Simple Images, Violent Truths: Rape and Poverty in Big Daddy.



There are several political, economic and religious problems plaguing the Nigerian nation. These problems seem to take centre stage in national discourse due to the fact that they are more visible and collective. However, such other issues that are vital to the human condition are pushed to the background as inconsequential. One of such problems termed as inconsequential is rape. While it must be stated from the outset that rape is not peculiar to Nigeria as countries like South Africa and Kenya according to a CNN report have the highest rape cases in the continent, it must be emphasised that certain conditions that account for this heinous act are too numerous in the country and, therefore, it seems unlikely that the people and the government would ever see rape as a serious issue that could affect the social, economic and political spheres in a very drastic way. This insensitivity on the part of the populace, accounts for the recent rape of a seventy year old woman by some young boys in one of the states in the eastern parts of Nigeria. Once again, as in other instances, the rape of this vulnerable member of the society only took the front burner in the news for a few days without any significant attempt by law enforcement agents to bring the culprits to justice. It is also interesting to note that rather than address the issue scientifically by attending to the victim medically, a lot of people prefer to adduce reasons for the act in the first place. To them, the major reason for young men to rape a vulnerable old woman is the quest for wealth. What this portends is that a vast majority of the people believe that the rape of the old woman was one of the conditions prescribed for the boys to get rich by an unidentified herbalist. Therefore, the rape is a “ritual rape”. It is, therefore, essential to observe the link between rape and poverty in a country like Nigeria where the majority of the people live below the poverty level.

Several literary and creative artists have projected the sad economic and social conditions of the country in their works. However, in recent times, the medium of film has become one of the most popular sites for the interrogation of the myriad of problems bedevilling the country. As Gbemisola Adeoti (2012) rightly observed:

The choice of the film medium as a critical platform for dissecting the public sphere is deliberate. Film projects and inspires us to achieve an understanding of the human condition across the globe. It is a vital agent of political socialisation.

He goes further to say that,

Riding on the crest of technological revolution in the Western and Asian worlds, film has grown in leaps and bounds, thus, posing a huge challenge to other cultural expressions like the folk narrative, printed literary text, stage performances, radio and television drama series.

It is very interesting to know that while films and movies are produced in almost all the countries of the world, Nigeria is the highest producer of movies in Africa. This is attested to by the ranking of Nollywood by UNESCO in their 2005 survey report, as the second largest movie producing nation in the world. Perhaps, in this regard, it is important to state that the diversity of the country’s culture and language finds ample expression in the diversity of the types of movies being produced for while Nollywood- the nation’s film industry and one derived from the American ‘Hollywood’ and Indian ‘Bollywood’, respectively- is the umbrella name for any movie produced in Nigeria, ethnic and sub-ethnic groups produce movies in their local languages drawing, significantly, from their specific cultural lore. Alamu (2010: ix) underscores this point succinctly;

...films produced in Nigeria are not categorised according to their various genres or sub-genres, but according to the ethnic groups that produce them. For instance instead of hearing about action film, horror movie, comedy, thriller etc, what we hear is Yoruba film, Hausa film, Igbo film etc, a classification made along ethnic divide.

While Alamu’s observation is true to some extent, it is apt to point out that there is an attempt at genre classification which is not fashioned after western models such as “epic”, “comedy” to mention just a few just as he also admitted later in his work cited above when he classified some Yoruba film as ‘comic’, ‘folkloric’, ‘historical’, ‘religious’, ‘love’, ‘crime’, and ‘horror’ (see Alamu op. Cit 52-60). While this classification may not follow that established by western films, we note that the unifying factor, however, for all Nigerian films is that they all project and dissect the problems peculiar to the country. So, whether the film is produced in English, Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo or Efik, one notices that the themes are derived from, and centre on the Nigerian society.

We must also note that while most of these movies are commercial films, a few producers are turning to making non-commercial films directed at advocating change in the polity. These “ideological” film producers are directing their attention at producing short films rather than the conventional and more popular feature film to achieve their didactic aim. For these crop of filmmakers, the short film becomes more effective both for economic and political reasons as producing a short film is, definitely, cheaper than producing a full length film and the short film also passes its message more quickly and pungently.

But, why are more and more artists getting attracted to the movie genre to comment on social issues? What does the movie have as an advantage over other forms such as the stage, radio or, to a lesser extent, television? A foremost film critic Robert Kolker (2006) argues that.

There is a common cliché that says pictures don’t lie. It’s part of that greater cliché that says seeing is believing. Somehow, a thing seen directly- or through a visual representation like a painting, a photograph, or a film- brings us closer to some actual reality.... seeing a thing seems to bring us something very close to the thing itself- to “reality”. Things that are seen appear to be and even feel as if they are unmediated.... Nothing stands in their way. They are true.

The above aptly captures the power of the movie image as a medium of expression and projection of reality. The film is a cross-cultural phenomenon; its impact can be felt across time and space. Hence, a film lover can watch the same film again and again and be stirred to the same emotional state or feel new sensations in some hitherto unnoticed action or shot. Films tell stories through images in a way that no other form can; because it is not limited as other forms such as stage drama. It is also not ephemeral like stage plays or frozen like a novel. These and some other reasons account for the choice of film as a transmitter of reality and by so doing, it projects truth almost violently and such violently absorbed truths remain engrained in the consciousness of the audience for a long time. One of such bitter experiences, rape, is the focus of a 2011 short film, Big Daddy directed and produced by Chris Ihidero. Big Daddy is Ihidero’s first attempt at directing.

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