Igbo film - where art thou (olee ebe ị nọ)?

I know, my neglect of this blog ... or any blog in general, is almost criminal. I blame this on Twitter and my over-reliance on my Google Reader feed - so much easier to be a consumer of this new media than to produce it. Oh yeah, and life and school in general...

When chanced, stop by Saratu's post, Not Speaking Yoruba, which echos my sentiments on not speaking Igbo...well, at least the kind intelligible to others beyond myself and my forgiving parents.

Such brought up an interesting conversation on Twitter some weeks ago - see my timeline here...which later degenerated into a somewhat useless conversation about dialects and the inherent pleasantness of one over the other. Also, I wondered aloud (though not on Twitter, I don't think) as to why films are no longer produced in Igbo, but Nollywood films of other languages are thriving. I grew up happily struggling to understand the storylines of Igbo films, which despite their horrible acting, still presented some degree of authenticity basically non-existent in some modern-day English films. Somehow along the way, we went from films in entirely Igbo language films, to films in which perhaps the village scenes were in Igbo, to English films with Igbo chorus lines, to present-day overt English language films, even among all-Igbo speaking casts.

Onyeka Nwelue also laments the flight of Igbo language film here and realizes that "we don’t need a story to be told in English before we realize it is a good movie." A fairly obvious conclusion. In the comments section of the article, Niji Akanni, Yoruba screenwriter and director, sheds some light on our reticence to produce Igbo language films.

...I’d say the Igbo language film died because my Igbo brothers in the Nigerian film industry have simply forgotten (or neglected) who or what exactly their films speak to...I think my Igbo colleagues continue to work under the illusion that they can make films to appeal to ‘everybody’ – from the struggling pure water vendor on Eko Bridge, through the primary school teacher in Offiaoji to a native German professor who knows next to nothing about Nigeria as a whole or Igbo culture in particular. What comes across then are films that address everyone only by entertaining them but not speaking to anyone in particular.

...Then there is the issue of cultural authenticity. I suspect very strongly that most Igbo filmmakers are either grossly ignorant of their authentic cultural roots or simply too timid to explore those roots, knowing that their responses to such exploration will ultimately lead to questioning/interrogation of certain traditional assumptions...My prognosis is that the revival of Igbo-language film, if it ever happens, will only come from Diaspora filmmakers of Igbo origin: those who can listen with fresh (but not emptily nostalgic) ears to the authentic rhythms of the numerous Igbo dialects, who can look with untainted eyes at the various dissonances of their cultural heritage, and above all, can honestly and boldly address such dissonances, not just as an appendage to “all-about-entertainment” cinematic fares.
Yes, the Nollywood film market, is largely (perhaps entirely) driven by profit rather than art - which may explain the desire of Igbo filmmakers to capture a wider audience by producing English language films. However, I'm not terribly confident at his prediction that Diasporan filmmakers (wherever they may be), may offer a solution. From personal experience, I find that we either fall at one of two extremes (here in the States), on one hand, we seek to be more oyinbo than the original oyinbo or on the other, we tend to craft a vision of our fair homeland, that has very little basis in reality, producing a product that is unrecognizable to both Diasporan and indigene. Though, admittedly, and by some miracle, we were able to get it right in the arena of literature. But, like they say, lightening rarely strikes the same spot twice.