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Ben Stiller “To Spread Goodness” in Nigeria

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ben_stillerAs Nollywood continues to rise in popularity, Hollywood might just begin to see Nigeria as the perfect background for its movies. Why not? A city like Lagos has all the scenic drama you would need for the perfect action scene. Variety Magazine announced this week that Ben Stiller will be directing a new movie based on a Chicago banker who gets swindled in a Nigerian scam. While the project is meant to be entertaining, it also sheds light on current issues in Nigeria and other African countries. The film is going to be produced by Participant Media (The Soloist) whose mandate to make films that compel social change.

At the premiere of X-Men the wolverine last weekend, many Nigerians were proud to see that one of the beginning scenes was set in Lagos. There was even a man speaking Igbo! The aerial view was definitely Lagos and some even think that the action shot that featured a Nigerian diamond dealer took place in the UBA building. However, most of the shots were probably in a studio.

It looks like Nollywood might also be able to compete with “Tinsel Town’ some day. UNESCO announced that the Nigerian film industry has overtaken Hollywood and closed the gap on India in the number of movies produced each year. So, what are your thoughts on  Hollywood films and TV shows that reference Nigeria and how accurate are they? Here are a few below but I’m probably missing a lot.

tears_of_the_sunTears of the Sun

Bruce Willis plays a Special-Ops commander who leads his team into a jungle in Nigeria to rescue a doctor played by Monica Belluci who will only go with them if they agree to rescue 70 refugees too.

sahara2Sahara

Matthew McConaughey is cast as  explorer Dirk Pitt who goes on the adventure of a lifetime of seeking out a lost Civil War battleship known as the “Ship of Death” in the deserts of West Africa while helping a UN doctor being hounded by a ruthless dictator.

phat_girlz_003Phat Girlz

Monique plays a plus-size woman trying to find a place in the skin-and-bones world of high fashion by launching her own line of clothes for large ladies. While on vacation, she meets Tunde (Jimmy Jean-Louis), a handsome and successful doctor from Nigeria, and she discovers to her surprise that Tunde is strongly attracted to her.

Addendum

I just had to write this note after hearing the opinions of our readers thus far. I definitely agree that we have seen too much from the media about the negatives like the scam industry and not enough positive news. Just wanted to note that the producers of the movie have stated that the movie will highlight issues in the country that influence the scam industry.

The purpose of film is to showcase reality, provoke thought, invoke emotion and hopefully bring about change. The “419” scam is one that is very real in our society and stains our public image. This movie or any type like it is not what is destroying our image. Unfortunately, thanks to a few bad apples, all “The West” has to do is look at their inbox and fax machine to be presented with a negative view of Nigeria. Hopefully through a movie like this we can talk about the real reason why corruption and scams like “419” exists.

I also agree that “The West” needs to look internally instead of pointing the finger at us. From the corporate greed in Wall Street that caused the global financial crisis, to Bernie Madoff and other Ponzi schemes, 419 exists in everyone’s backyard. While we shouldn’t rely on Hollywood to be the ones to highlight our issues, culture and identity. We need to understand that to change perceptions we do have to be in the broad public dialogue.

The one thing that makes me nervous  is that the there isn’t a single Nigerian on the executive production team. Either way, as someone who doesn’t have the luxury of being in my country every day. It’s still pretty cool to once in a while see Nigeria or Nigerians referencd  in a movie or TV show, unfortunately that comes with bad plot lines and inaccurate scenery. Thanks guys for the comments and please keep them coming!

Note (3:15pm) Synopsis of Tears of the Sun movie changed to “jungle in Nigeria”. Thanks for catching that rizzle we definitely dont want the world to think all of Nigeria is a jungle.

28 Comments

  1. jegede sokoya

    May 8, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    Whats to be happy about that they are shooting a movie that has to do with 419 scam?probably more problems for us Nigerians in yankee to deal with when some stupid Americans start asking us questions about it!

    1
  2. randommer

    May 8, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    yeah i roll my eyes at this post. and i heard that naija scene in wolverine was sketchy

    1
  3. kokolette

    May 8, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    I really doubt that this is going to present Naija in any manner that could even remotely be considered positive. It’s just going to reinforce all the negative stereotypes about Africa as a whole and Nigeria in particular. An American made movie on Naija 419 scams? Well, let’s wait and see sha. But I am not hopeful at all.

    1
  4. dacky

    May 8, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    i feel so disturb that we stil believe the west is the answer, what in d first place is the meaning of nollywood why must we always copy…i remember obasanjo once said “if the west dnt come to the aid of Africa, Africa will remain a pit” just imagine!

    1
  5. nappynymous

    May 8, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    This is not positive in any way……please. You guys(bella naija) can do better.

    1
  6. ajiri

    May 8, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    how come oyinbo people are always trying to make other cultures look bad or backward. when will they make a movie that will show the good side of Africa, the Middle East, and other cultures.

    1
  7. Sugabelly

    May 8, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    Please this whole thing is just dumb. Ben Stiller needs to get a life. Africans don’t need saving.

    He should go and save the people in America.

    1
  8. rizzle

    May 8, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    Omo, did this writer really use the phrase “jungle of Nigeria” in this piece or am I seeing things?

    Chei.

    1
  9. damola

    May 8, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    When the shot Traitor, Body of lies, all they could shoot about the middle east is the fact that they are a terrorist group.. now they are doing the same to my dear Nigeria.. can’t they shoot something about Fashola chaning the face of Lagos, or must it be scam?.. enough of this crap.. America is full of more scam than Nigeria.. rubbish

    1
  10. PoisonIVY

    May 8, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    Damn…it is finished…talk about feeding a stereotype..it just HAD to be about a scam.

    1
  11. Anonymous

    May 8, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    ‘into a jungle in Nigeria’

    1
  12. Tko

    May 8, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    Many times movies reference pop culture and naija and scam are high on the radar. If we want movies that show us in a positive light then we need to make those movie and market them to other cultures so we can influence how they see us. A simple spin on the Ben Stiller movie is to have the guy come to Nigeria looking to the person responsible and then he falls in love with a beautiful Nigerian and decides to stay. Yes he was scammed but if not for that he would never have found the love of his life. If we want to be perceived a certain way we need to take control of our image and not hope someone will be so kind to us.

    1
  13. Paul Usoro

    May 8, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    I have to say, the scene “shot” in Nigeria for X-Men Origins kinda disappointed me. The accents were so fake and I didn’t appreciate that they made Lagos look like some refugee camp. At least they had the decency to get someone to speak Igbo. It was the worst part of the movie for me (and I thought it was pretty good movie). I’m yet to see a movie that presents Nigeria in a good light.
    We’ll just have to wait and see what Ben Stiller is bringing to the table. I’m not holding my breath sha…

    1
  14. egg

    May 9, 2009 at 1:21 am

    this just reminded me why obasanjo was/is a fool

    1
  15. Olivia Ziani

    May 9, 2009 at 2:37 am

    I agree with those that are offended at the ‘scam’ stereotype we seem to be saddled with. However, as we continue to evolve ( Fashola of Lagos)is a good example of what positive changes we can achieve…), even the so called Hollywood will also grow with it. I just hope they’ll use 9ja actors and actresses and transfer the technical skills, workable distribution framework and professionalism our movie industry sadly needs…..Anything to create jobs cos that’s the root of all the crime, brain drain, sucking up to stupid leaders.. etc in 9ja. A good example is the india movie industry-Bollywood…back in the day, all Hollywood referenced was their ‘juju like stories (snake girl? lol) and now see how technically advanced their movies are…I actually go to the theatre to watch their really good movies and Pixar/Dreamworks/Disney et all are all finding a footing there….the ripple effect is enormous.
    Its kindda like our independence….i still wish we got it in 1980 as against 1960, just so they would have put up a rock solid infrastructural system for us before leaving…Imagine Yar Adua not understanding that he NEEDS to fix energy ASAP. We would have been competing with India for outsourced jobs but instead……….thank God for Fashola, hope dey!

    1
  16. wordsmith

    May 9, 2009 at 3:55 am

    we are not amused.

    1
  17. Hhhhmn

    May 9, 2009 at 6:08 am

    I highly doubt that is a correct quote because the only good things Obasanjo is really known for are: his policy banning foreign goods, the scheme to repay Nigeria’s debt, accusing countries that keep Nigeria’s stolen money of aiding corruption and the nationalization of many companies. The 60/40 rule(Nigerians must own majority share in any foreign company) was put in when he was first president.

    So as much as I’m not a fan of his, I really believe that misquotes can be harmful. What is the source of your quote and in what context was it used please?

    1
  18. Kizzle

    May 9, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    it said “jungle of”. they edited it.

    1
  19. jegede sokoya

    May 9, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    and he will forever be a fool

    1
  20. Abeni Ebony

    May 10, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    this was a pretty informative article….great work BellaNaija

    1
  21. yay

    May 11, 2009 at 5:47 am

    You forgot the new Wolverine movie…

    1
  22. enrique

    May 11, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    Gosh. Someone actually said ‘This scam stereotype we are saddled with’.

    Saddled with? Stereotype? Has that person lived in Nigeria in the past – gosh what – two decades?!?!?

    I understand folks are involuntarily supposed to take up arms in support of country. But a little though, a little perspective is necessary. Lets not be children, which means irrational.

    1
  23. $poh

    May 11, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    I can bet the end result of this film is going to be detrimental to the image of nigeria. I wonder if we should be celebrating this impending disgrace or making sure it addresses both parties equally? At least its a greedy person(foreigner) that will drop 100 to get 1000 in exchange. They hope to make profit that’s why they invest and then get duped.

    1
  24. GamGam

    May 11, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    Bla Bla… i love Wolverine and Stiller! lol

    1
  25. sleepy willow

    May 16, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    I agree with $poh. As a Nigerian, I am still embarrassed to tell people where I come from because of 419 fraud cases and because of aggressive Nigerian men (usually older) who try to talk to me and my American friends (we are 19-20yrs) . 7 years ago, Americans didn’t know what 419 was, but now, its everywhere. I even hear some Americans say “Oh, so and so is shady, they are Nigerian” or “Will go to Tanzania, but probably not Nigeria, its too dangerous and they are a bunch of crooks.” This new Ben Stiller movie shouldn’t be celebrated, as it will only bring further embarrassment, shame and discrimination to Nigerians abroad. Highlighting the causes of 149 won’t help either. Poverty exists everywhere and the focus will be about the ‘scamming Nigerians.’…And the Title ‘Jungle in Nigeria’- wow, that’s really sad- its 2009 people! Last comment- was anyone else pissed about the movie Phat Girls? It portrayed Nigerian men as loving obese women. No respect to Monique, but even though some Nigerian women are curvy with hips etc, we are not that large and all men here don’t like that. In fact, in my family, all the women are slim. And the part at the end of the movie where the maid can’t speak English? What?!

    1
  26. Bridget Oti

    June 5, 2009 at 1:36 am

    omg get over yourself. the movie will bring comedy into such a bad rep. just like comedians joke about racism-it brings light to something so bad.

    1
  27. fesh

    February 10, 2010 at 6:39 am

    actually, wolverine (the village shot) was done right here in vancouver, BC, Canada…i saw the set…dunno what y’all is talking about it being shot in Nigeria and such

    1
  28. rotimi

    July 17, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    Personally a lot of the movies highlighted above never do proper research about Nigeria before they start using it in their movies..the most disappointing for me was Sahara..the cars and outfits the people wore showed that the producers etc knew absolutely nothing about what they were talking about..tears of the sun could be shown more forgiveness cause it was supposed to be like a post civil war in the future type thing so with that said..i guess they were free to do what they wanted..xmen was stupid..now regarding this 419 thing..I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO PROBLEM WITH INTERNET SCAM BEING SHOWN IN THEIR MOVIES…when Russia was still involved very heavily in uclear bombs..they were represented as such,the arabs are represented the way they are because of what a lot of them have done,the colombians and italians are most times shown as drug dealers or corrupt cops..take it or leave it..we are known for internet fraud..when it reduces the buzz will reduce..since 9/11 and the new anti terrorism lws..i know how many movies have come out showing that arabs are always the first suspects when there is a problem on a plane..i think it is good plain fun and we should only see it as such

    1

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