Tuesday, October 27, 2015


I saw Season One of the Nigerian version of SHUGA this past weekend, and was totally amazed by that piece of work. Had I not seen Nigerian artistes, or Nigerian names in the credits I wouldn't have believed that it had anything to do with Nigeria.

It will interest you to know that most of the actors in this flick aren't the ones you'd normally see in Nollywood movies, though it contained artistes that have made it in different genres of music for youths in Nigeria, especially as it appeared to me to be aimed at youths with the message about the ever present menace of HIV and AIDS in todays' society. Maybe it appeared the way it did because of the groups involved, notable amongst which was MTVBase, National Agency for the Control of AIDS, NACA and I suppose an International Donor Agency, amongst others. 

I always had the opportunity to see Shuga before now, but I was afraid it'll end up being like movies from the stable of Nollywood (Nigeria's movie industry), or one of Nigeria's endless, oft-repeated and focusless soaps and sitcoms. After seeing Season One, it totally blew my mind, hence I decided to note the areas in the season film that Nollywood can learn from, to become better and maybe buy back critics and cynics like me, back to the fold of their viewing public (which continues to grow despite their shortcomings), as they mostly pander to Nigerian society's myths, superstitions, religion and the likes over facts and reality that could help the way Nigerians perceive things in tandem with the dictates of the times.

1. Nollywood must build capacity in order to provide accurate information on any subject they intend to disseminate in a movie, sitcom or soap. Even when myths or superstition is to be flown beside facts and proven science, technology, medicine and art, they must ensure all are distinctly put out to erase the situation where they all exist in a blur. I have lost count of Nigerian movies, sitcoms and soaps on TV where wrong and unhelpful information was put out using that platform, most annoying is the many times caesarean section to aid child delivery was portrayed as anathema, and made to be strongly condemned as an option for the expectant mother in many movies, because of one superstition or the other, for instance.

Shuga focused on the topic of HIV and AIDS, and all along the points, accurate information and news that are vital and useful were systematically diseminated verbally and non-verbally, even in deeds. Every thought, word and deed were intentionally coordinated to arrive at what seems to me to be predetermined outcomes of the producers or directors, towards the dissemination of information relation to the subject matter. I doubt that I saw moments when it appeared that the actors and actresses freestyled or used their own initiative to cover up a mistake like you'd routinely see with Nollywood movies, soaps and sitcoms.

2. As with Shuga (Naija Version), Nollywood must learn to begin to use ACTUAL and BELIEVABLE locations, and places. Watching Shuga reminded me of the University of Lagos, UNILAG hostels, which they used, even though they reduced the number of roomies considerably (two in the cases portrayed, for the usual four or more roomies including squatters), but the plot was quite believable. I understand that many students also live off campus, but ascribing palatial mansions to students, especially the females, as is norm with some Nollywood movies is an exception rather than norm in real life, and makes many Nollywood stories unbelievable, even when they portray the females as capable of affording such houses because they practice "prostitution" or "running an escort business" by the side. 

3. Lighting and Sound in Shuga can be said to be adequate. The night felt like night (not with day showing from a part of the window blinds when a night scene is staged as with many Nollywood flicks), not with lighting very obvious as the extent of the Neon light shows, and the day as should be. Even the nightclub scenes were as dark as one would expect in real life without compromising the ability to see the actors and actresses play their part in the scenes there, with audio of their conversations not swallowed in the din of the music from the nightclub in the background. There were no shadows or images of the behind-the-scenes crew on walls or even in mirrors adjacent to the scene, neither were there accidental opening of doors, as you would find in some Nollywood flicks, which I am sure the editors may fall upon, yet refuse to properly edit.

4. Subtitling is a major flaw area for Nigerian movies, especially in the Yorùbá language section. Many of the still photos of these are often found trending on Nigerian twitter handles, Facebook pages and blogs authored by Nigerians. Though, Shuga was done majorly in English, there were aspects where pidgin English, and the vernacular (in the Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo) of Nigerian local languages were freely but sparsely used. Those scenes had subtitles done for them, and I had and found no cause to hold Shuga to ransom there.   

These four here highlighted are the major areas I noticed (amongst many others that don't easily come to mind right now) where Shuga had an edge over most of what is put out by Nollywood. Although I know that there are also stables that put out quality movies (Mainframe Pictures for instance), I continue to have issues with storylines even with better picture and sound quality as you would find with Kunle Afolayan's movies amongst a few others, as there are many distractions that tend to dilute the message in some of these better movies from Nollywood, something that the producers of Shuga appeared to have taken nail-biting care to avoid, to my wide-eyed cheer and applause.

I would love to see more of what I saw in Shuga in Nigerian movies, sitcoms and soap operas going forward. Especially with the current producers, directors, writers, and the works to show that something has been learnt from the many years of "hands on", trainings and retrainings (if they have been undergoing such), even further education preferably abroad in reputable film institutes. Failure to do this will spell doom for Nollywood, despite the overflowing confidence practitioners in the industry have because of the huge size of the industry, as well as the large following and recognition it currently garners and enjoys, not just within Nigeria or Africa, but worldwide. Civilizations in time past, have at one time or the other disappeared, even empires fell and ceased to exist, a complacent Nollywood cannot stop what will come to it, if it fails to redirect its step for the better.


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