have succeeded. I do not know that Hollywood engages in such squabbles, bickering and egocentric ranting. Here we are, in our infancy, power-struggling. Yet, we know NOTHING.
Please, let us all sit on our EGO. Your attitude determines your altitude…