By Olugbenga Adanikin and Yakubu Salisu
THE ban placed on movies that depict kidnapping, drug abuse, thuggery and other social ills by the Kano State government has drawn criticisms from players in the movie industry, even as others have defended the move.
While some have described the policy as a form of censorship of the arts and creativity, which prevents freedom of expression that speaks to the ills happening in society, others say the rule of the land should be respected, especially since most northern states practise Sharia Law.
Director of the film, Oloture, Kenneth Gyang, said that the state government might need to understand the intentions of the moviemakers rather than impose an outright restriction.
He said arts were reflections of the society, hence, movie productions tilted to expose realities in the country should not be suppressed.
“I think they actually enforce some of these laws without knowing the true intention of the movie makers. For me, I always stand for an artist expressing himself. So, doing that is actually a huge part of the censorship,” Gyang stated.
“In understanding our society, there needs to be a form of regulations but when it comes to things like these, they say art is a reflection of the society.”
He criticised assumptions that the state government wanted actors to turn a blind eye to the new realities in the state, especially as it related to insecurity.
Creative Director of Leia Cole Studios Nsikan Issac shared a similar position with Gyang. She said movies involving crime or exposing criminalities were not peculiar to Nigeria but were global. The ban, she noted, would not help the situation, rather, it could discourage the youth from telling stories that mattered in their society.
Though she explained that a story might not be all focused on banditry and other forms of insecurity, it could interpret the negative character such as robbery or kidnapping.
“I don’t think it should be banned in any way because that is the only way you can really tell a story the way it should be told,” Isaac said.
While she questioned the rationale put forward by the state government, she advised the state officials to create more awareness on their justification, as efforts should be made on sustainable solutions and not just the ban.
“…it shouldn’t be that they want to promote those ills in the society. If they (the government) have to put a ban on the areas, I don’t think it makes any sense to me. The only thing is if the story direly puts the government in a bad light.
“If the government is not doing enough, and they (actors) decided to tell the story from what it is, the only thing I will expect them to do is to adjust rather than seize the youth from being creative.
“For me, it’s like putting another shackle on people’s feet because whether we like it or not, these are happenings. So, if they decided to put it in a story, I don’t think there should be a ban on it.”
However, she opined that the movie makers could deploy a better approach to telling such stories without breaching the legal provisions of the states.
However, some actors have expressed contrary opinions. Chairman of Audio Visual Rights Society Mahmood Ali Balogun claimed ignorance of the incident. But he said since the state operated Sharia law, actors were expected to adhere to it.
“I know they have this Sharia law in their respective states. So whatever the law says, they should deal with it. I am not aware of this current issue but I know there were issues in the past,” he told The ICIR.
In his remarks, another prominent actor Emeka Rollas said if state government decided that it was the best measure to check the youths and check insecurity, actors should comply.
He said the state had every right to do so, as it would not in any way stop the actors from engaging in their craft now would it suppress their freedom of expression.
Rollas, who is the President of the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), cited the instance of Bollywood where he emphasised the actors avoided mouth-to-mouth kissing. This act, he noted, did not demean the Indian movie industry as the industry had continued to grow.
“If Kano government feels it is not helping the citizens or youths, they have the right as a government to stop it. And it does not in any way stop the filmmakers from expressing themselves.”
“We have been watching Indian movies for decades. Have you ever seen two lovers kiss, promptly in a movie, as we do here? Can you answer that? Did it make their movie not successful?” he queried.
“It is still successful, even trying to be more successful than ours. So, sometimes, people shouldn’t just jump on public opinion to act.”
Rollas concluded by tasking the Kano movie makers to convince the state government or, otherwise, abide by the law.
How it started
The Kano State Government has been at loggerheads with filmmakers in the state following the ban on movies depicting criminal acts.
The decision, which was announced by the Executive Director of Kano State Censorship Board Ismai’la Muhammad Na’abba Afakalla on Tuesday said, “The board has banned the production and showing of any movie displaying kidnapping, drug abuse, phone snatching, and thuggery in the state.” But filmmakers have kicked against the decision.
He said the decision became pertinent in view of the ongoing fight against banditry and other security challenges bedeviling some parts of the country, particularly the North West.
According to Afakalla, the board in recent times had observed an increase in the number of movies depicting the act of kidnapping, thuggery, and phone snatching which his office and other stakeholders described as worrisome considering the vivid display of the criminal acts by the producers of such movies.
He said the board believed the films could lead to a setback to the ongoing fight against insecurity.
In his words, “We took the decision in order to stop the producers of some of the movie series shown in some of our TV stations because they show clearly how someone can mastermind the kidnap of people for ransom, snatching of phones and thuggery and drug abuse.”
Kano State in recent times has been faced with issues of phone snatching and thuggery which have led to the loss of lives. A man and his wife were reported to have been attacked on Sunday night on Yahaya Gusau Road, leading to the man’s death.
Afakalla stated that such movies contributed to the rising cases of crime in the state as most youths were impressionable and would learn from such movies regarding how to carry out these wicked acts the country was struggling hard to eradicate.
“We can’t allow movie producers to continue showing our youths those things that can further lead them into crimes.
“Just yesterday, a man was reported to have lost his life when some boys accosted him and his wife demanding his phone and was stabbed in that process leading to his death while the wife’s bag was snatched.”
“The government has stepped up efforts to combat these crimes in some neighboring states as you know, so we must not fold our hands and watch it shift here.
“We implore movie producers to begin to show things that promote peace, and other developmental issues and not vices and acts that contradict our religion and culture and this has nothing to do with censorship,” he added.
However, the executive director said the board would not hesitate to prosecute any producer and TV stations who violated the directive.
In his reaction, Chairman of UK Entertainment Umar Sani Kofar Mazugal kicked against the move, saying films were to create awareness on societal ills and not to teach them to get involved in the act.
He, however, admitted that some movie producers were too detailed in displaying such acts, adding that the censorship board was to blame for not working as it ought to since it was its responsibility to censor the script right from the conceptualisation stage.
He charged the Censorship Board to rather be worried about how the police recorded and released detailed interviews with kidnappers on social media handles, which he said was more dangerous.