Sunday, February 20, 2011

Power Napping Before Beer-Thirty

I was a Nollywood virgin before tonight. Okay, to be honest, I didn't even know there were Nollywood films before tonight.

Maybe that's why the University of Richmond does their International Film Series in the first place. Perhaps they realize that there are oblivious types like me out there who need to be educated and they set out to do it on a weekly basis.

Being shown was Arugba, a 2008 Nigerian film that was part romantic comedy, part social commentary, part public service announcement and overwhelmingly, a moral tale. Governments are corrupt and politicians self-serving. Got it.

The award-winning film was made by a leading Nigerian director as an allegory about the current state of Nigerian politics and culture. To this American, it was striking for its heavy-handed health lessons (AIDS testing good, infant dehydration bad) and love/hate relationship with the U.S.

References to Obama being elected (and shown speaking on TV) underscored the effect this had on blacks worldwide, but they were tempered by things like a dance number espousing native African traditions over superficial American ways.

And much to my surprise, there were several colorful dance numbers that combined Western style hip-hop sounds and delivery with native African style dancing and costumes.

Contrast that with one of the main plot points being about choosing a ceremonial virgin for the traditional masquerade festival, which sounded rather archaic to me.

But there was a touch of modern humor when one of the town elders addressed the crowd saying, "I greet the virgins and those that can never be virgins again."

Not long after I sat down in the theater, a guy came in and sat next to me and his friend eventually joined him. He mentioned that he didn't have high hopes for the film because, "The synopsis sounded dull. I don't really like African movies." So why exactly are you here then?

Within fifteen minutes, he was slumped in his seat snoring next to me. Fortunately, his friend waited until one of his snorts woke him up, they conferred and decided to exit stage right.

Squeezing by me, the snorer leaned down and apologized, "Sorry, just didn't like it. We're gonna go have a beer. Wanna join us?"

I'd make a disparaging remark here, except that four other people got up during the course of the movie and left, too. I'm not sure what they were expecting from a Nigerian film, but whatever it was, clearly it wasn't being delivered.

They might want to consider getting used to seeing more Nigerian movies, though. According to the pre-film speaker, in terms of sheer number of movies being produced, it's now Bollywood, Nollywood, and then Hollywood. Number three and hanging on by our collective fingernails.

Whoa. That gives virgins and those that can never be virgins again something to think about, I'd say.

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