MOVIES HAVE THE POWER TO SHIFT SOCIAL NORMS
To Indians, Nigeria is a nation which sends its students to study in Indian universities where education costs are very low as compared to educational centres in Europe or the American continents. Nigeria also exports petty criminals who stay in north Indian cities and sell contrabands. Delhi’s Tihar Jail has a mini population of young Nigerians spending time for their crimes. Nigeria in West Africa is also an important part of the world of entertainment.
It has the biggest film industry on the African Continent; And shocking to Indian readers, this entertainment industry is only next to Indian cinema. Cinema is big business there. It is unfortunate that Indians have not discovered that area as one would expect. But this market and its audiences have been sought after by the American market and consequently also by the American universities.
Nigeria produces about 1600 films annually. When we complain that films from Hollywood are influencing the Indian youth, in African countries, the complaint is that Nigerian cinema is ‘Nigerising the youth of Africa’ using the slang language of Nigeria. The odd feature in Nigerian films is the domination of actors from neighboring Ghana and together this business from West Africa has found its international markets in the West Indies, in the whole of the African continent, and in England where native Africans have found new homes.
Recently Nigerian cinema has come into focus for use in research activities. The vast audiences it controls both within the home base and also in much of Africa, could not have escaped the attention of both the national government and the international communities. Nigerian cinema today contributes to about 2 percent of the national economy in Nigeria. Adding to this kitty, are Indian films which are dubbed into local dialect and then circulated widely, reaching also their village audiences.
Nigeria is accepted as one of the most corrupt places to work. The current President of the country has been waging a singular war against corrupt practices in public life. He has used various strategies, and now he has come to the use the entertainment industry.
Recently a Nigerian film has helped researchers to understand if Media can be helpful in shifting the social norms or influence people, and found that movies can greatly influence people in behavior changes.
The research journal, Science Advances, has published the finds of an experiment in which a Nigerian feature film called, Water of Gold was screened in two different places in two different versions. The film was commissioned by the Nigerian government.
The film narrated the story of two brothers living in a village on the banks of river Niger. One brother Natufe, is a fisherman who stays in the village and makes a living by fishing. The other brother Priye, leaves the village and goes into town and becomes a rich politician. When the two brother meet, Priye finds his brother had been leading a public campaign against corrupt practices. The campaign shown in the film, included a series of scenes showing how corrupt practices were undertaken and how they could be reported using the simple SMS route. The scenes showing how anti corruption reportings could be made and to whom, was shown in one version, while the same sequences were kept out in the story narrative in the second version.
It was found that in areas where the film was screened showing how corruption could be fought, official authorities noticed a big rise in the actual reporting of cases of corrupt practices to authorities, while in areas where the film without the scenes showing corrupt practices, was screened, there was no public response.
Some results are apparently clear. Cinema influences masses; therefore those who make films must realize they have a big responsibility to ensure their films have a positive moral message.
Sports films like Chak De India, Mary Kom and Dangal are considered landmark films in women empowerment. They have led to bringing changes in parental attitude to allow their daughter to move into the main stream of public participation, and grow with an attitude. Seven decades ago when Jawaharlal Nehru was the Prime Minister, a series of feature films were produced to create the sentiment of developing a new democratic India. These films were, Jagriti, Hum Panchi Ek Daal Ke, Boot Polish, Jagte Raho, Mehendi Rang Lagyo(Gujarati), Do Boond Paani, Saat Hindustani, Aasman Mahal, Shahar Aur Sapna, Paigham, Naya Daur, Jaag Utha Insaan, Teen Batti Chaar Raste, Leader,Sujata, Saadhna, Ek Hi Rasta, Samaj Ko Badal Dalo, Parakh, and more. It was our case of a boy in love with his tractor!!
More dramatic films have been recently produced , which have brought public awareness on more social issues. The latest films have been, Article 15 (on caste politics), Toilet: Ek Prem Katha on rural sanitation, Padman on personal female hygiene, Vicky Donor on human artificial insemination and baby adoption. When decades ago, film Anand was released, it led to a spate of reporting expression of relief on how cancer patients should bear with their disease with a positive attitude. Marathi film Yellow dealt with Down’s Syndrome, Tare Zameen Par handled dyslexia Similar examples are galore. In fact, the impact of film Tare Zameen Par was most dramatic. During the period of film screening, on demand, Delhi Government brought out a new notification from its Department of Education, directing special treatment for children studying in schools with dyslexia, and add social
psychiatrists in each school in their teaching staff.
It is to the credit of Indian cinema that each year the film industry invents itself and brings out feature film which entertain, pay tribute, or attempt to change the social norms of its audience.. For many cinema will stay as a promise to survive and educate.