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More sweet and sour tunes trail review of MOPICON document

Oshin-Ogun

Oshin-Ogun

Reactions, both in support and against, have continued to trail the recent decision by the Information and Culture Minister Alhaji Lai Mohammed to facilitate the review of the document that will formally establish a council for motion picture practice in Nigeria. The Minister had recently announced the constitution of a ministerial review committee that will fast track the passage into law of the much-anticipated MOPICON Bill.

The Minister had explained 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. Although he had promised to inaugurate the committee on April 8, 2016 at the Conference Room of the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos, a statement issued by the Secretary of the review committee indicated that the inauguration will not hold as scheduled ‘but at a later date that will be communicated to all committee members’.

However, the 17-member Committee, which has the Founder/CEO of Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA), Ms Peace Anyiam- Osigwe as Coordinator, has the responsibility to review and harmonize the draft MOPPICON document ahead of its submission to the Ministry of Justice and then the National Assembly. Also, the Minister said the committee will be charged with the responsibility of evolving a document that will foster the achievement and maintenance of the highest professional and commercial standards in the motion picture industry as well as ensure the protection of the rights and privileges of motion picture practitioners in the lawful exercise of their profession.

Former Chairman, Audio-Visual Rights Society of Nigeria (AVRS), Mr. Mahmood Alli-Balogun is to serve as Deputy Coordinator of the review committee while Mr. Tony Anih of the Film Makers Collective will serve as the Secretary to the committee. Other members of the committee include representatives of the various Nollywood guilds and associations like the Association of Movie Producers (AMP), Directors Guild of Nigeria (DGN), Motion Picture Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN), 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.

However, there has been some opposition to the idea of setting up a central body for regulating and controlling professional practice in the motion picture industry in Nigeria. Those in the opposition say they do not think that what the industry urgently need is a body that will regulate and control professional practice in Nigeria. Notable movie director Tope Oshin-Ogun remarked pointedly that she disagrees with the idea of establishing such a central body because as she puts it ‘it is unconstitutional’. Tope, one of the very few female directors in the professional class said it was ‘unconstitutional to set up a body will control and restrict the arts’. She said ‘’I disagree with the idea of MOPICON and what it represents until this revised version is made public and I can see how it helps me as a filmmaker and the future of practitioners in general in Nigeria’’.

Tope, one of the few filmmakers that have openly expressed their dislike for the idea of MOPICON was of the opinion that ‘there is no need for infringement on fundamental human rights under the auspices of MOPICON’. She argued that rather create something new, practitioners would have taken steps towards improving on the several dysfunctional bodies and regulatory bodies in the motion picture industry. As she puts it ‘’Can we get the several dysfunctional bodies, guilds and agencies we have to work? Doing what they should be doing? NFC, Censors Board, the Guilds, etc. Get the ministry of culture to know and accept film as part of its responsibilities. Build plenty more cinemas, sign co-production deals and deal with the current distribution problems we have. These are what I want to see happening. Let’s fix what is wrong with what is on ground’’.

Although Tope revealed that she has nothing ‘’against the review board’ or the idea to review the document, the co-producer of the award winning movie ‘Fifty’ stated that she was ‘’against the idea/document for the simple reasons that it will end up retarding the growth of the industry and ultimately killing it’ she said.

Former Managing Director of the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) who at a time served as Chair of the National Technical Committee on the National Film Policy that recommended the establishment of MOPICON Professor Hyginus Ekwuazi says he will not ‘discard the idea of MOPICON’ because as he puts it ‘’with or without MOPICON, self-regulation remains fundamental’’. However, Ekwauzi who later, as the MD of the NFC was instrumental to the original MOPICON draft bill, noted that there has been too much tinkering with the draft bill. ‘’As it is, it is very defective’’ he says of the copy of the MOPICON bill in circulation and which has led to loud outcry by some practitioners.

According to Ekwauzi, the MOPICON document in circulation, which is believed to have been released by a member of the 2005 drafting committee ‘’does not even define its scope of operation of MOPICON’’. Ekwuazi also said ‘’the committee may simply end up doing more tinkering—patching up here and there. The original document emerged from the National Workshop on the Film Policy for Nigerian. Perhaps that is the best way to go—to harvest ventilated ideas from within and outside the industry. But like I said, with or without MOPICON, self-regulation remains fundamental’’.

But asked if he thinks that the establishment of MOPICON is the way to go now for Nollywood, Ekwuazi who is a professor of theatre and film studies at the University of Ibadan and who was the founding director of the National Film Institute, Jos said that there are much pressing issues to attend to like ‘’the Endowment for Film or the Arts’’ than MOPICON. As he puts it there is a better way to put this…to make it much clearer. In every industry, there are structural presences and absences—presences and absences which are active or dormant, depending on whether or not their being there, or not being there, makes any meaningful difference or not. So, does MOPICON not being there amount to any structural difference? Honestly, my answer is: not quite. The rationale for it all is to professionalize the industry. But that has since ceased to be the burning issue in the industry. For it is becoming all too clear that increased opportunities for training coupled with the audience factor will ultimately take care of this’’.

Emeruwa

Emeruwa

For Ekwuazi, rather than spend the time on MOPICON, more time should be devoted to addressing some major issues in the motion picture industry ‘’There are two major issues in the industry today—and they are both inter-linked. One is how to position Nollywood as the agent of mass mobilization. The other is the absence of a Grant/Fund for filmmaking. MOPICON is certainly NOT the best way to achieving either or both of these.

If Project-Act Nollywood and the interventions of the Bank of Industry (BOI) in the industry have revealed anything, it is this: the availability of grants and funds which the industry can draw from is the most subtle means to multiple ends: moving the industry towards mass mobilization and towards professionalization and towards integration with the formal sector of the national economy. So, for me, MOPICON may be important but far less so than the establishment of a national endowment for film/the arts—which is also there in the National Film Policy’’ he said.

However, former President of the Coalition of Nollywood Guilds and Association (CONGA) and current Chairman of the Audio-Visual Rights Society (AVRS) Bond Emeruwa has counseled practitioners opposing the idea of MOPICON ‘to be careful not to throw the baby and the bath water away’. Emeruwa who at a time was President of Director Guild of Nigeria remarked that MOPICON would have rightly maximized the collective and individual potentials and benefits of the motion picture industry to the fullest if it had long been established.

Emeruwa who alluded that the absence of the council is the reason why there are mounting distortions and dysfunction in the industry called on practitioners to support the current resolve of government to facilitate the review and eventual passage of the bill. ‘’It is the lack of strong will on our part if not we would have longed put MOPICON in motion. Thankfully we have a Minister in Alhaji Lai Mohammed who has identified that lack of will on our part and have decided to facilitate the process. He deserves commendation’’ Emeruwa said



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