Sunday, October 16, 2011

One Village, One Cinema. Why Not?"

"Most of the world is without a cinema hall. That will all change! One village, one cinema. Why not?"

~Anthony Tate, Virgina, U.S.A.

As much as we appreciate the revival of the movie theatre culture in Nigeria with thanks to the Silverbird Cinemas and Genesis Deluxe Cinemas, we would be happier to use cinemas to break social class barriers and build bridges of unity among communities for the common benefit of the society and not to pander to the aristocratic tastes of the rich minority in Nigeria to the detriment of the poor majority.

Cinema has never been an elitist medium of communication.
Cinema is a tool for public entertainment and enlightenment and has been very effective and imperative in mass literacy campaigns in developed and developing countries for decades. Cinemas made Hollywood the film capital of the world buoyed by over 38,605 indoor screens in 5,561 sites and 628 Drive-In screens in 381 sites in the US, the largest in the world.

Presently in Nigeria movie theatres have become elitist centres in upscale urban zones with the two major cinema chains operating from shopping malls and charging exorbitant gate fees and selling refreshment at inflated prices, thus making cinemas only for the middle class and upper class communities where a date at the cinema in Nigeria will cost over $20, the equivalent of N3, 00 - N4, 000, per person. But it was no so from the early 1960, 1970s and 1980s when there were many cinema halls where movie lovers paid as little as 50 cents or 50 kobos per ticket and refreshments were sold at the normal prices on the street.

From our nationwide survey based on economic facts and social orientations, we have found that over 90% of the adult population in Nigeria cannot afford the exorbitant tickets at these luxury movie theatres and have resorted to the patronage of pirated Nollywood home videos and foreign movies openly circulated and distributed by hawkers and vendors on the street or viewed on the internet where thousands of movies are available for downloads by online distributors and pay-per-view sites or pirates. In fact the popularity of Nollywood is due to the proliferation by both online and offline legal distributors and pirates of bootleg movies. These majorities among the lower class and lower middle class of the Nigerian population are patronizing hundreds of viewing centres in their suburbs to watch the popular European soccer leagues like the English Premiership, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga and the UEFA Champions League where they pay as little as 10 cents of N100 gate fee and buy refreshments at affordable prices. Therefore, providing affordable cinemas to them will receive a good reception in their respective communities.

The Open Air Cinema Foundation, Mobile Cinema Foundation and mobiCINE are breaking barriers by taking the cinemas out of elitist locations and taking mobile cinemas to the majority of the people in every community.

The Open Air Cinema Foundation specifically addresses growing technological inequity by providing ‘offline’ and underrepresented communities with the tools and training necessary to exchange their stories through local cinema screenings and regional open air film festivals.

Google, BBC, FilmAid International, UNICEF, Shine Global, ZOA and the Rwanda Cinema Center have joined as mutual partners of Open Air Cinema Foundation to produce large community screenings of educational films and documentaries for hundreds of thousands throughout Africa and Asia on current issues like women’s rights, conflict resolution and AIDS prevention. Through training and technical support we assist our partner organizations in bringing educational media to marginalized communities, creating an environment that encourages social interaction using memorable films and natural settings.

These efforts have proved extremely successful within villages and refugee camps in Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, & Tanzania. OACF’s inflatable screen technology has been used to educate hundreds of thousands in refugee camps on current issues like women’s rights and AIDS prevention. The systems are simple enough to set up and use for small events with a few people, yet large enough to accommodate gatherings of several thousand people.

The following are several projects that OACF has partnered with. Through these experiences we have demonstrated the power of film as a catalyst for social change:

* FilmAid International
* MTV Exit
* Kandy International Film Festival
* Shine Global and Fine Films
* Luang Prabang Film Festival
* Rwanda Cinema Center
* Buddhadasa Indapanno Archive

Open Air Cinema Foundation and other partners promoting outdoor cinemas are coming to Nigeria to support the new Screen Naija Open Air Cinema Festival to bring cinemas to the various communities from the urban areas to the suburbs and villages.

The inaugural Screen Naija Open Air Cinema Festival will be held in the spring of 2012 in Lagos.

Visit the for more information.

~ By Ekenyerengozi Michael Chima, Founder/Festival Director, Screen Naija Open Air Cinema Festival, Lagos, Nigeria.

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