Nollywood Free School at The Speaker Palace on Tuesday 1st March
with Nicola Woodham
Talk and discussion 8.30 – 9.30pm
14 Andre St Hackney E82AA
Nollywood, the thriving homegrown, feature film industry in Nigeria, is best known for its resourcefulness and creativity against the odds. Pirated videos of these dramas, action movies and occult tales circulate widely and reach thousands of viewers. Back in 1999 when the industry was starting up, End of the Wicked was made. It was made specifically to promote evangelism, the Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries church, headed by pastor Helen Ukpabio and to ‘reach out’ to the misguided. Here, Ukpabio and director Teco Benson use the conventions of horror filmmaking and lo-fi special effects to tell a moral story that warns against the evils of witchcraft, where children are the main perpetrators. Coincidentally or not, at the time of its release, the belief in child witches and wizards began to increase -particularly around the Niger Delta. The film, and films like it, have been seen by child protection organisations in Nigeria as fuelling beliefs in witchcraft that lead to ongoing child abuse. Teco Benson
doesn’t like talking about the film, I interviewed him a couple of years ago. Tellingly, he joined forces with child protection charity Stepping Stones Nigeria last year and made The Fake Prophet that perhaps can be seen as an atonement film, and an interesting homage to the belief in the power of film to change opinion. At the same time as all of this, fifty years of corrupt oil extraction continues to wreak havoc on the ecological and social environment around the Niger Delta. Parentless children are a burden, and people look more and more to their faith for answers and a scapegoat for the poverty, ill-health and political
unrest. The result is a moral panic around the children stigmatised as witches, the filmmakers and even the charities.
For the Nollywood Free School I’ll be considering what it means to see a film like it in different contexts. For die-hard trash film lovers it is seductive in its shaky production values and demonic themes, but how far can we ‘sit back and
enjoy it’, knowing the circumstances of its production and reception? At what point is it ‘ok’ to view a film out of its cultural context and subject it to fervent semiotic analysis? What is this magical quality apportioned to these videos, and how far should or can we pin blame upon them? I’ll also be showing sequences from The Fake Prophet kindly provided by Stepping Stones Nigeria for the talk.
Nicola Woodham is an artist and writer based in London. She has written about and presented papers on Nigerian evangelist cinema and cult film. Forthcoming publications on the subject include contributions to The End an Electric Sheep anthology, Strange Attractor Press and Screening the Undead: Zombies and
Vampires in Film and Television, I.B Tauris. She writes regularly for Electric Sheep Magazine.