Discordant tunes in moviedom over MOPICON
There are discordant tunes over a recent decision by the Federal Government to review the almost 10-year-old document that will formally establish the proposed Motion Pictures Practitioners Council of Nigeria (MOPICON). Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had last week announced the constitution of a ministerial review committee that would fast track the passage into law of the much-anticipated MOPICON Bill.
The Minister said that the sustained calls by filmmakers on the need to have a central professional regulatory body that will regulate, administer and control the motion picture practice in Nigeria, informed his decision to set up the review committee, which he has promised to inaugurate on April 8, at the Conference Room of the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos.
The 17-member Committee, according to the Minister, will have the Founder/CEO of Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA), Ms Peace Anyiam- Osigwe as Coordinator, while the former Chairman, Audio-Visual Rights Society of Nigeria (AVRS), Mr. Mahmood Alli-Balogun as Deputy Coordinator, and Mr. Tony Anih of the Film Makers Collective will serve as the Secretary to the committee which is expected to review and harmonize the MOPPICON Bill ahead of its submission to the Ministry of Justice and then the National Assembly.
Also, the Minister had announced that the committee would have representatives of the various Nollywood guilds and associations as members. They include Association of Movie Producers (AMP), Directors Guild of Nigeria (DGN), Motion Picture Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN) and Producers, Marketers Association of Nigeria (FVPMAN), Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (ANTP), Screen Writers Guild of Nigeria (SWGN), Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), Movie Ambassadors of Nigeria, Niger Delta Film Forum and Female Producers of Nigeria.
Others are representatives of the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC), National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB), Federal Ministry of Information and Culture.
But following the announcement some practitioners took to the social media to protest the whole idea of having a central body for movie practitioners in Nigeria. Some said it was unnecessary, as it will not guarantee freedom of expression while others described it as too elitist and one-sided. But there are those who still hold that MOPICON is a sine qou non-for the engendering of standards and professionalism in Nollywood.
Ace filmmaker and former Managing Director of the Nigerian Film Corporation, Afolabi Adesanya, who now describes himself as an ‘independent filmmaker’ maintained that more than ever, the industry needs a central body which will be a platform for it to lobby and a platform to coordinate stakeholders by stakeholders for the benefit of stakeholders. Adesanya who facilitated the hosting of several meetings that led to the evolution of the draft MOPICON document during his tenure as CEO of the NFC recalled that there have been several attempts in the past to establish a central body but that all the efforts have failed because of selfish interest of some stakeholders.
“Attempts have been made severally to establish a central body for motion picture practice in Nigeria. The first attempt was in 1993 when we came back from FESPACO after what was widely considered a disastrous and embarrassing outing. Where we couldn’t organize ourselves to speak with one voice. We made an attempt but unfortunately it didn’t work out because there was a suspicion that somebody was trying to promote such a body so that after his retirement he can become the head of the body. That was how the idea was killed. See how myopic people can be. You will recall the attempt to even set up the Conference for Motion Picture Practitioners of Nigeria (CMPPN) and how the idea was again shut down because some people felt that the prime movers were building an empire for themselves. But obviously there have been several attempts to have a central body but all these attempts have failed because apparently there is so much suspicion within the industry and also the fact that stakeholders cannot trust themselves to start such a body.
“So for government to facilitate the setting up of the body and then hand it over to them is the best because one of their complaints was that those who registered those existing guild and association are now lording it on them that they used their monies to register the guild therefore they are claiming ownership. But hen people don’t have faith in such professional bodies. This is one of the reasons some stakeholders approached government to facilitate the setting up an independent body to be managed and controlled by the stakeholders themselves, just as we did with the AVRS. The idea came from the NFC in partnership with WIPO and the NCC. It is running today and there is no problem because it is managed by the right owners themselves. So the NFC’s vision under my leadership is that we have such a central body as MOPICON independent of NFC and independent of government like APCON so that it would chart the way forward for the sector. It will be driven by its own path, its own vision, its own desires to excel. So it is a much needed central body and the absence of the stakeholders having the will to do it has made it necessary for government to do it on their behalf and hand it over to them so the certificate for registration will not belong to any individual or group. So that will allay their fears to the true ownership. The people own what government owns. That is the logic.”
On the allegation that the existence of MOPICON will curtail freedom of expression and creativity, Adesanya who has directed several celluloid films and movies including the 1992 box office hot ‘Asewo To Re Mecca’ said ‘’no, it will not curtail freedom of artistic expressions. These are ill-informed sentiments. There is no way MOPICON can control freedom of expression or muzzle their creativity because within MOPICON you have the various guilds and associations. So there will be that freedom of expression and you can belong to a couple of associations and guilds according to your own professional inclination. And it is going to be managed by the industry people themselves and so there is no way it is going to affect their creativity or curtail their freedom of expression. Just know that MOPICON will not be controlled or managed by government. So if there is going to be any censorship then it will be within itself.
But what of the fears that MOPICON is a ploy by government to send filmmakers to jail if they do not do their bidding? ‘’That fear is also misplaced,’’ he snapped. ‘’I don’t think there is anything like that. We have the Censors Board, which regulates content. MOPICON does not regulate content. It is the stakeholder’s central body that is responsible for professionalism and promotion of standards within the industry.”
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