Nigerian Information Minister Bans District 9

District 9

This shouldn’t really come as a surprise, seeing as one of the loudest criticisms of District 9 was that it portrayed Nigerians unfairly by depicting them as cannibalistic gangsters. Now the Nigerian Information Minister has requested that all Nigerian cinemas stop showing the film, confiscate all copies and potentially remove offending scenes, and has written to Sony asking for an ‘unconditional apology’.

A BBC report quotes Information Minister Dora Akunyili:

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…The name our former president was clearly spelt out as the head of the criminal gang and our ladies shown like prostitutes sleeping with extra-terrestrial beings… 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.

I’d love to know how widespread the film’s exposure has been in Nigeria. Given the country’s very local-oriented film culture, it seems likely that District 9 hasn’t been seen by many. Chances that this controversy will just drive people to cinemas (or bootlegs, more likely) are pretty good.

Because if the documentary Nollywood Babylon is accurate, there might not be many cinemas showing District 9 in the first place. The film paints the cinematic culture of Nigeria (and particularly of Lagos) as being overwhelmingly one of street-distributed DVDs created by Nigerian producers working on the cheap. There are cinemas that show foreign films, but the roughly 1,500 films churned out by Nigerian producers every year completely swamp foreign product. Those numbers also rank Nigeria’s film industry second in the world for sheer output, behind India and ahead of the US.

Here’s a Nollywood primer, and the trailer for Nollywood Babylon. The film isn’t great, but has some really interesting stuff and is worth a look, if you can track it down:

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