District 9 and Nigeria (again)

By | September 22, 2009

Nneoma of Pyoowata writes in a review of Nigerian bloggers’ response to ‘District 9’ for NigeriansTalk.org:

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.

A comment on the same movie by a reader of New York Press (HT Sean):

?As a young Afrikaans South African with a fondness for interspecies-conflict-based fiction, I enjoyed D9, and still I agree with [Armond] White [New York Press film critic] on a few levels. As a purely fictional sci-fi movie, D9 is excellent. During the first 15 minutes of the movie, the entire audience around me was laughing at how the South-African public?s nuances were portrayed? But White is right about the whole analogy thing. The similarities between Apartheid and Human- Prawn segregation is non-existent, except for the fact that in both cases the segregated party resided in crappy shacks.There is a lot more to South Africa?s history than what the general international public realizes, and Peter Jackson?s cash-in on it seems like pure publicity hunting to me.What?s worse to me is the hundreds of critics appraising the analogy in D9, while they themselves don?t know shit about what apartheid is really about. The Nigerian thing is also way overdone, and I feel it is insensitive seeing that there is already a general xenophobia in SA toward Nigerians.?

From my column of this Tuesday:

I have not yet seen the movie but from what I have read from reviews, the movie seems to have borrowed the worst from Nollywood movies. I consider tapping into an existing body of work fair game, but I think that taking snatches and omitting the context is an extreme form of laziness. But then, when one thinks about it, was this kind of misrepresentation not something waiting to happen?

I would like to see a level of outcry similar to the one that has followed the movie directed towards Nollywood movies that portray Nigerians as people who make money from human body parts. Or is that belief so entrenched in the minds of Nigerians that it cannot be questioned? On the part of Nollywood producers, I hope that this makes them realise that they are making movies for the whole of Africa. Indeed, many Africans think that ritual killing, along with some form of cannibalism, is prevalent in Nigeria.

I find the references to Nigeria and the depiction of Nigerians in the movie highly distasteful, in case you are curious.

And from CNN:

Some Nigerians said the movie feeds off stereotypes associated with the country.

“Everyone has this image of Nigeria,” Umeano said. “A lot of people have given Nigeria a bad name, but that does not mean the whole country is bad.”

While Clement Nyirenda believes the director should have used a fictional country, he said the outcry is much ado about nothing.

After all, he said, the Nigerian movie industry, Nollywood, is filled with the same characterizations.

“The (Nollywood) movies show Nigerians as witch doctors, corrupt, a lot worse,” Nyirenda said. “Nigeria is mostly known for 419 scams … the government officials should focus on cleaning the image.”

The term “419 scams” refers to spam e-mails that ask for money and bank information.

Akunyili said the country is trying to “rebrand itself away from such images.” The Nollywood industry is undergoing a makeover, too, she added.

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  • anon

    My first reaction is to think : “but, wait, the nigerians in the film are bandits, not simply “nigerians”, so why so much talks about it ? When there is russian bandits in a film, killing and raping and stuff, I don’t think russians should be outraged with that. ”

    But as I see many nigerians reacting quite strongly, I start to think that I might be off the mark. Or not ?

  • anon

    My first reaction is to think : “but, wait, the nigerians in the film are bandits, not simply “nigerians”, so why so much talks about it ? When there is russian bandits in a film, killing and raping and stuff, I don’t think russians should be outraged with that. ”

    But as I see many nigerians reacting quite strongly, I start to think that I might be off the mark. Or not ?

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