Nollywood filmmakers spark up debate in Salone
The Sierra Leone movie industry reverberated last week when senior film makers blew the whistle on an uncharted side of government`s unbecoming attitude to its citizens. Movie makers in the country have always been despondent, and rightly so, over what they see as government`s neglect of their plight. This anger peeked last week when it emerged that renowned Nigerian actor cum director, Desmond Eliot, who is shooting a movie in the country, was being showered with favours local filmmakers would only dream of. (Photo: Nollywood actor, Director Desmond Elliot)
Mr. Elliot, it was alleged, got the favour of someone or some people at high places in government who helped him access key government facilities he needed to shoot scenes for his movie.
The premises of the Law Court in Freetown and the Almighty State Lodge were said to have been used by the Nigerian.
But those behind this protest insist they were not against Desmond Elliot as a non-Sierra Leonean getting favours.
“What we are saying is that why as Sierra Leoneans we are denied and foreigners are allowed to use public properties,” one of the aggrieved filmmakers told Salonejamboree.
Sierra Leone`s movie industry is barely struggling to stand on its feet following years of hard work and perseverance by pioneering filmmakers.
It still faces serious constraints, including mainly financial but also much needed government moral supports.
Unlike in Ghana and Nigeria, filmmakers in Sierra Leone are still struggling for official recognition by the government, although some government officials have gone as far expressing support merely in words.
The industry lags behind due to a host of factors including lack of training for directors, script writers, actors and actresses, etc. as well as limitations of the appropriate equipments.
All the big names who have made names for themselves in the industry in this country have done so out of huge personal sacrifices and immense personal risks. This include spending thousands of hard earned dollars to make their films and put them in the market with little or no guarantee of making any financial returns.
One man who knows how the financial pinch affects those in the industry is Miky Perry, owner of Perry.com, a leading movie marketer in the country.
He told Salonejamboree that they as film makers were concerned about indications of government`s neglect of them while helping out foreign film makers.
“We are not opposed to foreign filmmakers, we just want similar help,” he said.
This is the same view all stakeholders who spoke to Salonejamboree on this matter expressed.
A sombre Desmond Eliot denied using government vehicles during this latest trip of his.
Speaking on set during the shooting of the first of two movies, REFLECTIONS, the ace Nigerian actor told Salonejamboree that he’d followed the right procedures to be able to get access to all the facilities he was granted permission to use, including the Law Court and the Lungi International Airport.
“I feel really bad about this,” Elliot said.’
But he quickly added: “Obstacles happen so that progress can come.”
This episode may have caused a bruise in the relation between Sierra Leonean film makers and their Nigerian counterpart, but the fact remains a crucial point has been made.
Sierra Leonean film makers remain stagnant not because they can’t do much, but because government`s apparent neglect of their contribution to national development is depriving them of realizing their full potential.
To borrow from Perry.com CEO, Micky Perry: “We employ over 100 youths who sell cassettes. This is an employment opportunity, and by doing so we are complementing government’s effort.”
Besides, who can best portray Sierra Leone`s heritage than the Sierra Leonean?
So many of society`s ills could be averted through arts and entertainment, but only if the government goes beyond merely expressing recognition of the role of the industry and do so with action.
Murtala Mohamed Kamara, Salone Jamboree
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