Adeolu Adefarasin: An Open Letter to Nollywood
While the eyes of the world turn to Nollywood, your duty is not to feed the narrative, but to change the narrative. The stories we tell matter.
To the industry I love dearly,
Now more than ever, I believe Nollywood is on the precipice of greatness, the eyes of the world are facing you and you have a great opportunity to speak, to be seen and to be heard. For far longer than I have been an active member of this valued industry, many before me have dreamt of the day that the reach and influence of Nollywood would go far and wide. I know there is so much to be proud of.
In the same breath, I am aware that with such great influence comes a weighty responsibility that cannot be ignored. Amongst the many lessons of 2022, I have learned that it is harder to speak truth to power when you seek the help that power can offer. So, at this moment, I lay down my personal aspirations and hopes for what I believe is the greater good, not just of the industry but the many people it influences.
As Nigerians, we have not always been set the best example, not by our elders, not by our leaders – political or otherwise, and not even by our peers. In the midst of that, we managed, for a long time, to maintain hope and a sense of moral integrity – two things I believe are waning under the pressure of present circumstances and the everyday realities of most Nigerians. I believe it is your responsibility to restore hope and a moral core to the masses, I believe it is a responsibility that has been neglected for quick financial gain, I believe it is a responsibility that can be ignored no longer because our nation is at hand.
We cannot follow the footsteps of Hollywood, we cannot lose our moral centre and continue to glorify sexual depravity, corruption, hate and many more. I am so proud of the global success of Nigerians in industries such as music and fashion, but I fear it has come at the great expense of many souls. Music that glorifies drug use, yahoo yahoo and objectifies women. A fashion industry that sexualises everyone and promotes gender ambiguity. We have sold our souls to the highest bidder and my cry is that Nollywood does not follow suit.
It is easy to read this and believe I am acting morally superior. I am not. I am not without my many failings and faults, some of which, I am sure, are still in my future. It is also easy to read this and think of me in my office as a pastor, but I am not speaking only as a Christian, but as a Nigerian. I am writing this to Christians, Muslims and atheists alike. I do not believe these values are religious, I was not taught these values merely within the context of my home, but within the context of my nation. I believe at the very core, as Nigerians, we are good, selfless, kind and compassionate.
For far too long, the narrative on Nigeria and Nigerians has been 419, corrupt and inept leaders, police brutality, Yoruba demons, and so on. While the eyes of the world turn to Nollywood, your duty is not to feed the narrative, but to change the narrative. The stories we tell matter. It has brought me great joy in recent weeks to watch shows such as Far From Home. Unfortunately, productions like this are few and far between. Instead, we see more films glorifying ‘the bad guy,’ glamorising corruption and galvanising division.
Up until now, we have let the western world take advantage of our unpreparedness in the face of unrest, pain and desperation, to paint doubt in our own identities and values. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, but Nollywood, you are primed, poised and positioned to show that success does not have to come at the expense of our souls and to set the framework for the rebuilding of our nation.