THE POWER OF OUTDOOR CINEMA: SCREEN NAIJA ONE VILLAGE, ONE CINEMA PROJECT
~ By Basil Chukwuezi
My earliest memories of the cinema were those of the mobile screen on the fields of St George’s school Aba, south eastern Nigeria. Growing up then, it was commonly used as a medium of information, entertainment, and yes, merchandise. The organizers will mount the screen on the roof of their travelling van and project whatever old western, public enlightenment or product advertisement repertoire they had.
The screenings were always at night and they would drive down the neighborhood that evening to announce the programme over booming speakers. And expectedly we children and adults alike will gather faithfully to watch their offerings and listen to whatever products they had to advertise which were also sold during intermissions. It served as entertainment and diversion, but equally fired the imaginations of not a few of us. Later on in my undergraduate days film and television were an integral part of my curriculum in Theatre Arts, and you can bet I enjoyed such courses. My national youth service at the National Theatre, Lagos also exposed me to a lot of films both local and international. And as a reporter on the Arts Desk at Guardian Newspapers, Lagos, I did a bit of film critique.
I was thus at home during the recent launching of Screen Naija One Village, One Cinema Project in Lagos. Initiated by my friend and business coach, Ekenyerengozi Michael Chima, it is an ambitious programme to use the power of outdoor cinema to bring entertainment, education and information to the door steps of villagers spread across the 774 local governments in Nigeria. It will also empower the youths and create an initial direct employment for over 4,000 people which will also benefit their dependants.
Famous British trained Nigerian actress Dame Taiwo Ajai-Lycett said this much when she challenged Nigerian youths and others not to rest on their oars after getting their academic degrees and diplomas. She said even without degrees they could fulfill their dreams and achieve greater things for themselves and Nigeria with their special skills and talents as many proven successful achievers have done without academic qualifications. Interestingly, the Bank of Industry has bought into this vision and will provide loans to individuals to buy the projector and screen. The loan facility will be repaid over two years after which the equipment reverts to the borrower. There will be initial training and retraining for operators to ensure they reap the full benefits of the project. The pilot launch in Lagos is meant to be a catalyst.
The real deal is to see this project permeate the remotest corners of the nation and have the villagers enjoy what normally is available in the high streets of Lagos or London. It is you would say a democratization of the cinema industry! What is your role? No matter where across the globe you are reading this, if Nija blood flows through your vain, then you have some relatives in one of the local governments. You can empower them by linking them to the organizers of this project. You may just have taught them how to fish! For more information, email: firstname.lastname@example.org