September 25, 2009

Govt bans showing of District 9 film in Nigeria

Nigeria’s government may have moved to stop cinemas acrossthe country from showing the  controversial science fiction film, District 9, which it says denigrates the country’s image.

Information Minister, Dora Akunyili, speaking on BBC’s Network Africa programme said she had asked the makers of the film, Sony, for an apology.

According to her, the film, which is directed by Neill Blomkamp, and produced by Peter Jackson,  portrays Nigerians as cannibals, criminals and prostitutes.

Akunyili argued that the film clearly took aim at Nigerians.”We feel very bad about this because the film clearly denigrated Nigeria’s image by portraying us as if we are cannibals, we are criminals,” she said, adding that “the name of our former president was clearly spelt out as the head of the criminal gang and our ladies shown like prostitutes sleeping with extra_terrestrial refugees.”

The Information Minister said she had ordered the Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board to ask all cinemas not only to stop showing the film, but equally to confiscate it. “I have also formally written to Sony Pictures Entertainment, the company that produced this film, demanding an unconditional apology for this unwarranted attack on Nigeria’s image,” she added.

She also said she had asked the producers to review the film with a view to removing  “all offending portions that injured our image as a nation.”

Speaking further, Akunyili berated the film, saying that it came out at a time when the nation is  hitting back with a policy of “rebranding”, after allowing the international community to define the country based on the behaviour of “a few criminals”. She urged Nollywood to help portray Nigeria in a better light.

An actor from the film, Malawian Eugene Khumbanyiwa who played a gang leader with the nickname of Obasanjo, said it was not just Nigerians who were portrayed as villains.

District 9, which was screened recently at the Silverbird cinemas, portrayed Nigerians as people embedded with all kinds of vices, ranging from criminality to prostitution and voodooism.

Watching the film which is about alien refugees who set up home in a South African shanty town called District 9, one cannot but submit that the science fiction film remains an extension of the frequent  negative attack on the black nations by the western world.

It is a loose allegory about apartheid and recent violence by South Africans against foreigners.
“This is to show Nigerians how the country is portrayed in movies by the western world. This is not the first nor the last time Nigerians are painted bad in a movie. We actually need to show this movie so that Nigerians can see how the country is being perceived by the outside world,”Jonathan Murray-Bruce, General Manager, Silverbird Galleria said, at a screening of the film at the Silverbird’s cinemas.